Dont laugh. I know it sounds like an oxymoron. It CAN be done.
As I write this post, I am getting ready to simplify and downsize even more than I already have. I’ve said it before, but I will say it again. I HATE BEING A STUFF MANAGER. The more stuff I have the more I have to organize it, clean it, take care of it, repair it, and on and on and on. Every single one of those things takes me away from all the things I REALLY want to do, things like spending more time with my kids enjoying leisurely activities, having more time for myself, being creative, sewing, or any of the other things I like to do.
Living simply with children can pose a special challenge. Toys accumulate over time, and the more kids you have the more quickly toys seem to multiply in the playroom while everyone sleeps at night.
One of my favorite activities to involve children in the decluttering process, is pick an basketful of items (for us, this often ends up being stuffed animals, or cars), and depending on how many things you need to clear out, giving them a few different options. These are ones I have used in the past:
* One to keep, one to give to someone else
* One to keep, two to give
* You make keep X number of this item, and the rest we are giving away
I have rarely had a child truly complain, and on the instances when they have, I just let them keep the extra toy a little longer. I dont want letting go of things to be traumatic for them (and in turn making them cling to STUFF like its important). Is it really hurting ME if they keep 5 stuffed animals, instead of 4? No, especially if I just got them to get rid of 7.
You know those “junk” toys you collect over time? The ones you let them spend their quarters on at a garage sale, or from the quarter machine, that are broken, and not really played with? I do two things with that kind of toy. If its broken beyond repair, it goes in the garbage. If its a toy that still has life, but you want to get rid of it for some other reason (because its that annoying noise making toy!), and its not your childs FAVORITE TOY, it goes in a box or a bag, to be donated in a month or so, assuming no one has asked after it during that time (they RARELY do).
All other toys get organized and rotated in and out of play. We have fewer toys than just about anyone I know, but my boys still have MORE than enough. Not only that, but my goal this year is to cut back to EVEN FEWER toys than we have right now.
Investing in quality toys is key. We have sets of Lego, wooden trains, and Playmobil. These provide hours and hours and HOURS of varying play, and take up a relatively small space. We have a train/play table that we made the boys for Christmas, this is the rotating play area for these toys.
The other type of toy that any mother of boys also probably has 34679 of is: Matchbox cars. They are not expensive, but if I had to choose only ONE tub of toys, right now at this snapshot in time, they would be it. They have played with these cars for countless hours, indoors and out, since they were old enough to hold them in their hands.
A great way to keep down toy clutter, once you have gotten everything organized is to simply limit what comes in. Dont start collecting a NEW set of toys, but DO continue to add to sets you already own that get a lot of play time.
Remember, just say NO to being a stuff manager…and YES to living the life you really want.