Living with Less: Kid Stuff


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Okay, we’ve stayed away from this topic from the beginning, but it’s time to tackle the kid’s stuff.  I’m sure it was one of the first things you wanted to jump into, but thank you for being patient.  There is a method to my madness.  You see, kids have a lot of stuff.  We know this.  But we also know that it can be hard for kids to let go of their stuff… understandably so.  It can be helpful, in many cases, for kids to see us begin to purge before we ask them to join us.

When we had a kid, I thought that a playroom and a bedroom would be enough to hold her stuff. LOL. These days I know better, so I went looking for things I could DIY and ideas for small spaces. Really there aren't enough cheap Dollar Store or IKEA hacks in the world to tame a kid's mess. What we need is less stuff!

Of course, you can just push your way into their room and start chucking old toys into the bin.  However, you may be making your life harder than it needs to be.  If your intention is to clean out the whole house, help the process move along a little smoother by letting your kids know that you’re not asking them to do anything that you’re not doing yourself.  The conversation it can spark – about why less really can be more – is worth it.

Toys

This one’s a given.  You can’t clean out kid stuff without touching the massive stash of toys they have all over your house.  There are probably toys in your home that you don’t even know are there.  And guess what.  Your kids don’t know they’re there either.

Now some of you might be scoffing right now, thinking, “But if I get rid of half his toys, he’ll just get bored and want me to entertain him!”  Actually, the opposite is true.  In many cases kids who have fewer toys play with them longer and more independently than those with more.  Why?  It seems kind of counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

Think of it like this; You’re out on a rare date night and want to watch the big game, so you go to a sports bar. When you get there you’re seated in clear view of no less than 5 TVs playing 5 different games.  Think of how difficult it is to just focus on the 1 game you wanted to watch.  It’s nearly impossible.  On the flip side, if you’re at home with your 1 TV watching the 1 game you wanted to see, you’re going to watch the whole thing, with greater focus and attention, and you’re much more likely to stick around to catch the post-game analysis.

See what I mean?  More toys are just a distraction.  Kids will flit from 1 to another, never spending more than a few minutes before something else catches their eye, and then proclaim they’re bored when they’ve gone through everything in half an hour.  Get rid of them and watch them play!

Art supplies

Maybe I’m just being wasteful, but I love to throw away broken, junky crayons.  I know.  I know.  I could go to Pinterest and find half a dozen ideas of what to do with those crayons – melt them into a giant super crayon or something – but I will never do that.  I’m just not that kind of mom.  My daughter held a screwdriver before she held a paintbrush.

For some reason, though, I had a hard time with this artsy stuff.  I couldn’t figure out why until I really started to be honest with myself.  I, Stacey Ogden, am not a Pinterest mom.  No longer will I keep crayons that are broken, indistinguishable colors, or simply don’t meet my standards.  (Sorry to everyone else, but no one beats Crayola crayons.) I will not hoard oatmeal containers and egg cartons for some never-to-be-done craft.  And any of that stuff that’s already in my house has got to go.

It’s kind of freeing, really.

Old artwork

No one warned me about the ridiculous amount of “artwork” that would be sent home from school, especially pre-school.  Our pre-school/ day care center used to send home every piece of paper she so much as drooled on, and for some reason, I felt guilty about throwing it out.

Now? Not so much.  I pick things that she made (by herself) that are cute, hang them on a little rope display, and rotate new pics in as they come.  I save handprints, foot prints, and special projects… and that’s it.  It may be a little morbid, but I try to think about her going through all our stuff after we’re gone and how she would feel about having to sift through dozens of boxes of chicken scratch to find one thing that would make her say, “Awwww.”  So I’ve given myself permission to save only the awwww-worthy things.

For those of you that don’t want to let go of any precious memories, there are plenty of apps that will capture and store your little one’s artistic legacy without it becoming a fire hazard in your home. You could also use a Picture Keeper (a little doodad that attaches to your phone and automatically stores your photos for you).  Snap the pics, transfer them to Picture Keeper, and toss it in your box of memories.

Stuffed animals

Oh. my. ga… Why do we have so many stuffed animals?!  There was a point when we couldn’t sit on the playroom couch because it was covered with stuffed animals.  I’ve been slowly paring down over the years and now there are only a few in the house that she doesn’t regularly cuddle with or use as a monster attacking Miles for Tomorrowland’s ship.

A word of caution.  While I generally advocate involving your kids in the decluttering process, especially of their things, stuffed animals may have to be smuggled out under cover of night.  Maybe it’s the cute little faces.  Maybe it’s the soft plushy fur.  But the idea of throwing out or giving away a stuffed animal – even if it’s never been touched – can throw even the most reasonable child over the edge.

Everything else

For such small creatures, kids sure do accumulate a lot of stuff.  And after that stuff has outlived its usefulness… it stays in the house.  Why?  Because it’s easier that way.

Well, it’s time to say goodbye.  Here are just a few of the things I found among my daughter’s things: Pacifiers, snack holders for a stroller we no longer own, several toys still in their original wrapping, that thing that aunt what’s her name sent and we still don’t quite know what it is, and of course, diapers.  She’s 6.

What to do with kid’s stuff

Surprisingly, toys and other baby items can be difficult to offload.  Many charities won’t take them because of the possibility of safety issues/ recalls, and as I found out, many shelters simply don’t have the room to store toys.  Your best bet with baby items is to find someone to give them to directly.  We gave a lot of our baby stuff to my sister, then our neighbors, leaving us with just a few things left to deal with.  If you don’t know anyone having a baby, ask your church if there are any families with a need for those things, or keep an ear out for local interest stories of families in need. Some police and fire departments will take stuffed animals for officers to keep with them – they give them to kids they may meet in the course of duty. And, if you’re open to it, try local tag sale groups and Craigslist.  You can try to sell some things, or you could just give it away and call it goo juju.

If you’ve tried everything and just can’t find someone to take your things, don’t feel badly about throwing them out. The restrictions placed on the sale and donation of children’s items makes it harder to find a second home for them.

2 Comments

  1. Jamie August 20, 2017

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