What Pokémon Taught Me About Minimalism

Minimalism The Journey #4

Immersion has lead to insight. Immersion is such an important part of the change process for me. It usually takes me hearing a message over and over before it finds a resting place in my mind.

It usually occurs when I am able to see the principles I’m learning about start to play themselves out in my life. Below is an account of how one of those minimalistic principles became real for me:

The Realization

I came to a realization today. For others this may be obvious, but for me it was a revelation. I was eating a bowl of cereal before bed and gazing upon the heaps of junk pushed to the unused side of our dining room table.

Among the stuff were a handful of my kids Pokémon cards. They had been discarded there and now lay strewn about with the other unclaimed items that seem to forever live on that table.

I remembered back to when my kids first discovered Pokémon cards. My eldest son had just started kindergarten and some of his classmates brought their card collections to school. They played the Kindergarten version of the game during “choice time” (a time dedicated in class where the kids get to spend time doing what they want).

My son came home and told us all about Pokémon cards with the enthusiasm that only a six year old could achieve. Not wanting to be left out, he asked if he could get some of his own Pokémon cards.

We generally don’t just buy our kids stuff. In fact I can probably count on one hand the times we’ve bought them something just because. So we told him what we always tell him, if he wanted to buy anything he’d need to use his own money.

And for the first time he did. After a quick lesson in doing research to find the best deal, he handed over a few dollars and I ordered him an assortment of 100 Pokémon cards online.

The Cards Arrive

A few impatient days later they arrived and he was thrilled. He and my youngest looked through them in amazement. Knowing nothing about Pokémon cards or their relative value, they each became treasured possessions.

He spent hours over the next few weeks sorting through them. When he finished sorting them he’d placed them in a special box for safekeeping. Occasionally he’d leave them out and I’d subject him to a lesson on treating his things with respect as a result. But for the most part he watched over them like a hawk. Especially when his little brother was around.

Fatherhood Goals

I didn’t grow up with Pokémon and as a result this Pokémon craze was new to me. My initial instinct is to make some sort of judgment on these cards. Which would in all likelihood be tied to the insane price one has to pay for them.

But my goal as a father is to encourage my kid’s interests and to find value in the things that they value. So I set out to understand the purpose of Pokémon cards. I quickly discovered that the cards are intended to be used to play a game.

Perfect I thought, this could be something that we do together. So I set about trying to learn how to play this game only to discover that it was far more complex that I initially realized.

Un-phased by this challenge, I spent the next couple of weeks immersing myself in the world of Pokémon cards. It took a lot longer than I care to admit, but I eventually figured out how to “battle” with these Pokémon cards. I learned that some cards could cause or sustain more damage than others. These “stronger” cards are therefore better than the ‘weaker’ cards.

I then went through the painstaking process of teaching my son how to battle with his cards, including teaching him that some cards had more “value” than others. Before this “lesson” he valued and cared for his cards equally, now he saw some as better than others.

He accumulated more cards over Christmas, then his birthday, then another Christmas. His little brother began to form his own card collection as well. Before we knew it there were Pokémon cards everywhere.

The Realization – Take 2

Which brings me to the dining room table and that bowl of cereal. Here’s what I realized: There is a negative correlation between amount owned and how much a item is valued.

When my son owned his first 100 Pokémon cards, they were better accounted for (he knew were they were at all times), better taken care of (rarely left out and most definitely not left discarded on the dining room table), and much more appreciated.

As his card collection grew, he cared about each individual card less and less. His lack of caring resulted in being less responsible with his cards. Even his cards with a greater perceived “value” were less cared for.

I hope that as I minimize my own possessions, I regain a willingness to care for and appreciate the things that I do keep. Because a thing isn’t worth having if it is going to be left discarded in a pile somewhere.


  1. The “Less is More” approach is not easy to understand at a young age…and it seems like you are just now coming around to it! 😉 I’ve been there and I’m pretty sure you just inspired my next blog post!

    On another note, how exciting for you to learn the ins and outs of Pokemon! I never understood it and then the whole virtual Pokemon thing went crazy last summer and it looked like the zombie apocalypse with people walking into traffic, walls, and off bridges. So crazy!!

