Less Toys: What we removed to decrease clutter and increase quality play

We had such great momentum diving into this new life of less. I was loading stuff into my car and hauling it out of here like a maniac. I’m sure at some point our neighbors thought we were moving. It was invigorating.

However, I soon came to realize that toys, specifically, would be a never-ending battle.

Even if my kids were fully on board all day, everyday, they would still have birthdays, Easter, class parties and Christmas (I’m already mentally prepping for Christmas 2017. I’ve got Eye of the Tiger playing in my head. Game on!) Anyways, you get the point. Nate Berkus says,

Be a Ruthless Editor of what you allow into your home.

Stuff keeps coming in. It’s my job to defend our new found sanity.

I thought I would take the time to be specific and share exactly what toys we have gotten rid of. I’m nervous to do so, partly because I’m embarrassed I ever had so much, partly because I know I still have so far to go, but MOSTLY because I run the risk of really upsetting those who have purchased gifts for my kids. I have some before and after photos that I am reluctant to share. I know that if our family sees their gifts in these photos I will get an irritated phone call. I’ve already been caught and yelled at for selling something gifted to me 7 years ago. Sigh. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty awkward.

Now, it would be easy for me to suggest that you just remove all of the toys your kids do NOT play with. However, I find it is just as easy to justify keeping most of those things because, maybe they occasionally make their way through each toy for an insignificant amount of time. As I started to rid our home of excess toys, I kept these 4 categories in mind. I did not go through the toys step by step, but rather all of these different areas had a target on their backs from the moment I started the purge. My agenda was to remove as much as I possibly could in one crazy swoop. Even to the point that it was uncomfortable at times. So, with the promise of what I knew to be inevitable peace, I began.

JUNK

This is the easiest stuff to see go. Any toy with a broken or missing piece, get rid of it. Any game with a broken spinner or missing game pieces, trash it! Have your children assemble every puzzle you own and keep only the ones that can be made whole. “What if I find that one missing puzzle piece later?” you ask. You probably won’t. Look at how many puzzles you have! I would just TRASH IT!

I also got rid of anything I would refer to as a “junk toy”. Happy Meal toys, birthday party favors, prizes from an arcade or fair. I got rid of pretty much any toy that would most likely break after a few uses.

DUPLICATES

Eliminate your duplicate toys. For example, we had 3 different toy stethoscopes, 4 different baby dolls, 3 baby doll strollers, 2 baby doll cribs, 3 Elsa figurines and don’t get me started on stuffed animals. How many stuffed dogs does one family need?

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Left: Junk toys and duplicate toys I pitched or donated. Top Right: Some of my sons never ending themed toys before the purge. Bottom Right: My daughter’s bed, pre-purge, WHILE she’s asleep in it.

NEVER ENDING THEMED TOYS

I’m referring to toys that just keep accumulating like Hot Wheels. All of a sudden I looked down and there were a million Hot Wheels in my home. Where did they all come from?? When my kids played with the Hot Wheels it was just a few at a time. I had my son pick about 5 and the rest we donated to our church. Another place I found a large accumulation of toys was in our play kitchen. We have SO much food and even more spoons.

I realized that more play food did not equal more time and attention given to the play kitchen. It was chaotic to even be around because it so easily became a disorganized mess. I removed about 1/2 of our kitchen accessories and play food. 

KEEP

My son and I sorted his themed toys into 3 piles. I was so proud. He still hasn’t played with those “keep” toys.

BOOKS

What kind of mother gets rid of books? Doesn’t she know March is reading month!? Doesn’t she want her kids to read?

I received some excellent advice on this topic from the doll face that revolutionized our family by mentioning she was a minimalist. Remember her? Little did she know how impactful those words would be on this equally unsuspecting momma that morning. But, I digress. I reached out to her regarding books and she reminded me that kids love NEW books. With a few exceptions, most books turn into clutter once they are read.

I was thrilled to realize that I didn’t have to go all Fahrenheit 451 on our books after all. I could simply go to the Library!

You are probably thinking, “they never went to the library before?” Well the thing is, in the past I had gone to the library, and it had always been a disaster. Once I brought those books home I had to be responsible for them! We always lost them, and then returned them weeks and weeks later once they were found. It was just easier to purchase books at a garage sale for .25 cents a piece.

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BOOKS! SO many books. This isn’t even all of them.

I gave each child a small bin (one of the many empty bins I now have lying around the house) to keep their books in. They can keep as many books as can fit in their bin. The rest we donated to their school. We have since made multiple trips to the library. Now that I don’t have 200+ books to wade through, they are easy to find when it’s time to return. Who knew?

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Left Top: Raegan’s Left Bottom: Jameson’s. Bins designated to keep their favorite books in. Right: Our first post-purge trip to the library.

THEN I WENT EVEN DEEPER

After I removed the junk, duplicates, books and themed toys that keep coming in, I still had too many toys. At this point I just had to choose.

I started to choose what to keep with the assumption that almost everything should probably go. I only kept what I knew to be the most dear to them.

The ninja turtle figurines are gone. The Disney figurines are gone. The rocking horse and pop up tent…gone. The Rescue Bots and Doc McStuffins toys have been put into a small bin and hidden in the closet. We like to refer to this as “purgatory.” It’s just waiting until we make sure they don’t go asking for it.

I intend, from this point forward, to be more careful about what kind of toys we own. Disney will always come out with a new movie. My kids do not need to have a toy for every new hit. Establishing tangible boundaries for our kids has also been very helpful in setting the standard for what can stay. Rather than add more bins to hold more toys, the kids can only keep what can be kept in their designated areas. If I’ve learned anything while parenting it’s that kids thrive with boundaries. This has proven true once again.

I find that my kids are playing longer with what they have. We are spending less time cleaning up. We are playing more games as a family. Playing more living room soccer. My kids are reading to each other and creating even more art projects.

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or friend of those with kids, make a conscious decision to handle toys differently. Keep and give gifts that promote creativity, imagination and deeper relationships. When spending time with kids you love, be intentional with that time. I know my kids’ favorite things to do are activities like baking, movies, games, swinging, fishing, at-home manicures and more. If they come home with a toy it’s quickly forgotten about, but when they have the opportunity to attend an MSU game with an aunt or bake cookies with grandma, it adds to a deeper, more quality relationship.

Depth is what minimalism is all about for me. I try not to focus on the “less”, but the room that “less” makes. Room to grow deeper in character, intentionality, strength, peace and JOY!

Minimalism and Kids

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