So… change of plans. I took pictures and started writing about how to stop toy clutter and continue the packing party series we’ve been working on with the playroom and kids room. Then I realized I had WAY too much I wanted to share to be able to put it all in one post, unless I made it a novel!
So this week, you get TWO decluttering posts. This is part one, and I’ll post part two sometime on Saturiday.
If you are just joining us, you may want to start with the very first post in the series here. This will explain the packing party method, which is our key to decluttering FAST, even with a family. The post will also give you some tips for finding your own motivation to get started:
In this current post, I’m going to talk about TOYS. I’ll tell you how we’ve kept down the toy clutter a TON in our house by keeping most toys out of the kids’ bedroom and the rest of the house. Then I’ll show our toy room, and how we are handling the “packing party” for this area.
I’m also going to get a little brave at the end and share a couple photos from our basement, with one in particular that might make your jaw drop… (I told you I have some PROBLEM areas, right?)
In Part Two on Saturday, I’ll go through the kids’ (shared) bedroom, and talk about our kids’ minimalist wardrobes. I’ll show you how we keep all three of our girls’ clothes in one small bedroom, and it stays mostly clean and clutter-free.
Saved from Toy-Overwhelm-Despair
Let me start off by telling you that changing how we handled toys in our house was absolutely life-changing for me (and for my kids). This was the very first area where we went through EVERYTHING and made a complete shift in the number and types of toys we owned.
This huge shift and complete overhaul of our toy situation was inspired by a book called Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne. I read this book years ago, and I still talk about it and refer back to it all. the. time. It literally saved me from falling into the pit of toy-overwhelm-despair. It also saved my kids a lot of stress over dealing with too many toys, and helped them focus and become more imaginative in their play.
In the book, Payne says that he saw symptoms mimicking those of PTSD in many children who were patients at his counseling practice. The shocking thing was that these kids had not suffered any singular traumatic event, and lived in an affluent country (England) during a time of peace. He attributes the symptoms to the dozens of little stresses these children encountered day after day, living a life of “too much” (too much stuff, too many choices, too much information, and too fast).
The book gives so many practical examples of how to make changes in all four of these areas, but today we are going to focus on the “too much stuff” part. Reducing the amount of “stuff” your children have to play with is the first step toward a less-stressful life that will greatly improve their mental well-being and behavior (and also give them a much happier and more pleasant mom).
A Springboard to Decluttering and Minimalism
For my family, reducing the amount of stuff my kids had made a tremendous difference in our stress levels, how creatively my children played, how well they were able to clean up, and how much time we all had to spend dealing with toy clutter. The change we saw became the springboard that propelled us into decluttering the rest of our home. It was the first step toward pursuing minimalism, because we saw how amazing the results could be.
My hope is the same for you, that packing up and reducing the amount of toys and kids items in your home can make a big difference for your family. I hope you don’t stop there, but that it propels you into making changes in all the rest of the areas of your home as well.
Benefits to Having a Separate Toy Room
I know this will not work in all situations, but I wanted to mention how having a separate toy room has significantly reduced clutter in our home. When we moved to our current house three-and-a-half years ago, our two daughters (at that time) heard that the house had three bedrooms, and instantly assumed they were each getting their own room. The looks on their faces when we broke it to them that they would be sharing a room were far from happy. But using one of the bedrooms as a separate toy room was a decision I do not regret at all.
When you have a room that is just for the kids to play in:
- They will have more space move around. If your kids can share a room (or if you have more rooms than children), you can have another room open for free play and a little more space to run around.
- They will take more ownership of it. They will appreciate the toy room as their space, rather than just a bunch of toys throughout the house.
- You and your kids will notice a huge change when you declutter. The toy space will be transformed into an area that is calm and peaceful, and kids are free to move around and play in the new space.
- Toys will have an obvious spot where they belong and will not spread all over the house, which makes it much easier to clean up! It may take a little while to enforce a “no toys in the rest of the house” policy, but it is worth it. You can allow your children to bring one toy at a time out to another room to play with if you choose, or just keep toys in the playroom all the time.
