Children and minimalism…toys.


This is my daughter Carmen. And she deserves a round of applause.

Why? Well, Carmen has mental illness and a form of autism and she has fully embraced the beginnings of a minimalist lifestyle, despite being an anxiety-based hoarder.

I’ve read a LOT about children and their toys. Have you seen THIS GUY’S photography? Go ahead- click the link, I’ll wait. It’s a series of children from around the world and their most cherished possessions.

Now, I live in the first world, and I have the first world’s most loved and spoiled children. They’re so spoiled in fact, that when the holidays come, we have to think for weeks ahead as to what they would like for gifts.

How insane is that?

Well, it’s quite insane. And here I am, to end the madness. I’ve cleaned out all of my possessions to the equivalent of what a normal person has (forget minimalism- I’m only halfway there), and there’s no reason my children can’t do the same. Abraham, my youngest, is only two, so his lifetime of collecting has yet to start, and we have narrowed his toys down to about 4 small boxes which include vintage toy sets for cars, so he’s all set. But Carmen? Ooooohhhhh Carmen.

These are the things that Carmen had just for her dollhouse:



Among them? Clockwise from the top we have a bowl of broken things and garbage, Littlest Pet Shop houses, Calico Critters, LaLa Loopsie and clay sculptures, Waldorf dollhouse toys (white basket), Littlest Pet Shop animals, Squinkies/Zinkies/Zoobles, a Waldorf faery home, (bottom) Calico Critter school house, Kachooz hair studio, Littlest Pet Shop hospital, Waldorf Faery home, and a playmobile faery home.

Now, if I had my way, all that would be left would be the waldorf toy basket, the faery homes, and *maybe* the calico critters. The rest is plastic crap.

Normally I could care less how many toys my kids have, even if it were messy, but because of Carmen’s challenges, all of her toys have to be OUT of her room, in the hallway closet, because she makes such a huge mess and is not capable of cleaning it up. On top of that, she cannot even have dolls and stuffed animals in her room because her dust allergy is so bad that she can’t even have curtains.

Look, I don’t pretend to be perfect, but I can’t make my kid get rid of all her toys. That’s just mean. So I resolved to put them in the shed. I bought three totes, and one would be for her room. The rules? Pick five toys. I knew right away that there was no way that five toys would suffice, especially since her art supplies couldn’t be in the shed or they’d freeze. And her dollies- those can’t go in the shed either because of mice. But I’m secretly hoping that after months in the shed, my daughter will be happy with her tote of toys and we can get rid of it all.

Here is all the stuff that has to go in the shed:

stuff for shed

WHOA. But that’s only half of her stuff. Here’s what’s left:

The sign on top of her tote

The sign on top of her tote

Everything is in individual containers inside of the tote so they can be easily organized.

room stuffThe box on top is a pinball machine.

Dolly stuff and stuffies

Dolly stuff and stuffies

Art supplies and doll clothes

Art supplies and doll clothes

So, you see, we still have a LOT of stuff in the house, but there is now room in the hallway closet for things that go in a hallway closet- like a toolbox and a vacuum. That’s what it’s all about- the middle road.

For gifts? Since my kids have everything and then some, here are some ideas for children’s gifts that don’t involve too much space:

  • Gift of experience: Passes to water parks, animal sanctuaries, state parks, the movies, and children’s museums
  • Gift of music: cd’s or itunes gift cards (I REALLY recommend a cheap mp3 player from Best Buy- it’s quieter than a radio and you can sensor everything that goes onto it. They even make headphones with volume blocks for children)
  • Clothing or certificate to shop: yes, children can get excited about clothing if they’re picking it out, and this is great for back to school or growth spurts
  • Accessories: shoes, organic lip gloss, jewelry, fake tattoos, etc.
  • Dvd’s
  • Books or book shop certificates- if your child has access to an ereader, Amazon certificates are great. Better yet, for older children, an ereader could inspire them to clean out their books.
  • Outdoor toys: Seed starting and garden tools, sidewalk chalk, snow paint, or physical toys like a skateboard and knee pads- maybe even a helmet upgrade
  • A camera- children love to take pictures. This would be especially great with a gift certificate to a place to develop photos.
  • A nature journal- many titles are available on Amazon for all ages
  • I got my nephew a slingshot last year. Few boys have a slingshot nowadays. Marshmallow guns from Etsy are pretty popular too.
  • A recorder and a lesson book or a harmonica
  • A Cat’s cradle book with a nice string
  • Passes for lessons like dance or karate
  • Personalized gifts- I read on a minimalist blog that a woman got her children monogrammed towels. This could work for a bath robe as well
  • Items that make children feel older- a purse, a watch, a compass, an alarm clock, a flashlight, apron and kid’s cookbook, etc.
  • Tools- This is a bit controversial, but I got a small children’s tool set as a young child, and apart from building things outdoors, I was fascinated taking apart old broken things. It’s an incredible idea for bright children.
  • Sewing kit- A small sewing kit can encourage children to utilize those fabric scraps you can’t part with.

There you have it! GOOD LUCK!

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