Decluttering kid stuff
I started writing online when I had one baby. When this particular website began, I had one toddler and a newborn, and we were living overseas, beginning our journey of living with less. Many of my thoughts as a young mom involved how to provide what my children needed without overindulging.
My, how the years have flown by.
Daily life looks different now. No longer am I knee-jerk about preschool playthings that make mindless noise—because we don’t have preschoolers anymore. I don't deal with the quandary of dealing with an older kids' LEGO being left near a baby's eager mouth. Exchange my concern for nontoxic, edible play-doh with too much time playing Minecraft. That’s where we’re at now.
(I’m sure in another eight years, I’ll look back on this post and laugh.)
In decluttering our kid stuff this week, I reflected on how things have evolved around here, yet how our big-picture philosophies have stayed true.
We still care about not having too much. We still care about lots of play time. We still care about keeping things easy.
Here are my basic tenets to the care and keeping of kid stuff.
I’d summarize my priority for toys with this:
• Keep them open-ended. Boxes, blocks, building things, art supplies—all these can be manipulated a million different ways.
• Make sure the toy invites the kid to play. There are far too many toys on the market that entertain, not provide the chance to play. A telltale sign (for me, anyway): they involve a lot of buttons that make noise.
• They should stand the test of time. Sure, some toys are age-specific. But most should be enjoyable by all the kids in the house, and for years at a time.
• They're quality over quantity. I’d rather have fewer, better things.
I’m a big believer in having just a few toys out a time. Kids play with things more, not less, when they’re given fewer options. (It’s the classic paradox of choice we face when we’re in the toothpaste aisle, forced to choose from 27 varieties. If we’re in a small store that has three, we’ll choose one and easily move on with our lives.)
Out of sight, out of mind still works, even as the kids get older. No longer do we pretend a toy no longer exists, but we still rotate toys. We keep a few in the garage and tell them, “We’ll store these away, and in a few months, we’ll switch them out.” They’re cool with this.
We also like to keep toys collective, for everyone to use. Each person has a few personal items, of course, but on the whole, playthings are shared around here. They’re kept in an open playroom, which works for us.
What we have
Here are all the toys our kids currently play with at home (ages 11, 8, and almost 6):
- Board and card games
- wooden blocks
- cars (mostly matchbox-style)
- race car tracks
- Lincoln Logs
- Connectagons (similar)
- Snap Circuits
- Nerf guns
- marble runs
- stuffed animals
- remote-controlled cars and helicopters
- art supplies
They also each have bikes, scooters, and they’re outside daily on our trampoline. Along with a few general sports and outdoor supplies (balls, bats, and the like), this is about it.
A note about art supplies
We’ve had an open-source craft cabinet (or dresser) since our oldest was two. I love having a go-to place for all things arts-and-crafts that the kids can access at any time.
We keep it basic: right now it’s filled with pens, markers, crayons, pencils, paint, chalk, clay and play-doh, scissors, tape, glue, a stapler, a hole punch, stickers, stamps, yarn, a variety of paper, toilet paper and paper towel tubes, and tons of cardboard scraps and boxes.
The only thing I really say no to is glitter, because sanity. And it also has to all fit in our craft cabinet.
The kids can get out anything at any time, so long as they pick up after themselves. Our youngest is now the only one who fails to do this without reminder.... I have hope he'll soon follow suit.
- Kids play with anything
- Classic toys for young children that are worth the money
- 3 questions to ask while decluttering toys
- Thoughts on toys while we travel
I unapologetically hold on to children’s books. My mom kept most of my childhood books, and I’m so glad she did—our kids read my classics all the time. Books stand the test of time.
My main criteria is that they be twaddle-free. A loose definition of twaddle: dumbed down, absent of meaning. Think books usually staring TV show or movie characters, or books that are just plain immature (as opposed to childlike) or disrespectful.
I also count as twaddle books that don’t align with our family’s core values, and books that are just badly written.
We have a few exceptions: I have a collection of Disney books I got in the mail for years as a kid, and though they’re eye-roll worthy, they’re well-made hardback books that are still more meaningful than commercialized books staring characters published today.
I’ve kept them for laughs, and the kids enjoy flipping through them (though I remind them frequently that they’re not exactly quality).
Our books are kept out in the open, to show that we prioritize reading. Nothing makes my heart soar quite like walking into the living room and me spying all three kids, lounging on the floor or couch and absorbed in books.
In short: books are the one thing I hold on to, barring most twaddle.
- Twaddle-free books for young children: my 10 favorites
- Our favorite read-aloud chapter books
- A summer reading list for tweens
We keep this simple. If our trip taught us anything, it’s that we don’t need many clothes—each of our kids did just fine with three shirts and three bottoms for almost a year.
Our two boys share this dresser, and they each have plenty of clothes. Everything is cotton, and nothing needs ironing. We live in a warm climate now, so the majority of their wardrobe is t-shirts and shorts.
I don’t agree with everything KonMari, but I do like how she folds clothes. (Ask me if the boys keep it this way.)
(They never keep it this way. I redo it every couple laundry loads, for my sanity because I'm weird. It takes two minutes.)
Clothes too big for anyone are stored in a box on the top shelf of a closet, but this rarely happens now, now that we no longer have babies, toddlers, or preschoolers.
it’s funny how life whooshes by like that.
11-year-old Tate handles all her own clothes (she's into hanging them all right now, and I don't care), and she’ll wash and dry her own if her laundry basket is full enough. It rarely is, though (see: owning just a few clothes), so about once a week I (or whoever’s doing laundry) will toss in her basket with the rest.
After clothes are dried, we divvy up everything by person, and everyone is in charge of folding and storing their items. Tate’s fully independent here. The boys still need help folding.
This is the gist of our kid stuff in our household. After years of paring down, it’s pretty fun to look around and see that we have just about everything we need, a few things we want, and not much more than that.
This took time, though, so be encouraged that it is possible. Ask yourself the key decluttering question: Is this useful or beautiful to me (or anyone in my home)?
What we're getting rid of:
What we're storing:
Because these are preschool toys, and everyone here has outgrown them (sob!). That doesn't mean one day they won't want them for their own kids. We keep the well-made classics.
And at the end of the day, yes, we need to teach our kids not to value possessions more than people or events. But if they love having a rock collection on their window sill, or if that My Little Pony collection is their definition of beautiful and useful, I say fine.
The years are short, you know? So long as it’s reasonable, let them enjoy what they love.
Any thoughts? Questions? Tips to add? Share them in the comments below. Also, if you’re decluttering your house this week, share your progress with the hashtag #theartofsimple. I’d love to encourage you!
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