How to Break Your Child’s Attachment to Stuff

Cluttered rooms.

Stuffed closets.

Overflowing toy boxes.

Games. Gadgets…and more

Does that describe your house? It certainly described my house not so long ago. Unfortunately I didn’t discover minimalism until my three kids were firmly attached to their toys. I can’t hardly blame them. I was attached to stuff too.

So, what’s my #1 tip on how to break your child’s attachment to stuff?


I’m a big believer in going cold turkey, ripping off the band-aid, and jumping in with both feet.

Overused analogies aside, when it comes to breaking your child’s attachment to stuff I think it’s better to just go ahead and remove the excess. Younger children don’t usually know how much is enough and how much is excessive. It’s our job as parents to determine that for them.

So cut down the Barbie doll collection, weed out the Hot Wheels and the Legos, and pack up the piles of games. Keep the favorites. Pack up the rest. You don’t have to trash the extras yet, but explore the reality of “out of sight, out of mind.”

At the same time you remove the excess, insert a distraction. The distraction serves to pair a positive reaction with the removal of their stuff.

Some distraction suggestions:

  • Play outside together
  • Go on a nature walk
  • Bake cookies
  • Play a family board game
  • Break out the craft supplies
  • Read stories out loud to your kids
  • Have a family movie night
  • Go on a family camping trip
  • Let your kid explore a new hobby or interest

I’ve found that without the distractions or opportunities to do something new together, our kids want to fall back into their old habits. The main thing is to help your child see that getting rid of things they don’t use or need can be a good thing. You don’t want them feeling like they are missing out on something.

Now it’s your turn: How do you help your kids break their attachment to stuff?

If you’d like to read more about minimalist living for families, please consider reading my book, Family-Sized Minimalism or  sign up for updates. Thanks so much for reading!

Don’t forget that A Minimalist Family Christmas is still on sale for $0.99. If you’re looking for advice and ideas on simplifying your holidays you should check it out.

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Article originally published on 11/09/2011