Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Category: Kids (page 2 of 2)

Manage Clutter: Limit Toy Storage Space (Quick Tip)

Now that we’ve gotten toys down to a manageable number, we still struggle with the flow of new toys into the house, especially at birthdays and Christmas. However, there is a neat trick that helps us stop new toys from completely taking over ours lives:

Limit toy storage to a confined space.

This is a fantastic tip from Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker. When that specific, confined toy area fills up, that’s it. No more toys. If a new one arrives, an old, underused one should go.

Good Toy Spaces

Good confined spaces are closets, a toy box, one set of shelves, under a bed, or a couple of tubs. Ideally, this is somewhere that you can close off so you don’t have to look at the toys all the time.

Limit Toy Storage Space

Toy Box Storage

Our Toy Spaces

We’re still trying to find the right amount of toy storage space in our house. We’ve started by confining the toys we have to the corner in the living room, the living room bookshelf, the toy box, the guest bedroom and both girls’ closets. We found the corner is not confined enough because it’s hard to define where a corner begins and ends or when a corner is “filled up”. My goal is to eventually confine the toys even more to simply the toy box, one or two bookshelves and a couple of tubs in the girls’ closets. The tubs are for rotating the toys and the toy box/shelf are for the toys we play with every day.

Limit Toy Storage Space

This tip offers a few other nice side-effects beyond simply having a manageable amount of toys. It:

  1. Keeps the house cleaner.
  2. Allows you to easily experiment with finding the optimal volume of toys. For instance, if you confine the toys to four tubs in a closet, but you find that the kids only play with the toy-equivalent of two tubs you can de-own the extras and reduce your confined space.
  3. Helps you and your kids know when it’s time to do another round of purging. When the confined space feels cluttered or full, it’s time to de-own again.

Rotate Toys (Quick Tip)

When my oldest daughter was still in utero, I picked up a book on babies’ brain development. It was called Bright from the Start: The Simple Science-Backed Way to Nuture Your Child’s Developing Mind from Birth to Age 3 by Dr. Jill Stamm. I highly recommend this book for new parents because it is filled with sound, actionable advice and a lot of it has stuck with me over the years. This was the first place I’d heard about this week’s tip.

Rotate children’s toys.

We’ve been doing this in our house since our kids were born.

Our Out-of-rotation Toys

Our Out-of-rotation Toys

The Problem with Too Many Toys

Have you ever planned a wedding and noticed that picking out a wedding dress is far more stressful than selecting the tuxedos for men? That’s because tuxedo rentals have narrowed the choices down to their essence. You can get in and out of those places in minutes flat because you only make a handful of decisions on a fairly narrow selection. Which cut would you like: A, B, or C? Two or three buttons? Cufflinks A or B? Shiny shoes or not?

It turns out that when it comes to choice, the human brain actually prefers fewer options. When choosing between chocolate and vanilla, the choice is easy — you know exactly which one you like best and you can make that choice instantaneously and move on with your life.  When given 32 flavors of ice cream, it takes a lot longer to decide and you always wonder if you’ve really chosen the best one.

Kids are the same way. When given too many choices in toys, they’ll either go for the same thing every time or play with a ton of toys for a short period without fully exploring each one. Creativity suffers. Too many toys actually hurt brain development.

Solution: Rotate Toys

That doesn’t mean that you have to get rid of all of your kid’s favorite belongings, just rotate toys! Leave a few of the classics out all the time (blocks, doctor’s kit, etc) and add a few others.  Put the rest in a bin and rotate the toys every couple of weeks. Do the same thing with books (or, get rid of your books and just rotate through the library’s).

In practice, you’ll notice an interesting phenomenon: kids play with their toys longer and with more interest. It really works. Put a toy your child has gotten sick of away for a couple months, then bring it back out. Usually, my daughters immediately think it’s the greatest toy in the world again.  It’s as if they were just given something brand new.

You can also use the rotation as a holding tank for de-owning. If your child hasn’t missed it and/or they don’t seem to care when it comes back out, you can de-own it without worrying about a crying, screaming mess. It’s also a great way to keep your main living spaces cleaner.

How to Start

To start, pick a time when your kids aren’t around and pick a subset of toys to leave out. Make sure you leave their favorites where they can find them. Put the rest in a bin out of sight. If they notice, you can explain what you’re doing, but you might be surprised because many kids don’t even notice.

Try it! It’s such a great way to both simplify your life and raise better kids.

Clutterfree with Kids: A Book Review

“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts from it.” – Joshua Becker (Clutterfree with Kids: Change Your Thinking. Discover New Habits. Free Your Life.)

Joshua Becker is one of my favorite online minimalist writers. His blog, has a nice mix of inspirational posts and practical advice. However, the thing that really got me interested in his writing is that he has kids that weren’t much older than mine when his family started their minimalist journey a few years ago.