- By keeping toys out of the bedroom (other than a couple favorite dolls or stuffed animals), kids sleep better, and are less prone to distraction during naps, quiet time, or even when they are sent in there to get dressed for the day.
If you are in a situation where you can’t make a toy room, try to divide off part of a room that is the “toy area.” Whether that’s a specifically-defined side of their bedroom, or part of another room in the house, keep ALL the toys there that the kids will have regular access to.
Thoughts on what to keep
Here are some thoughts on what items to keep and how to go about the process:
- Open-ended toys are better. These are the toys that encourage kids to innovate and be creative. These are the toys that lead kids to imaginative play that is so good for their development.
- Less high-tech toys create less distraction and a more peaceful environment. Remember, right now your children are in training for their adult lives. Giving children simpler toys increases their ability to focus, while giving them toys that are designed to entertain teaches them that they need to be entertained 24/7.
- Young children don’t always know what’s good for them. As the parent, you are in charge of giving your children what you know to be best. You may choose to include older children a little more in the decision making, but with young children you will need to make most of the decisions. In Simplicity Parenting, Payne suggests completing the decluttering process while children are not there. He said after seeing this process completed many times over years of his practice, every child loved the new, more open space when the parents were finished.
- Ask your child to pick a few favorites. Ask for their input before you start, but let them know you are going to make the final decision about what to keep. To get them thinking, questions like, “If you only had a few toys, which ones do you think would be the most fun?” can get them thinking about why you are doing this. Ask them, “How many different ways can you think of to play with this?” If they can only think of one or two, it may not be a good toy to engage them.
- The Packing Party will help them let go! When kids know the toys are not gone yet, but just packed up for now, it makes it easier for them to let go. Keep reading to hear more about our plan to let the kids pick out a few more toys to keep over the next few weeks.
When we first overhauled the playroom, we decided on a few larger open-ended toys that we would allow our kids to keep out all the time, which included a large wooden dollhouse, wooden kitchen set with dishes and wooden food toys, and a set of trains with wooden tracks. A little while back, we actually had a mini packing party for the dollhouse (though I didn’t know what it was called then)! The dollhouse came with WAY too much furniture and “stuff”, and it ended up all over the playroom fairly often. So I boxed up what wasn’t needed! We still have the box of “stuff” in case we sell the dollhouse, but I may end up letting it go when we do our big purge at the end of this packing party:
This week as we went through the toys, we also allowed the older girls (age 6 and 8) to pick four favorite toys each to keep out. These go on an 8-cube shelf unit in the playroom. (They also each have two stuffed animals in their bedroom). I did let them choose a small box of “Beanie Boos” as one toy, and a box of “Magformers” as another toy. They also each have a couple dress-up items on the hooks to the right.
I selected five baby toys to keep out for our 19-month-old, and I also selected a few baby books, and a few activity books for the older girls to keep inside the storage part of the kid-sized table. (The older girls will have books in their bedroom as well).
We kept a box of puzzles and simple games in the top of the closet. These are not down all the time, because the pieces are too small for the baby, but occasionally I get them down for the older girls.
The food toys for the kitchen set and the trains go in the bottom of the closet, so the baby can’t get into them all the time and dump them everywhere.
And that’s it! EVERYTHING else is packed up and out of there.
Our “Toy Library” in the Basement
For this section of the house, we did something a little different with the things we moved out. We already had a “toy library” in our basement. This is where we keep extra toys that are not currently in the playroom, so we can rotate them out and keep the kids from getting bored with their minimal amount of toys. About once a month, the girls are allowed to switch out any toys they do not want in the playroom any more, and get a toy from the toy library instead.
Our toy library has grown to be quite full, and that is the part we will be really paring down through this packing party. I decided to leave everything on the shelves, since it is already together in one place in the basement.
Over the next four weeks, we will let the older girls each pick one additional toy per week that they want to keep (with our input). They can either bring it upstairs and take something downstairs in return, or they can just decide to keep it in the toy library. At the end of the four weeks, they will each have four toys upstairs and four toys they are keeping in the toy library. I may pick a couple additional toys that I would like them to keep, plus a few for the baby, and we will be getting rid of the rest!
