Nothing! But I’m guessing you might like to know a little bit more than that! Truth be told, I’ve been trying to organize the toys in our playroom for over a year; and every time I thought I had “it all figured out” and ready to show you, something would quit working and I’d head back to the drawing board to try something else. No matter what I tried, it seemed the systems I put in place never took, and cleanup battles between Henry and I continued to occur almost daily. Now, months later, after living with a new system that is truly, honestly working, I can say this: my organization systems and methods weren’t the problem…rather, it was the amount of toys I was trying to stuff into those systems that were causing a lot of the trouble. I can’t really say “nothing” happened when I got rid of half my kid’s toys because a lot happened…a lot of good things. Here’s the story!
You know how I said at the beginning of the year that I’d been hearing whispers to simplify and calm and declutter and slow down for months now? Interestingly enough, I think I can point to this post on Instagram that potentially started it all (dated just over a year ago!). I had proclaimed that our toy situation was getting out of control, and I was looking for ideas to “deal with it.” A sweet (and oh-so-smart) reader chimed in recommending a “less is more” approach and only displaying a few things at a time.
I am almost certain my inner dialogue went something like this:
“We don’t have that much to begin with.”
“We need to keep some toys for the new baby.”
“What would I get rid of, Henry loves everything we have?”
“I declutter all the time.”
“Yea, that idea is really cute, but I don’t think that will work for our family.”
And if I am being truly, genuinely honest, I am sure I also said to myself, “But bare empty shelves and no clever systems certainly wouldn’t make for good blog photos.” #seriously
So off I went to devise the “best toy organization system ever.” I researched. I measured. I pinned ideas. I brainstormed with Henry. I even made a cute blueprint before I got started…what to see?
I ordered a ton of my favorite Sterilite snaplock boxes in every size and shape and organized the heck out of our playroom shelves. Every nook and cranny was full, everything had a precise and well-thought-out home; and I couldn’t wait to share it all with you. I just needed to make some labels and snap some pictures and this project was done.
But because Sam was so little, making labels and taking pictures took me a little longer to get around to. And as days and weeks passed, I noticed a few things about my “best toy organization system ever”:
- Henry wasn’t playing with any of the toys “locked in” to all the boxes.
- He hated putting toys away even more because the systems were so tedious (so many boxes, so many lids).
- As a result, toys started piling up on top of shelves, in corners, and under tables. In short, our playroom was a MESS!
- Thanks to birthday and big brother gifts, at one point our toy collection had grown even more. But because my “best toy organization system ever” didn’t leave a single inch for growth or expansion, the piles only continued to get worse.
- Finally, I noticed that Henry would continue to beg for new toys when we went out, only to not play with pretty much anything he owned at home.
It became abundantly clear that my “best toy organization system ever” needed yet another overhaul.
It was around this time that I listened to Young House Love’s podcast #45 (I highly recommend it if you don’t listen already) where Sherry talked about reading Kim John Payne’s book Simplicity Parenting. The themes of the book, as she shared them, revolved around less toys + less options = deeper play + calmer kids + easier cleanup + happier home. These themes resonated SOOO deeply with me (see…more whispers!) that I ordered the book and read it immediately.
There are many, many wonderful concepts and suggestions in this book that I do not want to inadequately summarize for you in just a few sentences here (I highly recommend you read it yourself!). However, one of the overarching themes and recommendations Payne makes is to cut your child’s toys (at least) in half. He also advocates getting rid of certain kinds of toys (those that can only be played with in a certain way) and keeping others that encourage imaginative, creative play (as in, toys that can be played with in a variety of ways). His reasonings and research again resonated so dramatically with me that I knew it was time to finally stop ignoring all these whispers of simplification and “less is more” and finally deal with our problem of too many toys.
Yet even though I knew getting rid of toys and creating simpler systems was necessary, I was scared. Would Henry feel hurt, sad, or betrayed that I got rid of his toys. Would we have meltdowns and tantrums and cries of “where is my ______!!” I worried that getting rid of toys would lead to more chaos even though Payne promises in his book it wouldn’t. Payne argued that the kids wouldn’t even notice the reduction in toys and they would instantly reap the benefits of less toys, calmer surroundings, and better play.
Friends…he was right.
While Henry was away at camp the last full week of Summer (I told you I did this a while ago!), I spent an entire day getting rid of at least half of his toys. I tossed all the junk from Happy Meals and party favors, and threw out everything that was broken, had missing pieces, or was worn through. And then I boxed up anything he rarely touched, out-grew, or that didn’t fall into the category of toys that encouraged good and creative play. Before he came home, I loaded everything into my car and drove them to the donation center. When I got home, I cleaned up, re-sorted what was left and waited for him to come home.
When he got home that afternoon, he walked straight upstairs to the playroom to start playing, as he does almost everyday. I waited at the bottom of the steps for the shrieks and cries and the “Mom, what did you do!!!!”.
He pulled out a basket of blocks he hadn’t played with in ages and started playing.
I’m not kidding. I’m not being dramatic. I seriously couldn’t believe it either.
And those shrieks and cries I was so stressed about? They never came. Every now and then…and I mean very, very randomly…he will ask for something that got tossed or donated. And when I say “I think they are gone,” he moves on.
Instead of noticing everything that was gone, Henry could suddenly see what was actually there. Less toys meant less options, which for Henry at least…meant less stress and less discontent during playtime. Less options and less stress led to better, longer and more creative play…which meant our toys were actually being played with! And finally, less toys translated to easier storage systems…which has lead to less trouble getting toys out and putting toys away. I don’t want to say that our toy storage systems are forever under control…but in the 6+ months since I decluttered, paired down, and simplified our toys, our toy drama has significantly decreased, if not pretty much gone away.
When I say “nothing” happened when we got rid of half of Henry’s toys, that’s not really the full picture. There were no meltdowns, no children feeling deprived or robbed, and no drama. However, a lot has happened as a result. Our toy situation feels under control. Henry plays with the toys we have, and cleanup is no longer a test of wills. In fact, I’d now say the playroom is the one (and only!) area of our house that truly feels peaceful and perfectly functional. Maybe I can get on board with the “less is more” thing after all!
So…you’re likely wondering what exactly we kept and how exactly we are storing everything that is leading to this toy “utopia.” But…this post is long enough already. So I will pick up there on Friday by showing you the toys we kept and why, what storage systems we’re using now, and how we have both kiddos’ toys (ages 1 and 7!) all in the same spot!