Our oldest daughter, who is four, says that she loves each and every one of her roughly 50 stuffed animals and can’t part with a single one. She may be one of our biggest obstacles to de-owning all spaces simply because she’s still learning the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ and, unlike her younger sister, she notices when her toys move around. I don’t want to sneak around removing our kids’ stuff without their buy-in, so I was excited to read Joshua Becker’s book Clutterfree with Kids:  Change Your Thinking. Discover New Habits. Free Your Life.

 Clutterfree with Kids Review

Part I: The Case for Minimalism

If you read the Amazon reviews, you’ll notice that a lot of them say something like, “Not what I was expecting, but just what I needed.” I believe this is because most advice on clutter is simply about how to organize your clutter. Becker spends roughly the first half of the book making the case for why you should remove your clutter by “de-owning” it.

“There is more joy to be found in owning less than can ever be found in organizing more.” – Joshua Becker (Clutterfree with Kids)

Only when you’ve whittled your possessions down to what you really need and love will decluttering and maintaining a decluttered life become sustainable. He gives good advice like “start with the easiest possible place in your home” and put the items you can’t quite part with in a box with a date. If you’re already convinced that de-owning is for you or you’ve already realized that having fewer toys is actually good for your children, you can probably skip Part I.

Part II: Practical Advice Galore

Part II is where the book really takes off as it goes through all kinds of situations you’ll experience when trying to de-own with kids. There is a chapter on toys, clothes, art, sentimental items, collections, screens, photos, gifts, packing, schedules, and preparing for babies. This part is filled with practical ideas and is easy to skim when you have specific problems for which you need advice. We’ve adopted Becker’s advice to develop a confined space for toys and get rid of toys that exceed this space. I also got some great ideas for purging and curating my daughters’ artwork and I actually take and save fewer photos now (yes, that’s right, digital clutter can be just as stressful). This section alone makes the $5 price for the book completely worth it.

Part III: Free Your Life

The final part zooms out and covers a couple more general topics such as how to remain clutterfree, being clutterfree with a reluctant partner, and how to stop comparing your life to others and start living it! These sections are inspirational, but not as practical as Part II. You will still glean some excellent ideas from this section. For example, I wish someone had told me long ago to live off of one salary and save the second.

Overall, I’d give this book four out of five stars, simply because for an existing minimalist, Part I is not as beneficial as Parts II & III. It’s well-worth your money and your time, especially if, like me, you need to convince your family that minimalism is also for them.

Kids’ Art (Weekend Project)

I officially have a problem. I can’t bring myself to get rid of my kids’ art. When my oldest daughter first learned to hold a crayon, I saved page after page of her art, mostly consisting of a few lines, possibly in two different colors jutting haphazardly across a page. I put everything in a folder and kept it. A year later, I looked back and realized how ridiculous this was. By then, she was drawing small figures and the hundreds (literally) of pages of her early drawings just didn’t seem that special anymore. I wonder if I would feel differently if I’d saved one special drawing instead.

Post-photos art pile

My Mound of Kid Art

My daughter finished her first year of preschool last year and, again, I saved every art project that was sent home. Maybe it was because she’d had an incredibly talented teacher who did amazing, creative projects, but the real reason was probably that I was a bit sentimental and indecisive. I couldn’t bring myself to make any choices on which masterpieces I should keep or pitch.

How to Declutter Kids’ Art

In came some amazing advice from an audio book I read quite a while ago called It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh. He points out sentimental objects are hard to throw away because of the memories they evoke. It’s the memory you want to keep, not the object, so take a picture.

Years later I read about a mom who used ArtKive to take pictures of all of her kids’ art projects and created a photo book. Then she threw away the projects. It’s brilliant, saves space, and keeps the memories.

Have a Goal

So, this weekend I took pictures of everything and set aside a small pile of art to keep. My goal was to save just five pieces of art. It was surprisingly easy to recognize my favorites. They were cute and represented an important stage in my daughter’s development or, in the case of the bear drawing, the good laugh we had when we realized we might be sharing a little too much information about how nature works (she’s the daughter of a Park Ranger, so there’s a little pride behind that).


I set out to create a book, but realized that was unnecessary. I’ll save the photos on a thumb drive instead. Knowing they’re preserved allowed me to pitch, without regret, the physical copies and create a new empty spot on my craft table.

When & How to Purge

Waiting until the end of the year gave me a chance to review everything at once. If you have space out of sight to keep a growing pile of art, I’d recommend this method again. However, a better way to approach the problem throughout the year is to keep your five favorite pieces at all times. Each time a new piece shows up, compare it to your favorite five and if it’s not better, throw it out (perhaps after temporarily displaying it for a specific period of time). If it surpasses the existing five, replace one of them with the new piece.

Other Ideas

There are a lot of other ideas for using and getting rid of your kids’ art. Check out this article by Sherri Reed or read about it in Joshua Becker’s book Clutterfree with Kids.

Newer posts

© 2017 Minimalist in DC

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