I debated whether or not to post about this, but when I shared it on my personal Facebook page, I received such a positive response (particularly from fellow mommies), that I decided I should share. Here’s the deal: We have too many toys. My kids have been spoiled. And before I write one more word let me just say that I am fully aware of what a ridiculous “first world problem” this is. I know. The thing is, somewhere along the line we started accumulating “stuff.” Please don’t misunderstand and think that we don’t appreciate what we have — we do. I’m just tired of the mess, tired of the clutter, and craving more simplicity.
Somehow, without even realizing it, we allowed our children to buy into the idea that “more” is better. “More toys” = more fun, more happiness, more excitement, more to experience. The truth is, that is a big fat lie. “More” isn’t always better. Sometimes, more can actually be worse. Now, let me also point out that our kids really aren’t spoiled brats. Sure, they have their moments, just like any child does, but in general they are well-behaved, good kids. Even they realized that enough was enough. It was time to bulldoze through the clutter and “decrapify” as my friend Ann Marie says. (By the way, you must check out her 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge if you truly want to simplify and organize your life.)
Our playroom had become a cluttered mess that was impossible to keep clean. Just the idea of cleaning it had become overwhelming, not only to my children, but to me too. Every square inch of the floor was constantly covered in toy bits and pieces. We have a front and back staircase in our house, both of which we use equally, but you have to pass through the playroom to get to the back stairs. We also use the playroom as a backup guest bedroom, so we can’t be hopscotching through a Lego minefield every time we attempt to traverse the room. (Of course, I didn’t think to shoot decent photos before the room was cleared, but I did snap a few with my iPhone during the process, so please excuse the picture quality.) These photos don’t even capture the worst of it! This was about halfway through the decluttering process.
THE 20 TOY RULE
Here’s how we decluttered: I told my boys that they could each choose 20 toys to keep. At first, they panicked, but they quickly realized that there were tons of toys in bins and on the floor that they rarely even played with, and the mess was making it hard for them to find things or even see what they had. They quickly conceded that it was a decent idea, and they spent time thoughtfully choosing which toys meant the most to them. I gave them a couple of days to slowly form each of their piles of 20 items. There were a few caveats: Legos, Playmobil, art supplies, blocks, books, and Jake’s beloved squinkie collection didn’t count toward the total. (Although they were required to organize all of these items.) These are the things they play with the most, and since there are so many tiny bits it just didn’t make sense to include them. We did organize them into designated bins/buckets, and they were instructed to keep them put away at all times when not in use or they will get taken away. (This is not only due to the mess factor, but also as a safety precaution for their crawling baby brother.) We keep art supplies in the blue dresser drawers, and a couple of small bins full of pens and crayons on their art table in the corner of the room. Drawings get hole punched and filed in binders. Miscellaneous toys (action figures, etc.) go in our beloved white toy bins. I found them at Target — we have 3 of them and they each are divided into two sections. (I couldn’t find the exact same ones available now, but these are the same in an Espresso finish, and they also have single storage units.) We keep our sports equipment in a big tub like this one.
(FYI I did not stage any of these photos so the shelves aren’t immaculately styled and Pinterest-worthy, but this is real life, people. I also have a tiny photobomber.)
I mean, are you seeing all of this glorious floor space?
After the 20 toys had been selected, they helped me stash the rest of the toys into storage bins. Six bins, to be exact. Six ginormous plastic bins full of toys. I’m ashamed to even admit that we had so many. (And we have donated plenty in the past.)
So here’s the plan: For now, the storage bins are stored in the basement. I want to give it a little time before I give them the permanent boot, just to make sure that we don’t hastily get rid of something that might have sentimental value. In a few months, the majority of the toys will get donated, while some will stay in storage and be periodically swapped and rotated in and out of the playroom. From now on, every time the boys get something new, they will donate something old to make room for it.
So, how’s it going so far? We’ve lived this way for about a month now, and so far, so good. They’ve only asked for a swap one time when they realized they’d like to have a few of their superhero action figures in exchange for some lesser played-with stuff. And you know what? They don’t miss the clutter any more than I do. They didn’t cry or whine, and they genuinely seem to be enjoying all of the extra space in the playroom, along with the fact that clean-up only takes about 10 minutes per day and they can much more easily find whatever it is they are looking for. There is plenty of free floor space now for baby Jonah to crawl around, plus we just moved a bed into the room to create a secondary guest bedroom/playroom combo. (More room updates and plans for the room coming soon.) A few extra toys have crawled out of the woodwork since we put the storage bins away, so we will have to revisit the toy situation again soon and pare down even more if need be.
My advice for you if you plan on doing something similar, is to modify it to fit your family’s needs and goals. Maybe 20 toys isn’t the magic number for your household, or maybe it is and you don’t even need to create as many caveats as I did (as far as making exceptions for Legos, etc.). The goal is to simplify, and I think you and your kids will both be pleasantly surprised by how much they enjoy having fewer things to sift through when trying to find specific toys to play with.
I plan on decluttering the entire house little by little. And while it may be time consuming upfront, it is well worth the time saved cleaning and organizing in the future, and the freedom we will feel when we break free from the “stuff” that has been ruling our lives.
So tell me, how do you stay organized? I can use all the tips I can get!
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