Having kids means messes, and lots of them. But wouldn't it be freeing if it was fun messes instead of the same old crap strewn everywhere day in and day out? What if the only toys in the kids' room were ones that encourage their imaginations and bring about constructive play? What if their rooms were clean and clutter-free so they could actually play in there? What if all the junk was cleared away and you actually had time to do arts and crafts with your littles? Those are the kinds of messes I don't mind cleaning up.
When my husband and I first stumbled upon minimalism, it was because of toys and kid clutter that we were intrigued by the idea. With loving grandparents constantly "blessing" our kids with presents, birthdays and Christmas always meaning new additions to the toy bin, our house and our kids were overwhelmed. In no time at all the toys were far too many for one room [which is ridiculous], and we noticed the kids really only played with a few favorite toys consistently, although they pulled out everything on a daily basis. One day I had had enough, and I got rid of nearly all the toys.
I can't tell you how much freedom that decision brought into our home.
My kids didn't even care. Hundreds of dollars worth of toys were being donated or thrown away and all they cared about was that their few favorites were kept safe.
That spoke volumes to me and reaffirmed our decision to purge.
Since my first post about minimalism, I've received some great questions about purging the toys and kids' stuff, so today we're talking about how I brought minimalism into my kids' rooms!
1) Purging the toys.
Let's deal with the biggest problem first. The thing about purging the toys is, you have to know why you're doing it, and keep that reason at the front of your mind as you're going through everything. Otherwise, you'll come across a toy that you know wasn't cheap or has some significant meaning and you'll talk yourself into keeping it, even though you know it doesn't get played with.
My why is the fact that I deeply desire to instill gratefulness in my children, and I want to give them the gift of less.
When there are less toys, less clutter, they play more together and their imaginations can really be put to work; they grow, and that's very important to me. I want them to only have toys that encouraged constructive or creative play, and that I wanted them to spend most of their day playing outside.
This led us to only keeping wooden trains and tracks, wooden building blocks, Legos, and cars [these are also toys that I won't mind adding more of and make great gifts from grandparents]. We kept all our books, although I did purge the ones that were very damaged. Bella was allowed to keep whatever toys fit in the one plastic bin I gave her. She chose several unicorns and got rid of everything else. She had plenty of leftover space in her bin and had no problem getting rid of stuff, saying "I really never play with any of this other stuff." I was very surprised.
2) Deal with the incoming flow of toys and tackle the awkward Grandparent issue.
Brian and I don't really buy our kids any toys, like ever. I don't know if that's unusual or if that's how most parents roll, but we've just never done it unless it's Christmas. I know some parents have to tell their kids things like, "No toys this Target trip...I'm only getting a few quick things." My kids would never even think about that, simply because we've never shown them that a trip to the store means getting anything for them. It makes an already stressful errand with four children a lot simpler, plus our kids get enough toys from grandparents and aunts and uncles throughout the year. Which leads me to my main point...
To deal with the constant flow of toys from loving relatives, you're going to have to assess your relationship with them and choose how to deal with it from there. With my parents, I just talked to my mom about how much freedom minimalism has brought us and how much crap we got rid of and she immediately caught on, was supportive, and started asking what we want/need for birthdays. She regularly tells me that she thought twice before purchasing a small gift for one of my kids, and opted for art supplies over random toys, which I greatly appreciate!
We have some relatives who just speak the love language of gift-giving and are bringing small toys and things over every single time they see our kids, and the relationship isn't one where I feel like I can just say "yeah... no thanks." With this situation, I usually let the kids freak out and happily enjoy the new toys [usually just small things from Dollar Tree] for the day, then during our nightly pick up the new toys are either already broken, or they've been tossed aside and forgotten about, and I simply get rid of them. One time Hudson got a small thing from a grandparent that was from the Dollar store and he just obsessed over it. I obviously let him keep it because this isn't about being a neat freak and not allowing my kids to have anything I didn't plan on them having. It's about simplifying and living life without clutter, and one small toy that has become special to your child won't cause clutter.
If your kids get clingy with every thing they're given, implement a "one in, one out" rule. When they're given something new and want to keep it, tell them they need to choose one toy from their bin that they want to get rid of in order to keep the new one.
When asked what my kids want or need, I always say books, more wooden trains/tracks, building blocks, puzzles, or arts and craft supplies. Giving grandparents a no-fail gift idea list helps them feel like they can still dote on their grand-babies, their gifts won't end up at Goodwill, and it helps you rest in the fact that birthdays and holidays don't have to mean more useless junk cluttering your newly clean space.
3) Minimalism and the holidays.
Christmastime has sadly gone from the celebration of the birth of our Savior to a gimme gimme holiday marketed by greedy toy companies. Personally, I've never understood why some parents will go broke buying their kids presents during that time of year. Two years ago, we took on the idea the wise men had, and chose to give only three gifts to each of our kids. It was wonderful! We've kept the tradition ever since and it's here to stay.
Here's how it works...
Each child still makes a list of their wants, and we pick three things to get each of them [this doesn't count stocking stuffers]. The kids understand the reason behind the three gifts as a symbol of the gifts brought to baby Jesus, which makes it more special and significant. It is really hard to choose only three things to get each of our kids, but it makes each purchase special, thought-out, and worth every penny we spend on it. Plus, we are able to give better gifts since we aren't trying to fill the whole space under the tree. Quality over quantity.
This is another big issue when it comes to the kids. Clothes are so expensive, so it's hard to get rid of something, even if you know it's not really useful. We are a larger family and we live on a tight budget, so I had to come up with a way to stop keeping every article of clothing with hopes of using it eventually, because the dresser drawers were overflowing and the laundry was never-ending.
First, I faced the hard fact that if I keep an piece of clothing and it just isn't getting worn, I am going to have to buy something new to replace that piece of clothing anyway, so I may as well just get rid of it. Why keep a tee shirt with a stain on the front that I can't get out "just in case"?
It's just taking up space. Let it go.
I got rid of everything that didn't currently fit them, wasn't currently in style, or had just been worn out. You know what was left? Only the clothes my kids wear. Every single thing in the trash or giveaway pile was something I never dress them in, so....why was I even keeping it in the first place?
I now spend a little more money on the clothes my kids do need, no more thrifting (I was really just getting junk). I love H&M for kids clothes. Their prices are better than Target and even more fashionable, which I do care about. Their quality is good and I have no problem getting stains out when the kids get messy. I love their colored denim for my boys!
Here's a list of the amount of clothes my kids currently have, and it's plenty!
About 10 every day outfits
3-4 dressy outfits
3-5 pairs of pajamas
1-2 jackets/sweatshirts (we live in Southern California)
3-5 pairs of shoes (mix of play, every day, and dressy)
I mix and match and I keep it simple. I keep the laundry going throughout the week and never have the problem of "not enough clothes".
I hope this helps and your questions have been answered! Feel free to let me know in the comments if you have any more :)