decluttering with kids and thriving with less

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One of the biggest contributors to clutter in our household is children’s things, and more specifically, toys.  While my husband and I did a pretty good job of accumulating household treasures over the course of our first ten years together, we managed to take it to a whole new level when we had kids.  It began as we prepared to welcome our first child – I felt it was imperative to have a closet full of baby clothing before there was even a baby on the scene.  Time went by, and I continued to accumulate things as our small son grew.

Before getting pregnant with our second child, I had sent a bunch of baby clothing that my son had outgrown to my parent’s house.  There was too much to store in my small home, so that seemed like the logical choice at the time!  I knew things had gotten ridiculous when I went to sort through those clothes over a year later and whittled down four large plastic totes full of baby clothing to one.  Those four totes contained clothing that my first son had worn for the first eighteen months of his life.  Seriously?  Did one child need that much clothing?  I’m not sure, but I gave most of it away and never missed any of it.

kid's closet

This is what was left after the initial purge of infant clothing. For such small people, they sure had a lot of stuff. Their clothes have been decluttered substantially since this time, but I'll save that for another post.

When we started decluttering in earnest in the Fall of 2008, it began mostly with getting rid of more of the children’s things.  After I had purged a lot of the baby’s clothes, I sold the bouncy chair my youngest refused to sit in.  Then the baby swing that took up half the living room.  Then an assortment of baby slings, a jolly jumper, an awkward nursing pillow that had never even seen any use, some cloth diapers my son had outgrown, a double stroller that I no longer wanted to push because it weighed 180 lbs with my two children on board, and a huge highchair that my toddler refused to sit in.  And then came the toys.

Anything that had been borrowed from someone or lent to us got returned to its owner. The exersaucer got sold, which was followed by an assortment of infant toys that had been outgrown.  I would struggle with the toy collection, as it always seemed that I could get the selection of toys down to a manageable amount and then a birthday or Christmas would come along and double the amount overnight.  I was pretty ruthless with vetting gifts out the door almost as quickly as they arrived, but that wasn’t a foolproof plan.  I had consented for my mother-in-law to purchase a giant car that the kids could sit in and ride around the apartment.  What the heck was I thinking?  That thing left our house in a few short weeks.

I’ve come to discover that as much as children enjoy toy sets that come with a million different pieces to them, mama does not.  For the most part, the kids are content to dump the toys on the floor and leave them there for me to pick up.  And so started the decluttering of toys that are liked well enough, but that aren’t loved.  This past week we parted with several of my kids’ Playmobil sets.  And honestly, it was completely painless.  My oldest had been asking me for several weeks if he could get a particular new toy.  I suggested he might like to sell some of his toys to fund this new toy purchase.  He jumped at the opportunity and raised over $100 in toy sales this week. He’ll be selecting his choice of one very small toy at the toy store sometime in the coming weeks.

goodbye recycling dudes!

goodbye recycling dudes!

After decluttering nearly 150 pieces of Playmobil from our home, I learned that my kids don’t really care that much for toys.  My oldest is content with drawing, colouring and spelling out the name of his favourite hockey team (Go Canucks Go!) He’s also been getting out a math workbook and working on his math skills in the mornings before school.  My youngest likes us to sit together to read a book, or play with any random palm-sized toy that he finds in his path – he’s not picky.  This has been a great lesson for someone who thought that “good toys” were either expensive, trendy, or a specific brand name.  Turns our good toys are the ones your kids like, not the ones that are sold to us through television and advertisements.  And sometimes the toys kids like are as simple as a pencil and a piece of paper.

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2 responses »

  1. Those Playmobil guys made me laugh because Playmobil is the only toy I’m keeping. My boys actually play with it but not with any of the other 1,000+ we’ve bought them. Wish I’d known that before, it could have saved me more money than I’m prepared to admit. The pain of getting rid of useless plastic toys is making me a much more careful shopper. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Having played a lot with Playmobil as a child, I had really hoped my kids would love it too, but they seem more interested in removing all removable pieces and playing hockey with the poor little people’s hairpieces. We’ve still got about 20 people, but all the big things are gone. I’m grateful that I won’t ever have to pick up an entire farmhouse worth of Playmobil animals ever again. Thankfully, most of the things that left were received as gifts so haven’t had to experience too much remorse over toy buying and then unloading – it’s the kid’s clothing where I get into trouble (buying things they refuse to wear).

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