For some reason, this is where I started with my minimalism journey. Nothing overwhelms me more than toy explosions all over the home. For those of you currently obsessed with Marie Kondo’s addicting new Netflix original, wouldn’t say hoards of toys “sparks joy” for anyone.
Not even the kids.
What I’ve learned thus far is that, like adults, children can be overwhelmed by an abundance of “things” as well. It’s always amazing to me how my kids can tell me their bored while surrounded by a house full of toys. It’s because toys get played with and forgotten and left to collect dust under newer, shinier toys; rinse and repeat. There’s no organization to the chaos. No one can find anything because nothing has a place, and thus nothing can truly be put away because where does it even go? Not so long ago, “cleaning up” to my kids meant picking up their toys and tossing them into the play room. And then the door would close, and that would be that.
Every few months, I would find myself combing through the chaos and making donation runs with things no one ever missed.
Or so I thought.
Because always, within a week, my four year old would begin a desperate search for an obscure toy no one had even mentioned in months. And guess what? That toy was now gone. Because of me. Because it didn’t have a home, couldn’t be found, and was then deemed, by me, as ready to be re-homed when it hadn’t touched my kids’ hands in a thousand years.
But why hadn’t they touched these long-forgotten toys?
Because out of sight, out of mind.
We are programmed consumers. We are surrounded by advertising that tells us we need new things. Our old things are useless, are lives are empty without the best on the market. And guess what? Our kids are not shielded from this. At least, mine aren’t.
Yep, my kids watch YouTube (and I’m still an awesome mom). They watch other kids play games and unbox toys. And they freakin’ love Ryan’s Toy Review.
If you haven’t seen Ryan’s Toy Review, first congratulate yourself and know that your life has more meaning for being oblivious to this particular YouTube channel. The gist of Ryan’s Toy Review is that this kid, Ryan, whom every child finds to be relatable AF, plays ENDLESSLY with EVERY TOY EVER CREATED. The family that started this channel are absolutely geniuses and are now straight up millionaires, I have to give them that.
But back to my point. Ryan’s Toy Review, well, reviews toys. But not in a bland, unboxing kind of way. We get to sit back and enjoy Ryan and his parents thoroughly enjoying his toys. It’s a marketing goldmine. It’s the reason why I found myself at Walmart last Black Friday hunting down a giant Golden Egg filled with absolute crap that my kids obsessed over for weeks thanks to that show. It’s the reason we own Hungry Hungry Hippos. It’s the reason there’s shit-colored slime glued to my son’s bedroom carpet.
Look, none of us are immune to advertisements, and as they become more and more subtle the easier it is to remain oblivious to how our lives are shaped around them.
The best we can do is stay hyper aware of what we need and what we don’t need. And kids do not need hoards of toys to be happy.
So now, my kids have a small stockpile of their very favorite toys, in bins organized in a way that even the youngest family members can fully understand. But the best part about it, is that they can now clean up too. Which means less cleaning for me. And as I write this I’m realizing that’s probably why this whole journey started with the kids’ toys to begin with: out of my own desire to not clean up everyone’s crap all the time. Win win!
What I did:
Paired down books. We LOVE the library and are constantly bringing home books. Meanwhile, a vast majority of the children’s books we owned weren’t touched, let alone read. I started here. I wish I had a before picture because our collect was twice, maybe even three times what it is now. I kept our very, very favorites and donated the rest. I think books will forever be a work in progress as the kids continue to grow. I think it’s harder for me to let go of most of them than it is for the kids.
Sorted the toys. All of the toys. You can KonMari it by making a giant pile somewhere, but the toys in our playroom (the playroom that no longer exists, by the way) weren’t actually super far from organization already. Any toy that didn’t quite “fit” somewhere was donated or went into the “misc” bin in the living room.
Designated Living room toys. My kids never played in the playroom. It was a place of disarray and a waste of space. My kids play in the living room 99% of the time, so that’s where the toys should be. However, I don’t want all the toys eating up our “grown up” space, so the compromise for us is three medium ikea bins that live under the coffee table. These are the most loved toys in the house. The cars, the legos, and the misc box.
Moved the playroom into the bedroom. This was two fold. First of all, we’re planning a move within the next year to a space that will require the boys share a room with their toys. There is no playroom option. So we all might as well get used to it. Second, as stated previously, my kids never used the playroom. Since moving the toys to the bedroom, they continue to use the toys in the living room. It hasn’t made a lick of difference where the main bulk of toys reside, they still choose the living room favorites and don’t make a disaster out of the bedroom. One last little bonus: my youngest loves to collect all the toys he can find after his bedtime in an attempt to stay up later and avoid the inevitable going-to-sleep portion of his day. And now he has all of his things right there with him already, so I’ve also just eliminated his favorite bedtime excuse. Bam.
This has taken time. Everything I’ve read about de-cluttering with kids recommends doing this process WITH your kids so not to traumatize them when they return home from school missing favorite items. I clearly learned this the hard way. But I also still don’t do this process with them. I try to be more mindful about it now. For example, I have a trash bag full of stuffed animals hiding in the closet right now. In one month, if no one has asked about these items, they’ll be donated. No harm done. This can be done with any of all of the toys, and it’s a much more gentle approach than my aggressive must-rid-of-all-the-things mindset. I’ve learned that it’s completely okay for me to toss all of my things but it’s not nearly as okay to do this with others’ possessions. Especially when it comes to children.
Whew, that was a lot! I’m excited to move forward with the other rooms. Surely they can’t be as difficult as the kids?