How (And Why) My Family Is Happily Unscheduled

Jan 19, 2017

It seems like everyone's talking about Minimalism, that new documentary about — you guessed it — minimalism. Okay, if that's a thing, then I've been a minimalist for years.

Minimalism, in this context, refers to the conscious practice of living with less. Or as the filmmakers define it, "minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around."

My husband and I tend to live against the grain. We choose not to drive a car, own a home or work conventional full-time hours. As parents, we don't spend crazy money on toys or clothes for our seven-year-old daughter, nor do we commit her to a hectic schedule of activities.

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Some families embrace the weeknight bustle to language class and music lessons and soccer practice on top of Saturday swimming, dancing and birthdays. We're not one of them. While we appreciate the multiplicity of activities in Toronto, we strive for minimalism in our lives.

By enrolling her in just one or two activities at the start of each season, we leave room for downtime, exploration and spontaneity.

Work, school, mealtimes, bedtime, shopping, laundry and hair-washing routines are enough to manage before extracurricular activities — hers and ours. There's a threshold beyond which we unravel. I default to drill sergeant mode in an attempt to keep order,  my husband withdraws and communication between us goes haywire. Meanwhile, as we stress, our daughter is happy spinning into imagination land on our unmade bed.

It's not that we don't involve our daughter in scheduled activities — it's that we limit them. By enrolling her in just one or two activities at the start of each season, we leave room for downtime, exploration and spontaneity in all three of our lives.

We've zigged and zagged with yellow butterflies on a breezy spring afternoon. We've performed impromptu rock concerts in our living room with musical instruments borrowed from the public library. And when a unique children's cooking/art program sprung up in our neighbourhood mid-season, we had the flexibility to jump in.

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Exposing our daughter to an assortment of learning and play opportunities is important to us. But we no longer feel pressure to do it all at once, all right now, or in the exact manner everyone else does.

I realize our daughter won't clock 10,000 expert hours of piano, karate or ballet before the age of 13, and that I risk having the only unilingual child on the block. And yes, we do suffer from cases of "I'm boooored." Still, there's a lot to gain from this minimalist lifestyle. Mainly, my daughter gets time and space to explore herself and the world around her, in different ways and on different days, guided by parents who are present and engaged.

It's simply about knowing what works best for us, and being courageous enough to go with it.

Article Author Debbie King
Debbie King

Read more from Debbie here.

Debbie King (aka SUPAFITMAMA) is a Toronto-based masters athlete, influencer, freelance writer, wife and mother of one. At age 42, she is training toward her goal of becoming a 2020 World Masters Athletics track and field champion. In her work as a writer and influencer, Debbie creates powerful content and connections in female fitness, sport, wellness and culture. Body positivity, inclusion and representation are strong themes throughout. As a regular contributor for CBC Parents, she explores a range of healthy living topics for individuals and Canadian families. Follow her journey at and on Instagram and Twitter.

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