intentional living, minimalism

Minimalism + Motherhood: Purging the Kids’ Rooms

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.

Wanna purge the toys, but not sure where to start? Get the step-by-step guide right in your inbox!

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.

4) Clothing.

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 πŸ™‚

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  1. We used to keep the toys in the kid's bedroom until I realized that they were bringing them out into the living room every day to play with them. So then my living room was being cluttered up every day. So we ended up putting up a cube shelf in a corner of the living room to store all of their toys and then downsizing them considerably. We live in Florida so they play outside all day anyway. My 4 year old daughter actually complained when we came back from vacation last year that she didn't like Florida any more (she was able to play with her cousins every day and missed them). But once I cleaned up their toys and moved them out to the living room she suddenly changed her mind and declared that she was so glad to be home! Seriously, getting rid of stuff made her happier. πŸ™‚

    I have a question, where did you get that wooden bunk bed from in your picture? We're probably going to have to get one in the next year and I've started doing my research. That looks like a good one.

  2. YES!!!! A million times yes! Also please move to kansas and be my friend that way I don't have to stalk you on instagram! πŸ™‚ in a completely non crazy way! πŸ™‚

  3. That is an excellent idea, Hannah! Way to go, mama! We have to fit homeschooling in our living room, so the toys stay put in the kids' rooms for now, but like you said, downsizing just makes life sooooo much easier.

    The boys' bunk beds are from IKEA. They were very affordable, and we've had them about six months or so and love them! They're constantly climbing up and down and hanging off them and just being wild boys on them, and they are holding up wonderfully. I have a lot of friends that have these ones too and they love them as well πŸ™‚

  4. That is an excellent idea, Hannah! Way to go, mama! We have to fit homeschooling in our living room, so the toys stay put in the kids' rooms for now, but like you said, downsizing just makes life sooooo much easier.

    The boys' bunk beds are from IKEA. They were very affordable, and we've had them about six months or so and love them! They're constantly climbing up and down and hanging off them and just being wild boys on them, and they are holding up wonderfully. I have a lot of friends that have these ones too and they love them as well πŸ™‚

  5. I am so attracted to this philosophy. Our challenge is that the grandparents care for our kids during the workweek (stereotypical 8-5 M-F) and they have toy overload at their houses. I’m afraid that this makes the minimalist philosophy weak in my kids’ day to day lives, even if we do it at home. If I say "less toys" to the family, they buy it anyway and keep it at their houses. Don’t you think this would undermine minimalism at home?

    • Hi Rachael,

      That’s a tough spot to be in! I always think back on my childhood, and even though I spent the bulk of my days away from home at school and sports, when I think back, I remember my time at home with my family, despite the fact that so little of my time was actually spent there versus other places. If I were in your shoes, I would embrace minimalism in my home even more because of being in that situation. You could make your home a space of LESS STUFF and MORE INTENTIONAL FAMILY TIME. Less of your precious time spent picking up and more time sitting with those sweet babies of yours making memories. Just my two cents πŸ™‚

  6. We have 6 kids, the first 5 are boys. I overbought so many clothes for my firstborn, but kept them all (basically) because he has 4 younger brothers to wear them. What would be your advice as far as downsizing the amount that I’m saving in this situation? For instance, I was going through the size 5/6 bins and probably have 40 pairs of jeans (YIKES!!), which are an assortment of nice jeans and play jeans (with wear or small holes, which I don’t mind for playing outdoors). So knowing that I have 3 additional boys to wear this size, should I just let it go and keep them or try to pare it down some? I don’t buy them new clothes (knowing that we have plenty already!) and it has been such a blessing to not have to buy clothes for the boys as they have grown, I’ve just pulled out the correct size tub and let them choose an appropriate number of outfits for their closet and stored the rest for the next child in that size.

    • Hi Jessica,

      I would say not to get rid of anything that you really like and know for sure one of your boys can wear and fit in. You shouldn’t get rid of anything that you need, love, or could truly use!

  7. Hey –

    My kids are 6,4 and 1. My struggle is that they are incredibly sentimental and find decluttering stressful. They cry when I get rid of MY stuff! We have not downsized toys or their belongings yet as I want to get them on board rather than it being upsetting for them. Any ideas for helping my littles see the benefit of simplicity? They are not buying in on this…

  8. we started this process with our kiddos (and grandparents. wink.). I have a question for you: I have a child who gets particularly attached to their toys. how do you deal with narrowing down? do you include them in the process ever and what does that look like? at this point, we’ve paired down quite a bit, but I know we still have a ways to go. Thanks so much! XO

  9. we started this process with our kiddos (and grandparents. wink.). I have a question for you: I have a child who gets particularly attached to their toys. how do you deal with narrowing down? do you include them in the process ever and what does that look like? at this point, we’ve paired down quite a bit, but I know we still have a ways to go. Thanks so much! XO

  10. Allie,
    I need to do this with my 3-year-old. How involved do you think she can be? Obviously she understands likes and dislikes but isnit enough for her to have big say or should I just purge based on what I have observed her play/not play with?

  11. Allie,
    I need to do this with my 3-year-old. How involved do you think she can be? Obviously she understands likes and dislikes but isnit enough for her to have big say or should I just purge based on what I have observed her play/not play with?

  12. We have a lot of books-what do I do with books? Which ones do I keep? we have so many that they don’t fit on a shelf but when I go to get rid of them, I think-oh, but this is a great book

  13. We have a lot of books-what do I do with books? Which ones do I keep? we have so many that they don’t fit on a shelf but when I go to get rid of them, I think-oh, but this is a great book

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