Too many TOYS?

I know, I know.
It’s one thing for me to write about decluttering jewelry and clothes, but toys?

My organizing instinct has never gone into overdrive like it did after having kids. I felt like one of my main missions in life was to find a way to organize our toys in such a way that we were not living in a constant state of what we lovingly referred to as Toy-splosion. Over the years the toys built up, and I continue to spend time and money organizing these toys so they didn’t take over the house. By the time I adopted my minimalism, my kids were (and still are for a few more weeks!) 5 and 3, and my neat little nooks and crannies were busting at the seams. We had 17,000 stuffed animals (approximately), dozens of puzzles, and my least favorite, BOARD GAMES. Not classic games that are fun and actually make sense, but several cheap little games that come with endless tiny little pieces and rules that even the grownups in the room can’t figure out. Even the pantry was being taken over with my daughter’s first love… ART SUPPLIES. I set up an entire shelving system to try and contain the many, many art projects and supplies we had collected.

The Toy-splosion was slowly taking over.

Since embracing minimalism, so much has become clear to me. One of the most impactful things I have realized has to do with these toys, and it has changed our home and our lives with our children. So here it is….

Having very few toys is GOOD for my children.

Some of you already knew this. Some of you think I am crazy.
Hear me out. I know this sounds like one of those things that is good in theory but not in practice, but I’ve been really watching my kids. You know when they are at their happiest and most creative? When they are learning the most?

When they are playing with other kids. Bonus points if they are playing outside.

It was a major palm-to-forehead moment when I realized that the toys are absolutely peripheral to my children. Given the choice between playing with other kids or playing with toys, they will choose their friends every single time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not tossing every single toy out of the house. But they don’t need the many trayfuls of Montessori projects I used to create and shelf after shelf (after shelf) of toys. They just want to go out and play with their friends. And I am absolutely convinced this is significantly better for them.
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My beautiful neighbor helped me learn this lesson. Her door is always open, she is always warm and welcoming to the neighborhood kids, and her own daughters are often playing out front. My kids adore her for obvious reasons. Every time my kids see her or her kids outside they BEG to go play. I cringe now when I think of how I used to often keep them so I could catch up with the all the cooking/cleaning/organizing. Now if at all possible, I put down what I am doing and I take them outside. I chat with my neighbor, I watch my kids learn social skills, get exercise, and make entire worlds out of sticks and leaves and sidewalk chalk, and we are all better off afterwards. And I make it a point to reach out to their other friends too, and I try to set up a playdate at least once a week.

My daughter when I say YES to playing with the neighbor kids.
My daughter when I say YES to playing with the neighbor kids.

As if to drive this point home, a few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to tackle the two huge toy chests in our family room. Both were absolutely overflowing with costumes, toys, balls, stuffed animals, etc. We brought our kiddos into the family room and told them that Mommy and Daddy don’t have as much time as we want to play with them because we are always picking up all these toys. We said they each get to pick three toys out of the toy chest and two costumes out of the costume chest, and the rest were getting donated. I was gearing up for a major battle over this number, and to be honest I was totally prepared to cave to a higher number. You know what my kids did? They quickly dug through the box, handed me their three toys and two costumes, and then ran off to go play with the neighbor kids without even glancing back. My husband and I just looked at each other, stunned. And thrilled.

Hubs took the kids outside to play while I quickly boxed up everything that was left into boxes. I put them in the garage for a couple days just in case. Turns out, my kids have never mentioned a single one of these donated toys. Not once. We got rid of one of the chests entirely, and the remaining one that doubles as our coffee table is not even close to full.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about this process is that we are teaching are kids that our time is precious. We only have so much time in this world, and we won’t allow a mountain of toys to claim that time, because we want to spend that time with the people we love. And it really seems like they get it. We still have a few areas for toys, and anything that doesn’t fit in these areas is gone. If a new toy comes into the house, something else goes.

I can only hope that by starting this lesson early, my kids will carry it with them throughout their lives. They will realize that stuff doesn’t matter much, but people sure do. And their lives will reflect this priority much sooner than mine did. That is my hope.

So, I encourage you to give this a try!
1. Explain to your kiddos that you all spend too much time dealing with the toys, and that you will get to PLAY with each other more and DO more stuff if you there are less toys in the house. Tell them they get to keep their favorites!
2. Gather all the toys in the area you are dealing with.
3. Create a small and manageable toy area. Commit to only allowing toys in this room (or on the main level) that have a home in this area.
4. Allow the kids to pick out a set number of toys. We let them each pick three. (True confession… my husband and I picked out a couple toys we really like too 😉 ) There will likely be a ton of stuff left behind. Don’t panic!
5. Take the toys your kids picked out and give them a home in the designated toy area. As long as your kids are over 2 years old, make sure the kids can easily put the toys away themselves.
6. Quickly box up everything else that was left behind, while keeping your kids (and yourself) focused on their favorite toys in this new, nice toy area. Point out to them that they can actually SEE and get to all their toys now!
7. Follow through! Use that time you used to spend endlessly picking up toys to play with your kids more, take them outside to play with neighbor kids, head out to do something fun, and remind them that you have the time to do this because you don’t have so much STUFF to take care of!

