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I’m so glad to have you here on my little blog, MamaBear Martin: Minimalism + Motherhood. Are your heads still spinning from all of the season’s holiday festivities like mine? I have been focused on decluttering my home for a few months now and realizing that Christmas was just on the horizon I made sure to shift my focus to toys. If you need help decluttering your home, read MamaBear’s Decluttering Guide & Workbook for Busy Mamas Who Need Change. Unfortunately, I ended up being pretty indecisive in that department and sent the majority of them on vacation (more on that method later) instead of donating or selling them.
So here I am knee deep in beeping, buzzing, plastic figurines once again. And I know in order to keep my sanity I’m going to have to weed through what my children truly enjoy and what they’re only enjoying temporarily because it’s something new.
My plan is this: in the 31 days of January I will remove one toy per day from our home. I figure between all of the Christmas parties we attended my children probably received about 31 new toys and eliminating that many unwanted toys will get my home back to the state it was before the holidays. I’ll explain the ways I plan on dealing with these items and then I’ll tell you more about how to play along with my Minimalist Mama Game for the month of January. Following are my three options of removal.
Donate or Sell
I hope to donate or sell most of our unwanted toys.
Going To Grandma’s House
Oftentimes when I find myself (and my children) stifled by excess play things, we will send the monsters back from whence they came- Grandma’s house. We are always very grateful for the love the Grandparents show to our children through fulfilling their wants. So very grateful. But sometimes I have to take a step back, take a long look at our toy collection and curate. I prefer most of our toys be those best suited for open ended pretend play. The next grouping is for the children’s favorites- even if the toy is not durable, has too many bells and whistles and is beyond annoying- it gets to stay if it falls into this category (very rarely are favorites that bad though). I also like to keep a handful of toys geared for learning such as puzzles, musical instruments, or games of some kind. The amount of toys I decide to keep in active play depends on how many toys I feel like cleaning up. There’s no certain number that’s right or wrong. I just accept the fact that with two tiny humans running around I will be the one cleaning up after them 90% of the time and I make my decisions based on that fact. Some seasons of life require fewer toys, for instance if we were selling our home we would want as few as possible to have to pick up before a showing, and other seasons of life allow for more toys.
Keeping our preferred categories in mind while I sort and curate our things always helps me to keep a nice selection while letting go of the ones that don’t quite fit what we want. It works out nicely for everyone this way. Grandma gets fresh play toys for her house to occupy the kiddos when they’re visiting and MamaBear gets to keep a little bit of her sanity… for now anyway.
The Vacation Box
This is by far one of my favorite parenting hacks. I’ve been using this method since my oldest was just a tiny thing. Back then it wasn’t because we had too many toys, but rather because I wanted to keep the ones we did have interesting and engaging to her through rotating them in and out of play. Nowadays the vacation box has gone from a small cardboard box in the back of LB’s closet to one of these (I love how deep this one is) which lives in our backyard storage shed.
My method is basically this, curate our items as usual (read above). Items are grouped either as sell/donate, return to Grandma’s house or vacation box. After boxing and bagging the items we won’t be keeping, I’m always left with a large collection of toys that we aren’t ready to say goodbye to yet. In comes the vacation box. This is a beautiful secret of mine. It is a magical box that eliminates tantrums and tears (from the kids or me…) and I get to further reduce the amount of toys in active play. My kids willingly relinquish their items to the vacation box because they know the toys will be back soon and I feel they also innately know that by doing this they will have more focused play enjoying the items they have left.
I never force them to put an item in the box if it is something I can see is hard for them to let go of, even temporarily. Some special toys in our house never go on a vacation. I will use encouraging words with my children at times to persuade them to put items in the box, but sometimes I just have to step back and realize that time is my friend. On the flip side, if I have a toy in mind that I know has been ignored or overlooked for a long time I will put that toy in the box myself and my children have never batted an eye over me doing so.
If your children are reluctant to put toys in the vacation box at first, just take what you can get. If the vacation box only has three toys in it, accept that as good and show your child that you are true to your word by following through. After the set amount of vacation time has passed (one week is a good starting point), bring the box back inside and repeat the process. Staying consistent and true to your word will build trust regarding the vacation box and if your child has been hesitant at first, s/he will grow more open to the idea over time as long as the experience is always a positive one. When my children see their vacation box come inside, it’s like Christmas to them!
WHERE DO I STORE THE TOY ROTATION BOX?
When choosing a location for your vacation box, I suggest storing the box in a place of quick access like your closet when just beginning. Make sure it is in a place where your child cannot access it. S/he needs to have time to miss the toys that have been chosen to go on vacation before they come back into play.
When choosing an amount of time for your child’s toys to “go on vacation,” start small. As I mentioned, you must establish your child’s trust around this process if it is going to be successful and stress-free for everyone. I recommend beginning with one week. One week is long enough for the toys to be missed, but a short enough amount of time to keep the process fresh in the child’s mind. Over time you may be able to stretch the amount of time to longer and longer vacations for the toys. This will depend on your child. My children are comfortable with their vacation box. At this point, I leave items on vacation until I can see that the toys we currently have in play are getting stale. Sometimes that is as much as three months and sometimes it is as little as two weeks. This only works for us because I was consistent in the beginning and followed through with what I told my children was going to happen with their things.
In our house, if a toy stays on vacation for a predetermined amount of time without ever returning to active play then it has qualified to be fired. I never ask my kids before firing a toy that has been on vacation for too long. It obviously is no longer wanted if it has achieved the difficult qualifications of being fired and asking will almost always result in a hard and fast, “No!” …and further neglect of the toy. These toys either go into the family heirloom permanent storage box or are sold. My goal in “firing” a toy is not to sneak toys out with my kids unaware, but rather only to trim what’s no longer necessary. We have a constant influx of toys here, as I’m sure you do in your home as well. This is one way I make room for the new toys coming to live with us.
My goal here in reducing the amount of toys we own is not to try to have an empty house, but rather to reduce the amount of stuff we have, toys in this instance, that is stealing my time away from the more important things, like actually getting to sit down and play with my babies. In 2017, I want to be present. I want to soak up every precious moment and in order to do that I need to eliminate the things that are no longer useful in our lives.
Back to the original point of this post. In the first month of the new year, 2017, I will be eliminating one toy a day from our home in order to regain some normalcy and reduce our stress. Are you in? If you want to play along, we can keep each other accountable by posting a picture of our eliminated toy in my Facebook group with the hashtag #MinimalistMamaGame each day for the 31 days of the month.
If Facebook’s not your social media of choice, feel free to use the hashtag on other social media platforms. You can find me on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Be sure to tag me! I absolutely love following along with my readers as they work toward a simpler, more intentional life. You can find my social media in the sidebar, but I will also include it below. Be sure to sign up for my email list while you’re over there so you’ll never miss out on what I share here. 😉
Want to learn more about being a Minimalist Mama? Check out my book list for beginning Minimalists. 🙂
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Let’s do this, Mamas! Cheers to a great new year!!
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