First, I want to say thanks for all of the AMAZING feedback I received on my post this week about creating habits of materialism in our children. Ironically, the post received zero comments but the feedback I go through Facebook, email, and from in person comments by my readers was so encouraging.
If I’m being honest, that post was one that I was actually terrified to post. It was a tangled web of emotions that left me wondering if people would be encouraged (as so many of you seem to have been!) or leave people thinking less of me and my husband for giving into those temptations of “stuff.” Then I realized that there are very, very few people that I know who don’t fall trap to things at some point or another, so why should I worry about judgement?
I think the one thing people have asked me most about clearing out the toys around here, was how did you decide what to get rid of and what to keep?!
This question makes perfect sense, because until I actually began the cleaning out process, I didn’t know how I was going to decide that either. For me, Tsh Oxenreider’s book Organized Simplicity helped to take a lot of the guilt I was feeling away when I started chunking toys. Much of her thoughts on simplifying the stuff in our homes goes back to concept of whether we are holding on to the object for genuine sentimental reasons or because we think that the object holds a memory.
When it came to the toys, I admit that I did find myself sitting there with Woody, Buzz and the Toy Story gang thinking, “But, he used to love these! Maybe Jonah would play with them as he got older…”
The keywords in that sentence being used to love them and maybe. If there is anything that I’ve learned from having two kids, it’s that each one is different. Noah loved race cars when he was little. Jonah? Not so much.
So here are the general steps I took when cleaning house with the toys…going from material to simple:
1. Get Organized.
I’m sure that sounds stupid, but if your house is anything like mine, you have toys everywhere. The first thing I decided that I needed to do was to bring all of the toys to one area and organize them. We have a bin for cars, a bin for legos, a big toy box for big toys, etc. If everything was in one place, it would be easy to see what was missing pieces, which toys were broken/messed up, and so on.
2. Ditch the broken toys and the Happy Meal junk.
I won’t lie. Noah had more toys from the McDonald’s happy meal that I want to admit….simply because that means that I’m admitting to letting my kid each chicken nuggets. But he did. He also had a lot of random junk. Pieces of broken crayons, a helmet or ten that went with some cheap soldier toy that we snagged for a buck during a Walmart expedition…just crap toys that were forgotten about. If it wasn’t of good enough quality to sell or of good enough quality that I would purchase it as is, then I trashed it. A lot of what we got rid of we donated. I don’t like to donate toys that LOOK like they have been played with for a hundred years. I like to give the best quality toy I can so the cheapo stuff went to the trash.
3. Set aside the “I Know you Play with these”, the “Maybe” items and the “Definitely holding onto these” toys.
For me, that included things like Noah’s Toy Story collection, his Ninja Turtles, and his Imaginext figures. They went in a big maybe pile. The overpriced Melissa & Doug building blocks, the (also over-priced) Thomas the train paraphernalia, Lincoln Logs, Legos, and puzzles were all definite keeps. I knew we wanted to keep the items that would teach him or challenge him to use his imagination. Those items went in their proper bins and back on the shelves so they were out of the way.
Next, I sorted through the pile of “maybe” items. There were a lot of these. Mainly because Noah really does play with most of what he has. But he plays with it in phases. I can’t tell you how many Lightning McQueen cars we had, but I can tell you that even though we have so many, it had been three months or more since he played with them. He loved them…when he remembered he had them.
This is where I want to say that I really had to do some soul searching on what I thought was best for him to keep. And it is also the time in which I made Noah go play. Kids will want to keep EVERYTHING so this part was something I knew I’d have to tackle alone.
In the end, I cleaned out the bucket of race cars, keeping about 20 cars for him to play with (ridding the bucket of all but ONE Lightning McQueen, but the rest of the gang went in a bag to donate). I cleared out all of his Ninja Turtle figures except one of each turtle and (for now) the bad guys. **Edited to add that these will be going to donation this week as well, as I’ve been watching and they rarely get played with anymore either. Anything else that was a maybe and looked to be a phase toy (Planes, Batman, etc.) went to the pile.
4. Is this really a keepsake?
Lastly, with a big majority of our toys cleaned out, I had to ask if the things I set aside were of any significance as far as sentiment. Noah puppy dog? She’s a sentimental thing. I’ll never get rid of that much loved little dog. His other stuffed dogs from Build a Bear? Not really sentimental. Sure we spent nearly $30 for the experience to build it, but the toy itself held no meaning.
5. Don’t forget the books!
Books are like toys. You either read them, or you don’t. All of the books made of card board, torn pages, etc. that weren’t loved, went to the pile.
In the end, we took almost four big, plastic bins of toys to the Salvation Army. We ended up holding onto: two different kind of blocks, Lincoln Logs, Legos (both Noah’s “big boy” legos and the Duplo’s that Jonah plays with), 20 race cars, Puzzles, and Jonah’s Little People toys. There are still a few random things that we are still weaning from our house gradually, but the amount of stuff now is minimal. It all fits in our small under-the-stairs-closet-turned-toy-room with ease.
And I’m also finding that the mess is easier and quicker to clean, and that Noah actually PLAYS with what he has. And appreciates it. Toys that cost money to purchase are loved, enjoyed and used now when before they were just thrown in a pile. We’ve also seen that Noah no longer asks for something new every time we go somewhere. Instead, he earns an allowance so he can save his money to purchase the next thing his heart desires.
But that’s another post for another day…