My kids have a lot of crap. Definitely more than YOUR kids. Maybe not as much as YOUR kids. But my kids sure do have a LOT of crap.
It makes me crazy.
It’s always everywhere. I’m always cleaning it up. Organizing it. Cleaning it out. Fixing it when it breaks. Washing it when its soiled.
Whether you’re a member of the Konmari kult, a konminimalist, a minimalist, or you’re just tired of wading through toys, you need to know something:
You are the reason for your own misery.
Marie Kondo didn’t tell you to gaslight your kids. But that’s what we do.
Think back to Christmas. Their birthday. Heck, this upcoming Easter. What did you buy your kid?
What did you allow your friends and family to buy your kid?
What purchased items did you allow into your home?
What did you buy your kid in line at the grocery store?
What are your teaching your child about consuming?
So unless your kid got a job and got their own money (no- I’m not talking about the allowance that YOU gave them), YOU and just YOU are solely responsible for the belongings in your child’s possession.
And what’s worse, now you are expecting them to maintain them, organize and clean them, put them all to use (because God forbid they don’t play with that nice thing they were bought for way too much money), and appreciate them….
Your child is a child. Your child probably doesn’t play with their toys because they have choice paralysis- there are TOO MANY OPTIONS for them to play. So they don’t.
Side note here- play is the work of children and if your child is not playing, their soul is suffering like a chef who doesn’t cook and an artist who doesn’t paint.
What do you do?
Well, I’ll tell you, but you’re going to have to trust me. A mother of 3, 2 of whom have special needs, and a half decade minimalist, I know exactly what it takes.
- Stop the flux. STOP BUYING THINGS. If someone else is buying things, reinforce your boundaries- remind them that all things must go to you FIRST, out of sight of the child or not within earshot. If you must buy things so your children don’t cry at Easter (*cough cough* guilty as charged *cough cough*), follow the adage, something to Wear, Something to Read, Something they Want, Something they Need. Or buy consumables (re: candy, crayons, bubbles, etc.)
- Place an emphasis on activity. Children need your TIME. Children need to help make meals and set the table, be read to, go for walks, make mud cakes, draw, and help with chores. These are important life skills and make them feel meaningful and connected.
- Watch your child play. Learn about their play and their favorite toys.
- When your child is not home, go through their toys. Throw away broken toys. Donate duplicates, extras, and toys that aren’t age appropriate. Donate large items that are rarely used like giant stuffed toys. Donate toys that have flashing lights, electronic music, or that are animated. Examine what is left. If it can’t be played with using their imagination, it’s not a toy, it’s a show.
- Smuggle your child’s toys out of the house like drugs across the border. This is not child abuse- your child doesn’t have the emotional regulation to detach themselves from their belongings, and they don’t have the capacity to sort through the volume of toys they have. This is true until a child is around 9 or 10. For tougher items, a child of about 4 and up can sometimes make some small choices like which stuffed toys to keep- nothing more.
- Create a space for favorites- this could be a bin or a shelf. Ideally it would be a shelf with baskets or buckets. Large bins only teach children to throw things in one place, they do not teach organization.
- Place some novel or “long lost” toys on the shelf as well.
- Put the rest of the toys in storage.
- When the toys in the room have been there awhile (think perhaps a month or more), bring out one bin of “rotated” stored toys. Put some away in the bin and replace them. As this process continues, weed out any toys that aren’t appreciated or are broken.
- Consider recreating your child’s space. Are your child’s needs being met in their space? Is there a place to read? A place to craft? A place to play? Floor space? Are their toys and clothes easily accessible? Are the stored items out of sight? Is the space calm, welcoming, and beautiful?
More on Waldorf “toys” later….