How we got our kids involved to cut their toys in half.
A thought series by Jason Duncan | 8 minute read
uh Minimalism, we have a problem!
Let me first recap. I’m not a professional. I’m completely new to this whole minimalism thing. I’m nearly three months in and I can honestly say that with every item I pick up I ask myself a series of questions I never asked before.
“Do I need this?”
“Will this help others?”
“Is this in my way?”
“does this empty me of me so I can genuinely love God and others as myself.”
With that said, I have a wife and three boys and not everything is about me. It wouldn’t be fair of me to go on this over-spiritualized minimalism journey and make my family do it as well. Thankfully, as I stated before, Jess is fully in on the de-cluttering. In fact, I’m pretty convinced at this point that she’s always been a minimalist because as we purge though things they are all mine!
But here we are today talking about stuff that isn’t mine, its my kids. More than that, these are gifts that we, family, and friends have bought them. Now I am as sentimental as they come, I’m a hoarder, I’ll keep everything. Jess isn’t. She gets rid of everything. So the question is where do Oliver (8), Gunner (6), and Rex (4) land? Is it too late? Do they have my hoarding tendencies? Or did we luck out and they inherit Jess’ natural minimalism?
Needless to say, looking at the pictures above, something in the toy room had to change! I have spent hours upon hours organizing toys! To the point of absolute frustration. I’ve always considered the basement and helping the boys clean up down there my responsibility. I have spent entire weekends going through toy bins sorting toys, putting them into their proper places and keeping everything organized. Only to have the toy room look like the pictures above with in a matter of days.
To be fair, the kids do a decent job at keeping the house clean. Oliver hates cleaning! Of the three, he is the best at picking up after himself right away. Rex is generally the culprit. He gets into everything! Not only does he get into it, he also hides stuff. Everywhere! Gunner, well Gunner… where do we start with Gunner. Gunner is easily distracted we’ll just leave it at that.
Usually the neighborhood kids come over, or we watch our nephew (who like Rex, also gets into everything), and in the busyness of the day, it just gets away from us.
Minimalism to the rescue!
OK. First off, we have more toys than are shown in these pictures. Don’t freak I didn’t clear out everything, I promise. In my last article (here) we were able to re-arrange our entire house so that each of our boys got their own room. More bedroom space allowed us to move their favorite toys into their own rooms, thus dramatically clearing up the “toy” room in the basement.
Second, this was a lot easier than it looks. Most of the toys in the basement the kids just didn’t really play with. I did my normal sorting procedure like I had done in the past except this time I had the boys help me more than usual. As we started, I had them simply throw broken toys away. We had another bin set up for toys they didn’t want anymore or wanted to give away. Even Rex at four years old had a few toys he wanted to give away. We ended up with three large boxes of “give away” toys, and two garbage bags of broken toys!
Of their favorite toys, I laid them all out before them so they could look at them all, and I had them reassess what they wanted to keep or get rid of. Like this.
Again, these were their favorite toys. In this case, this is what I did for Gunner. He kept 90 percent of these, even still, it was fun to watch him go through the process and see what he wanted to keep and what he wanted to get rid of. Oliver was easier to work with. I reasoned with him “the more toys you have the more you have to keep picking them.” That’s all he needed to hear to get rid of most of his toys. I think he got his mom’s minimalism gene. Rex still has by far the most toys and mostly trains, but my mom stepped in to help out. She wanted some train sets for her house so the boys have a little more to play with when they visit. So we ended up with another box of toys which are headed off to Grammy’s!
All in all, I think together as a family we cut their toys in half!
Again, we are in a 900 square ft home, we have cleaned out enough room for each kid to have their own space. If we can do it, so can you! I know we’re not done yet. We have a full storage room of Christmas decorations and that is next on the hit list! I also have a growing eBay pile which needs to be listed. Its hard to find time, but I’m excited to keep parting ways with old possessions.
At the advice of the minimalists themselves we have already started dialogue with our extended family. We are encouraging them to buy our kids experiences rather than toys. (go to the movies, museum trips, spend a winter day at a water park) We’ll see how this plays out over time, but so far they seem receptive. Those conversations have to start early though. Don’t wait until a week before a birthday or Christmas, they may have already purchased a toy and now have the hassle of returning it.
Give it a try! Make a toss, give, and keep pile. broken toys are the easiest to purge and if you’re like us, you have a ton. The give pile doesn’t take a lot of reasoning, our kids were pretty receptive to the idea that other kids don’t have the same privilege they have. When it comes to the keep pile, lay them all out there for your kid and see how they respond. It helps with the initial purge in getting rid of some additional toys.
As always I hope this article helps those in the same situation! We are using the extra space as a build space where the boys can set up larger toys, like their race or train sets, for a short time, or simply have the room to actually run around and play.
<bio> Jason is not a pastor </bio>
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