We are working towards a minimal and simple lifestyle. Minimalism means such different things to different people! To us, it doesn’t mean having absolutely nothing in our home, rather having only what we need and use, and what we enjoy. Here is how we accomplished a more minimal amount of toys and saved our sanity!
1. Create a goal!
Having a goal of minimalism is easy enough when you have no kids, but add 7 young kids and their toys to the picture and it brings quite the challenge. A year ago, our kids had so many toys that we were completely overwhelmed. There was a mess absolutely everywhere, and toys were spilling into every room of the house. It brought me to tears many times, as I was so frustrated with never having a tidy home and the feeling of drowning in toys! It was a fight every day to get them to clean up their room, and then to collect the toys that were everywhere from bathroom drawers, to my closet and under the dishwasher! We decided we needed to make a real change. So we set our first goal: reduce the toys to only what they love and need.
2. Create a plan, and talk to the kids
Craig and I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. Over the course of the past year, we have been planning carefully what toys to keep, what to donate, and what to do about gifts. It was overwhelming to start. Everything seemed to be a “need” when asking the kids what to keep. We have kids ranging between 1 and 11, so surely it was impossible to rid ourselves of things they “grew out of” in case the next age child would love it someday. I would read blog after blog about how these families got rid of all toys, leaving absolutely nothing for their kids. I wasn’t willing to go that far, as I believe that it is developmentally healthy to have some toys available, however I did realize I could drastically cut down on the types and volume of toys they had available to them. We talked a lot over the past year with each other, and with the kids, as we made baby steps towards our goal.
3. Keep track of what the kids use on a regular basis
I started by watching what they played with on a regular basis, and started packing away and donating or selling anything that wasn’t used. We never sold or donated something without our children’s awareness. We would explain to them about how not keeping something was helping us reach our goal, and how nice it would be to not have to clean constantly. They started understanding and even helping us pack things up as time went on. Communication and patience was the key!
4. Limit what is available but allow them to decide what to keep
This is what our kids currently have available to them to play. I say available because I have packed away some of the items in our storage room so we could still play them, just not have them available for use without purposeful planning. I’ll explain that system in a bit, but here is what our kids have for everyday play:
Our boys each have a small lidded bin (99 cents a piece at Home Depot both in Canada and the USA) that measures about 13 x 8 x 5 inches. That is what they were able to fill with a few toys that they could choose on their own. Depending on the boy, they chose mostly LEGO (our boys are 11, 8, 7, 6, and 4) but my oldest also included his journal (at the bottom of the bin on the lower left). This is all they have for day to day use. They each have a waldorf doll on their bed, as well as a stuffed animal and a book. Their bins sit at the foot of their bed and are easy to bring to play at the kitchen table, and put away just as easily!
In our storage room, there are a few bins that contain the toys we kept for them but are not available on an everyday basis. One bin holds all their lego (admittedly they have a massive amount, but with 5 boys you need enough to build some epic creations!). This bin comes out on days where we do homeschooling projects such as building ancient Egypt or medieval castles! There is also a bin that hold KNEX, which we use for our science curriulum. A bin also holds our Snap Circuts (also used for our science curriculum). The final bin holds our arsenal of nerf guns, for our wings & stings nights! (we have chicken wings and a whole family, whole house nerf war every other Friday!) They also have a few swords/lightsabers for play when they ask for them. None of these bins are easily accessible, so they are only brought out intentionally and then put away when we are finished with them.
Our girls have a few toys they chose and play with on a daily basis. Here is the bin that my 2 year old chose. Its mostly small toys, as she adores tiny toys, and her baby I made her from my Preemie Norah pattern. She has a second doll that resides in her bed as well. In the girls room they have a wooden doll house to put their babies in, a little doll blankie and a diaper bag (holds diaper, bottle and soother for their dolls). They also have a wooden stroller.
In storage we have a few more dolls (I haven’t gone through them yet, but want a few extra for playdates with friends!), doll clothes and other accessories. There is also a bin that houses dollhouse dolls and a second small dollhouse. None of these stored items are available to the girls to play with, however they may enjoy them as they get older so I can re-evaluate them at a later date.
Here is what we kept for our 1 year old. Her little wooden stacker is by far her favourite! She also enjoys her wooden shaker egg and her dolly I made her from one of my patterns. She has nothing else kept in storage. We didn’t keep baby toys at all, since we learned that they will be happy with anything!
Now, when the kids have birthdays, they enjoy asking for books, small lego sets, and other items that fit into our scheme (lego, knex, outdoor toys, books). Our family is so amazing that they are completely happy to give the children things they would like rather than random items. The biggest joy is that our children don’t ask for things at all anymore (with the exception of birthday gifts), especially larger items since they know it won’t fit into their bin to be able to have out. They regularly donate or purge items that they don’t play with since they have learned the value of the space they have for things and they don’t want clutter filling it!
I absolutely am thrilled with how clean my house looks and how easy it is to pick up toys since we have massively reduced toys. It takes 5 minutes tops to tidy their rooms every day. I was worried they would get tired of so few items, but they play for hours with what they have, and never complain of being bored. There is no longer fights to clean up, and I often find them reading or riding their scooters, bikes, or skateboards in the basement (which is open and free to play in without all the clutter!). They will go sledding for hours every day and come home to a nice clean room that they can enjoy. This has been the best thing our family has done, and I hope it inspires you as well!