    1. I think I’ve flirted with the less is more concept for years, but it might finally be sinking in…I’m a slow learner! I can’t tell you how awesome it is to inspire anything, let alone a blog post by an amazing blogger like yourself! Looking forward to reading it!

      That virtual Pokemon craze was something else. I never got into it myself, but my wife took the boys out on virtually Pokemon hunts. They loved it and my wife briefly turned into one of those Pokemon Zombies, but she’s returned to normal now!

      1. Ok – now to show off my nerdiness… something else your boys might enjoy is Geocaching. If you haven’t heard of it (which I hadn’t until last year) it is virtual Pokemon without the virtual. You are finding real things and signing actual log books. They are EVERYWHERE!! What started as a thing I thought my BF’s kids or my nephew would do with me turned out to be something I just do on my own. Apparently I got them at an age where it’s not cool to hang out with old people. Anywho, I love to do it and I don’t mind hanging out with myself so it’s a win win!

        1. I’ve heard of Geocaching before, but don’t know a lot about it. Sounds like it could be a fun addition to our upcoming road trip! Fortunately our boys are still at the age of wanting to spend time with us, but I know that will be ending sooner than we’ll be ready for. Thanks for the tip! Looking forward to learning something new…again!

          1. Road trips and geocaching go together like peanut butter and jelly. You MUST brush up on it before your road trip. I have a friend who is totally immersed in it (to the point of an obsession IMHO) and she especially loves geocaching when on vacation. Like her last vacation in Japan!

            1. I’ve got some free time tomorrow. Looks like researching geocaching is definitely on the to do list. Thanks for reading and for the encouragement!

  2. As someone who’s been addicted to Pokemon since it came out, I can relate to all of this. I remember peering over the shoulders of my friends as they played their R/B/Y games on their Gameboy colors. I accumulated massive stacks of cards and spent summers at camp trading cards and battling my friends. (Still have all the cards actually with some sweet holographics). I just beat Pokemon Sun yesterday! This game has taught me a ton over the years. Not getting taken advantage of in a trade, how to conserve my resources in game and plan wisely for the future (Final Four), and many social skills as I interacted with friends about it. Only time it felt a bit weird was talking to a kid and realizing I’d been playing it longer than he’d been alive 😑

    1. I’m so honored to have the Gwen from Fiery Millennials commenting on my site!

      I missed the Pokemon craze the first time around, but have been blown away at how much it has taught my kids. Their math and reading skills have improved simply to keep pace with the game. They are both still learning how not to get taken advantage of in trades, but we’re getting there. They aren’t the most strategic thinkers yet, but hopefully the game will help them with that as well.

      Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate you taking the time to comment!

  3. Ah, the curse and joy of Pokemon…good article and observation on minimalism and how relative scarcity increases perceived value. Thanks for sharing.

    I almost thought those dang giant pokemon cards might get an honorable mention…those things still annoy me when the kids buy them.

    1. Yep, have a few of those floating around our house as well. Never quite know what to do with those things, they aren’t easily stored with the other cards, so they just kind of end up in random corners of the house. Thanks for reading, I appreciate it!

  4. Interesting perspective and great story. I don’t know if it has to do with getting older, trying to spend money more wisely, or a combination of both, but I’m finding that the less stuff we buy, the more we come to appreciate what we already have. Thus, making us hesitant to buy even more stuff. I don’t know if we’ll become minimalists one day, but I do find it interesting.

    1. Sounds like you are already on the path to minimalism. To me it’s more about the mindset of finding value in the things you have and consciously adding and subtracting things from your life based on how they fit into your value system. Thanks for the comment.

  5. I teach middle school and I see the same thing with Pokémon cards there too. I have gotten into playing the game with them and have a small collection of my own too, and know that it can quickly get out of hand with those cards!

    Reading your thoughts on value and responsibility with possessions has me thinking of other things I have that I don’t use much or value. It might be time for a cleansing soon!

    1. Thanks Jamie! I’m really glad that this post spoke to you and has caused some reflection. It’s also good to know that my kids will still be playing Pokemon cards in middle school. Wasn’t sure when/if they would lose interest, but sounds like it could be a while.

      It’s really awesome of you to play with your students! I was impressed with my kids teacher who seems to tolerate them playing, but you take it to a whole new level. Your students are lucky to have you!

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