Minimalist Parenting: Getting Things Done meets childrearing

Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less is a just-published book by Asha Dornfest (of Parenthacks) and Christine Koh. It's a simple, short, entirely sensible guide to escaping social expectations and personal childrearing anxiety. It's a book about figuring out the parenting choices that'll make you and your family the happiest, and to clearing your life of all the stuff that's been foisted on you as a must-do for modern parenting.

There's a lot of Getting Things Done in here (tailored for parenting), a lot of general life-hacking, and a lot of free-range parenting. For me, it was just the right balance of time-saving tips, techniques for figuring out your own priorities, and specific advice about schools, holidays and birthdays, vacations, chores, allowance, and all the other minutae of parenting. It's a great book for new parents and for those of us already mid-adventure.

Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less


  1. Another awesome “minimalist parenting” book is “The Idle Parent” by fantastic counter-culturalist British author, Tom Hodgekinson, founder of the inspiring “Idler” periodicals.

  2. Skip the children entirely in favor of a lovely herb garden.  There is no parenting decision more minimalist than that, and the inherent functionality is a solid plus.  Further, the sense of pride and accomplishment gleaned from cultivating a robust dill is undoubtedly comparable to hearing baby’s first garbled words.

    Any failings in your nurture are quite apparent when dealing with herbs, and the ill effects are immediately observable and typically correctable.  And to the best of my knowledge, the results of your efforts will never produce a serial killer in waiting.  But they will produce some potentially scrumptious meals.

    Very scrumptious, indeed.

    1. When we moved into this house ten years ago, the first plants to go out in the bed next to the patio was an herb garden.  They’re protected there, with ample sunshine, access to water (although herbs need very little, they’re basically flavorful cultivated weeds), and are easily reached for a sprig here and there, just a few steps from the kitchen door.

      My nest has never been empty, since I’ve taken cuttings or transported plants from house to house for twenty years. I expect to take them with us to the next residence as well.   I particularly enjoy tousling their tops on a summer day with an open hand, and sniffing deeply of their oily, earthy fragrance.

      1. Rosemary is perhaps my favorite aroma.  And it lingers on fingers for a good many hours.  


        Beats the hell out of shitty diapers and other childly stinkables.

        1. I dunno.  Recently-washed kid hair smells quite scrumptious.  I wander down the block to raid the rosemary bush outside the ice-cream parlor some 30 yards from my house when I need some.  And it smells fine.

          But I’d rather smell the kids.  (YMMV, especially with the formula-fed diaper.  Damn, those have some foul stank.)

        2. Pineapple sage is quite nice for a tousle and crushing the leaves.  They smell like Juicy Fruit gum, or more likely, the base flavor of JF is pineapple sage or some such synthetic.

          On my phone I have picture of ‘Christopher Robin’, the two and half year old of a friend, waddling through the living room to deposit his own pissy diaper in the proper bin.  He’s a cute, smiling, agreeable little tot and I enjoy his company… then I go home.

          1. Precisely!

            I find children quite agreeable, but only when they are on my terms.  When I am finished being amused or inspired or what have you, I simply give them back.

            Unless, of course, I am dining or traveling, in which case there is no such thing as an agreeable child.  

    2. Plant a turnip.
      Get a turnip.
      Maybe you’ll get two.
      That’s why I love vegetables;
      You know that they’ll come through!

      They’re dependable!
      They’re befriendable!
      They’re the best pal a parent’s ever known!
      While with children,
      It’s bewilderin’.
      You don’t know until the seed is nearly grown
      Just what you’ve sown.

    3. And to the best of my knowledge, the results of your efforts will never produce a serial killer in waiting.  But they will produce some potentially scrumptious meals.

      Hey, so do serial killers.

  3. Social pressures often limit innovative parenting.   I thought using the cat scratch deterrent water spray bottle on the teething baby (with two front teeth) when he gnawed on my leg was a perfect solution.  Wife, friends and family didn’t agree.

    So much for free range.  Back in the cage with you, cannibal baby!  I want to keep my flesh.

  4. (A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Busy People From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for …)

    Can’t you just keep the kids in a cupboard if you want a clutter free minimalist life?

  5. Irony from the book’s blurbs:  “There aren’t enough books likes this in the parenting space!”

    1. The whole idea of the book is ironic. 
      “We’re in the midst of a parenting climate that feeds on more expert advice, more gear, more fear about competition and safety, and more choices to make about education, nutrition, even entertainment. The result? Overwhelmed, confused parents and overscheduled, over-parented kids.”

      So the answer is to… buy another book, with another set of opinions and advice and choices? But wait! These ones are better, because they tell you which of the other ones to ignore, so you can relax. Phew.

  6. Well, in my experience minimalist parenting comes easy when you are working 2 jobs and doing everything in your power to raise kids that have a roof over their heads and nutritious food to eat.  What with the laundry, groceries, cooking, cleaning, whatever sports/rec you can afford and other running around, the kids get a fair amount of time to their own devices (sometimes literally, though not too much).

    People who are making above a certain income (more than the median) or perhaps live in a zone where it is possible to own a home without massive debt can afford to get sweaty about overprogramming or overmanaging the little precious things.  The rest of us are just trying to get on.

  7. Wow.  I wasn’t sure I was going to have kids, but if all it takes is a nice labeler and a bunch of folders, sign me up!

    1. A “nice labeler” is gonna help a lot, but they’re not just “a bunch of folders”.  They’re “binders full of women”.

  8. Why did my generation produce the most hyper-reactive mothers of all time? God, save me from mothers, please.

    Never mind the children, who will think of anything else at all?

    1. Dunno.  Being a latch-key kid was awesome for me.  A lot of kids are just can’t handle it, though, and parents can now be arrested for letting a kid below a state-mandated age sit at home alone.  That age is considerably higher than the age at which I became a latch-key kid.  

      I chalk it up to the overall rise in authoritarianism.  It’s a near-global epidemic.

  9. As a parent of two, I am looking forward to reading the authors’ ideas.  Beyond that I can’t comment since I don’t yet have access to any of their ideas to comment upon.

    Unlike some of the other commentators, here, apparently.

  10. Useful chapters for a baby book:
    ‘Getting used to vile effluvia’
    ‘Baby Immobilization: Choke holds and Floor-Work. From nappy-changing to avoiding potentially-lethal escapes’
    ’21 reasons why  you didn’t need that any more anyway’
    ‘Clearing airways rapidly and safely’

    I could go on.

    1. ’21 Reasons Why You Didn’t Need That Any More Anyway’:  or Why We Can’t Have Anything Nice.  A classic.  :^)

  11. Asha Dornfest (co-author of Minimalist Parenting) here — thank you, Cory, for the writeup, truly appreciated. David Allen is nice company to keep! And I’m now inspired to plant a lovely herb garden. AND I live in Portland and LOVE that Portlandia skit about parenting books! The irony is that I started Parent Hacks seven years ago precisely because I found parenting books so…not connected to what I was experiencing as a new parent (and even after it wasn’t so new anymore). Christine and I hope, more than anything else, parents come away trusting themselves in the face of the continual tidal wave of information and advice.

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