(Originally published October 2012)
I spent a good part of the weekend decluttering. When you have three kids underfoot and none of them nap, it makes decluttering a whole sport unto itself. I would put the kids in one area to play, and go clean/declutter a different area…only to have them become so interested in what I was doing that they would start un-doing all my “decluttering” work. It was chaos…not organized chaos, just chaos! Haha!
This year has been quite transformative for me in many ways – I know I don’t go into it much on this blog, but I have been undergoing so many spiritual changes this past year. I am open to changing and growing, and it’s just been a great year for letting go of so much, and opening myself up to possiblity (I know this all sounds quite vague…). 😉
Anyhoo – part of my decluttering has been a shift in thinking towards minimalism. I’ve been studying minimalism for quite some time now, and it is something I really strive towards in my life. I can’t say I have always been this way – but as I have become more conscious of advertising, spending, consumerism, etc…and especially its negative effects on children, I have been consciously moving towards a more minimalist life.
Most of the minimalists I read about are single guys who own nothing but a backpack and travel through Europe. That is obviously not me! 😉 But, as I have been studying minimalism and applying its concepts to my life, I find so much of it freeing.
Of course, I have experienced life without owning any possessions (when my house burned down on June 8, 2000) – so it’s not exactly new to me. I have long known that stuff is just STUFF. The more you have, the more you have to care for it. Sometimes I feel like half my job is managing the stuff. The things you own end up owning you…
Increasingly, I have been noticing a sort of disconent in my kids…that they are always WANTING more and more – and that their attention spans when they play grow shorter as the number of toys increases. Back in August, I cleared out about half of their toys (donated most of them). I immediately noticed that the kids were able to focus better and enjoyed their toys more when there were fewer. I am not a hoarder by any means, but we did have A LOT of toys.
Well, this weekend, I decided to take it further. I have always loved having their bookshelves teeming with children’s books (can one every have enough children’s literature available?) and their toy bins, while not overflowing, were still quite full.
I decided to experiment and put almost ALL of the toys and half of the books in the garage. You would think that I would box up all the old toys and leave out the pretty almost NEW toys (that rarely get played with) – but instead, I did the opposite. I boxed up all the toys that look practically new (because no one ever plays with them) – and I kept out only their very favorite, most loved and worn toys.
I also kept on their bookshelves only the books they LOVE – and I boxed up all the books that are just kinda “meh” – ones that were just taking up space.
So, do you think they noticed that all their toys (I really do mean almost ALL) of their toys are now gone?
No! They didn’t notice!
I guess before I was of the mindset that if one doll was great, then 10 would be better. If one princess dress up outfit was good, then five would be amazing.
But I was wrong.
What was happening before my clear-out was that my kids would throw toys in the middle of the floor in a pile, play with one for a minute or two, then frenetically move on to the next. They would argue over the toys…even though there were plenty of things to play with, one always wanted what the other had. I felt like their gratitude for their toys was lacking- and that they were always asking/seeking for me to buy them new toys (can we got to Target and buy THIS or THAT?)
Anyhoo- I got out the garbage bags and put almost everything in them. Ginger kind of freaked out at first, but I told her I was “just organizing” and then I put them all in the garage. The girls thanked me for organizing and then the most magical thing happened.
They played with their toys MORE. They did not argue over them. They did not ask for MORE toys. They were happy with less. Happier even than before!
So- now we have almost all of toys stored in the garage. I will keep them in there for awhile and see if any are truly missed. What is not missed will be going to charity soon enough.
I think I am more broken up about breaking up with toys than my kids are (ironically enough). I find myself wading through all sorts of emotions about this STUFF that occupies our house – Letting go is hard for a lot of reasons (wanting to give my kids everything, being attached to things, guilt about money spent). But, I know ultimately that letting go is really the path to feeling free.
And ultimately, I don’t want my kids attached to things. I don’t want them to think that things will make them happy. I want them to find comfort in relationships with people, to use their imaginations to play, and to be creative and open in all areas of their life. I should be quite happy that they don’t care about the toys…they ARE just toys (useful tools) afterall. Toys should facilitate their imagination and nothing more.
Already our house is feeling so much lighter – I can clean up the whole house in five minutes now (even when ALL the toys are out). It is an amazing feeling.
Letting go is hard, but with practice it’s getting easier! 😉