There is a GREAT book by on of my favorite bloggers Joshua Becker about decluttering kids stuff, and it even has a wonderful chapter on the topic of friends vs toys.
Clutterfree with Kids
I highly recommend it!

Hope you enjoyed this post… I’d love to hear from you!

**Next post…. ART SUPPLIES. This was even a bigger issue than toys for us. Can’t wait to show you the kids’ decluttered art area!

Let’s Talk Shop(ping)

AKA, My Rules for Minimalist Shopping

I was a little surprised, after embarking on my minimalism journey, to realize that I really enjoy shopping. I was not at all surprised to figure out that my shopping was a huge part of the problem of clutter in our home. In fact, when my husband and I started reading Simplify, by Joshua Becker, the thing my husband was most excited and adamant about was stopping the influx of crap into the house. And to be honest, that was all on me.

I was shopping more for the experience than I was for the stuff, that much I already knew. To make a change, I had to stop and ponder what I actually get out of shopping.

This is what I came up with…
1. I love the social aspect of shopping with friends, my beautiful sister-in-law, or my mama.
2. The feeling of “me time” when shopping by myself.
3. I get bored easily. I can’t just sit and watch TV with my hubby. I automatically just pick up my tablet and check out the Anthro fresh cuts. I enjoyed the thrill of the hunt of scoring some amazing online deal!
4. The feeling of “treating myself” with a new purchase.

And then, I had to look a little deeper.

Looking over my list, I saw that I had a beautiful opportunity to find these things in more meaningful way.

For example…
1. Social Aspect – Sitting face-to-face with a girlfriend over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine is much more conducive to real conversation. I’d honestly rather have that connection then the distracted afternoon of shopping. I have made it a point to reach out to my girlfriends more for a happy hour playdate or cup of coffee.
2. Me time – Where do I start? There are so many things I say I don’t have time to do, and shopping is not often one of them. Hot Yoga, reading, writing, working out, just going on a walk with some great music.
3. Boredom – I needed more of a creative outlet. Something that wasn’t about work or the kids. Something I could sit and work on while my hubby and I are watching TV. And guess what? I found and new and wonderful passion in THIS BLOG!:) It’s been a blast!
4. Treating myself – Ok, this one is FUN.

Because in my version of minimalism, shopping still exists! I’ve just changed the rules for myself.

After my closet purge, and then what followed a few weeks later (PURGE, part 2) I really got a vision of what I actually love on my body. And due to my drastically reduced wardrobe, I was able to see a few items that I could really, actually use. Not trendy, passing fashions that I would regret buying a few months, but a few items that would truly add to my wardrobe in terms of comfort and functionality. For example, would you believe that at 37 years old I did not own a Little Black Dress that I love? Part of my minimalism is that my wardrobe should make my life simpler. Owning a perfect LBD that can throw on for almost any occasion certainly fits that bill.

Here is how I did it.

For several weeks, actually months after purging my closet, I bought nothing. But I paid close attention to things I never wore (these things got donated during Purge #2), and things that I frequently thought, “Man, if I only had__________”. There were a very few items like this, that I wished I had over and over. In fact, there were only four things. A perfect little black dress, a nice, flowy black tunic that I could throw on over leggings or skinny jeans for a casual workday, a pair of black shorts, and a simple pendant necklace that I can wear with anything to pull together a simple outfit.

So, I started a list. THE list. I put it on my phone so it is always accessible.

And then, and this is key, I excused myself from sales.

If I find my perfect item, I buy it, whether it’s on sale or not. If this bothers you, just know that you will likely save a ton of money by buying only a few, good quality items. I know I have!

So that’s it. My new rules: It has to be on my list, and it has to be perfect… fit, color, fabric… everything.

Friends, you have GOT to try this. Let me tell you why…

What is happening is, instead of a closetful of trendy, cheap, or ill-fitting items that I would have previously picked up at Target or some clearance rack over the past few months, I have purchased only a couple things that are great quality and that I LOVE. I found a LBD that I feel beautiful in anywhere, and a cool, flowy black top that I happily wear to work at least one a week. Last week I finally found some perfect black shorts while I was shopping for the kids. Someday I will run into that necklace and I will snatch it up! And I don’t second guess these purchases, because I know how much use I will get out of them.

So, after you purge your closet, make your list. Keep it with you, and if you find yourself shopping, just ask yourself, is it on your list? Is it PERFECT? If not, let it go.

For more inspiration from a fantastic blog, check out project333!