Our Results after Packing Up
Our toy room feels clean and open; I love it, and the kids love it! We did not spend a lot of money at all putting our playroom together. When we first cleared out most of the plastic, battery-powered, small junky toys that just weren’t doing my kids any good (especially because they were usually strewn all over the floor), we did decide to purchase a couple things.
We purchased the wooden kitchen set and the wooden dollhouse used (from a local mama Facebook group), and they were things that helped the girls to be really excited about the new space.
The other favorite toy right now is a cardboard box that our new bathroom vanity came in. My husband cut a window and a door in it, and the girls have spent more time playing with that than anything else the past couple weeks.
We acquired the table from my parents, who were getting rid of it to get a new coffee table. The top lifts up for storage, and it ‘s the perfect height for a kids table. We added a small molding around the edge to keep puzzle pieces, crayons, and legos from falling off onto the floor.
The cube shelves were purchased at IKEA ten years ago, before we had kids, and we had mostly a dark “wood” decor in our first home. If I were to buy shelves, I’d probably buy lighter-colored real wood shelves, but these work! And I personally don’t want to spend a bunch of money in order to downsize our belongings.
The tie-dyed wall hangings and “curtains” are flour sack towels that I dyed at my awesome friend Lea’s house. Lea hosts a huge tie-dye party every summer, because she is awesome. 🙂
I wish we had “before” photos, but we don’t. This playroom has been a long process for us, and I really didn’t take a lot of photos before, because I was embarrassed about how our house looked most of the time. It would be nice to have them to compare to now.
I will, however, be taking lots of before and after photos when we get to the basement (which includes the laundry room, storage, office and homeschool room), because those are my current problem areas. I can’t wait to see the photos side-by-side.
I’m going to be brave now, and share a photo with you of the main room in our basement. Earlier this year, this room was mostly cleared out. Most of what is there now are things we have been pulling out of other rooms to go through (which has taken months up to this point – this is why I LOVE the quick method of the packing party). The photo still shows a glimpse of the ridiculous amount of “stuff” we still need to deal with downstairs.
I hope you will take before and after photos if you are working on decluttering your house as well! And I would absolutely love it if you want to share them with me. You can email them (email@example.com), and let me know whether or not they are ok to share on the blog or Social Media. Or you can share them with me on social media. Tag @Natural Mama Cafe on Facebook or @naturalmamacafe on Instagram!
Even if you’d rather not share photos, please make sure to leave a comment or let me know if you are following along, and what progress you’ve made!
If you want more information about how toys can affect your child’s well-being, development, and behavior, or need help with where to start or more detail about what types of toys are best for your child, I highly recommend the following resource:
The Toy Detox – a step-by-step course by Denaye Barahona, PhD. of Simple Families. This course will walk you through the whole process of decluttering toys, from how to simplify toys, to educational philosophies behind which toys to keep, to having conversations with family and friends about your values and minimizing toys. The videos are quick and simple, but PACKED with practical information you can use right away to create a new and simplified play space for your kids.
I hope to hear from you soon about what you are getting out of this series, any questions you may have, and updates on your progress!
P.S. Make sure you download the FREE Minimalism Motivation Workbook below if you haven’t already! It will really help you dig deep for the motivation to do this!
See the next posts in this series here:
- How to Declutter Kids Clothing with a Capsule Wardrobe | Decluttering and Minimalism for Families (Post #4)
- Minimizing our Master Bedroom + Toddler Items | Decluttering and Minimalism for Families (Post #5)
- Your Questions About the Packing Party | Decluttering and Minimalism for Families (Post #6)
- Finding “Hygge” and Decluttering the Living Room | Decluttering and Minimalism for Families (Post #7)
Previous Posts in this Series:
- Decluttering and Minimalism for Families | It Doesn’t Have to be so Hard (Post #1)
- Packing Party in the Kitchen! Decluttering and Minimalism for Families (Post #2)