Wednesday, October 17, 2012

:: A Journey In Minimalism ::

I've never liked having a lot of stuff.
That won't come as a surprise to most people that know me well.  I'm a "keep only what is useful" and an "a place for everything and everything in it's place" type of girl.  If there isn't room for something, I first decide if I need it and if I do, then something else usually goes to make room for it.
That being said, I haven't really applied those principles to my girls' stuff.  I've never felt like they had too much but I also felt like they had enough.
A few weeks ago, my SIL sent me THIS.  A good friend of mine had done something very similar just before summer started.  Her daughter was being destructive and not showing respect for her things, so she took them all away.  I remembering asking her, "What does she do all day??".  I had no concept that children can function without stuff.
When I read the article, I felt challenged.  But I had a hard time figuring out in what way I was being challenged.  I really didn't feel like I needed to strip my children of everything but it did make me take a good look at how much my kids have.
Over the days following, I started realizing how much time my kids spent fighting over toys and how much time I spent frustrated that they couldn't seem to put them away properly, despite the fact that they all had a specific and organized place to go.
One day, I lost it.
It wasn't pretty.
I grabbed their whole storage unit of toys and everything that was in the closet and moved it to the spare room.
The change was instant.
They hardly fought, spent time reading together and came up with the most adorable and creative games to play together.
After a few days, I decided I needed to make a decision.  I ended up going out and buying a bunch of clear plastic storage bins; one for each toy or toy set.
I ended up purging their room and selling of more than enough stuff to cover the cost of the bins and made more than enough room in the closet to store them.  I sold a playmat, a rug and their 12-bin storage unit as well as a couple of other things.
I felt so much lighter!  Some of the stuff had been stuffed under their bed for over a year.
I was left with this......
I'll be honest, when I finished packing everything into the last big bin on the bottom, I remember thinking to myself, "Woah.  That is a lot of stuff".
Now, for the sake of well-roundness, here is a link to a blog post I did just after the girls moved into (what is now the spare room) the room they first shared together.  It gives you an idea of the amount of toys we had in May of 2011.
When the girls moved from that room into what was the playroom back in early summer, I knew I had a lot of toys to get rid of in order to fit it all around the space taken up by their bunk beds.  I weeded through and passed along about 50% of their toys.
You can visit that post here.
Then the storage unit went away and into the closet the toys moved.
That brings us to now.  All of their toys were neatly stacked in the closet and they were to ask permission before taking one out, and everything needed to be cleaned up before they were able to have a different one.
What I saw over the next week, was that they didn't even remember they were in there.
It was a very classic case of out-of-sight-out-of-mind.
Again, they read books more, colored more, played playdoh more and fought less.
I had been exchanging FB messages with a very close girlfriend of mine about a status I had posted about wanting to become a toy-free home.  I sent her the link my SIL sent me and in response she sent me this post from the Minimalist Mom.
I read through it, and found myself wanting to jump up and yell "PREACH IT SISTER!".
Do you ever find yourself facing a massive pile of laundry, a messy kitchen and pile of paperwork to do, and just not knowing where to start?
Imagine a child, who has much less ability to organize their chaotic little brain, staring at an entire room with toys all over the floor.  They become so overwhelmed they don't even know what to do.
After reading the list that Lorilee posted on the Minimalist blog of the toys that children should have access to, I felt further challenged to comb through the toys in the closet.
I went from the photo above to the one below.
I kept their bins of:
 My Little Ponies (the most played with toy in our house)
Mega Blocks
Dolls and Babies
Dress-up accessories (bracelets, old debit cards etc)(this bin was being played with when I took this photo)
Dress-up dresses
That's it.
The next two photos are from in the spare room......all of the toys that are out-of-sight and out-of-mind.
They don't even ask about them.
Now the place where their storage unit was, was very empty. 
Not a fan.
I knew I wanted to move most of their books (which were in the spare room that is now off limits) to where they could use them and put them away much easier.
The IKEA spice rack-turned-bookshelf has been a big trend and I knew it would the perfect thing for the girls.
I finally picked some up this weekend, painted them bright orange and got them hung up yesterday.

I couldn't be more pleased.....with everything.
I'll be honest, there is a small part of me that feels like they should have all of their toys back.  After all, the majority of them do get played with.  A part of me feels like I'm depriving them.
I've had thoughts like, "If I take away their piano, they will never want to learn to play when they are older", or "If I take away their puppy kennel, they won't want to be a veterinarian when they grow-up".
Some of the toys I have put away were gifts and I've had moments of guilt when I think about selling them or giving them away, because it seems rude to the giver.
But I also know that I can't live my life worried about everyone else.  I know my intention is to raise well-adjusted, grateful children in a home that isn't over-stimulating and cluttered and I know that this is how I need to do it.
  When I look at how much less overwhelmed they are, and TRULY how much they don't need so much stuff, I am affirmed and convinced that this is absolutely how I'm going to run my home. 
They are happier and much more content.
Do they still fight?  Yes.
Does the house and their room still get messy?  Yes.
But I feel like it's a step to making our lives simpler and less work.  We can spend more time enjoying each other and less time cleaning and putting away and tidying.
So that's my journey.  I truly hope it makes some sense and I truly hope you can take something from it.

1 comment:

Our little family said...

Christy... PLEASE come to my house and help me!!! I have tried this when the girls were younger and the take one out, put the others away, but it is SO difficult when friends come over and because my children are different ages. I have baby toys, numerous stuffies, a huge barbie house, little toy houses, polly pocket stuff, my little pony stuff... and the list is endless. I am going to go read that blog you linked to as you have inspired me! And I also feel guilty about getting rid of stuff... because we haven't bought them any of it!! It is those grandparents that love to spoil! :S Anyways... all that to say... you are an inspiration!! :)