March 22, 2011 4 Comments
Phew! It took us an exhausting seven hours of non-stop work (with the exception of a few ten minute snack breaks and some take out for dinner) to purge the kids toys. At one point Haleigh even said something like this: “We’re kids. You can’t work us like this.” I believe my response was… “Oh yes I can.” And did I say it only took seven hours. I have to admit, I didn’t think it could be done in one day. For the next couple of days I was still finding the odd Lego, a plastic coin (from Linsey’s old money set) or a piece of this set or that, but I actually think we have it contained – for the first time since we’ve had kids. For 11 years we’ve been overrun, overtaken and overwhelmed by the kids’ toys.
I’m not taking any bets or making any guarantees on how long it will last, but I like to think that the new minimalist me isn’t ever going to let that happen again. My new rule is this: when something new comes in, something old must go. I’ll let them keep the new thing (or things) for a week or two to let them try it out, then decide if it’s worth it. London just had a birthday and got a few new toys. I’ll let her play with them until the newness is gone and then let her decide (or if she can’t, I’ll decide for her).
So how did we do it? Well to be honest, I wasn’t sure where to start. I thought it would be good to gather the toys in one room first. So for about forty-five minutes the girls filled laundry baskets again and again until they had moved all the toys from upstairs to the family room downstairs. Every. Single. Toy. I started helping about halfway through. Going up and down the stairs with purpose felt good. Here’s a tip. When doing housework, make as many quick trips back and forth as you can, instead of loading yourself up to make fewer trips. I do this when unloading groceries, straightening up around the house and when I’m doing yard work. Making more trips isn’t as efficient, but it’s a good way to get in a little more exercise if you aren’t pressed for time.
When the toys were finally amassed in the family room… I panicked! I dropped my face into my palms and said out loud, “WHAT was I thinking?!”
And this was just what was upstairs. I still hadn’t raked the toys out from under the couches, behind the couches, in the couch cushions, under tables and scattered about the downstairs. This was enough for now. We quickly began sorting the toys into piles: play kitchen, dress up, puzzles, Barbie’s, dolls, Zhu-Zhu Pets, puppets, Build-a-Bear (f-ing, useless, overpriced crap – even with the coupons), Littlest Pet Shop (again, useless), the socks we thought the drier ate… We were focused. And then I raked out all the toys (and more socks) from under the furniture and dumped the down stairs toy boxes and we started sorting again. While making a quick assessment and looking around at these piles I realized how much money had been wasted on toys that leave little to the imagination. Many of them were hardly ever played with. A few were broken or modified by the girls in an attempt to re-purpose them – to make them more interesting. This realization was the swift slap to the face that I needed to wake me from my toy hoarding stupor. We were doing the right thing.
A couple hours later, and after we’d gathered and sorted everything, I let the girls “shop” for their five favorites. Some things in sets were allowed to stay together as one – pretend kitchen stuff, dress up, Zhu Zhu Pets, puppets, etc. I chose for London, who was napping and too young for this challenge anyway. I gave them about thirty minutes to decide and offered some advice when asked, which they accepted, but ultimately gave them full discretion. It went much better than I expected and they chose well. The girls were really into this and were just as relieved as I was to get rid of the junk. Haleigh made a pretty good case for why her stuffed animals should be considered a set, but I was unwavering. Linsey’s only problem was that after choosing her top three, she really didn’t care about the rest. She wasn’t, however, going to let that stop her from getting her five things. She even offered, mercifully, to accept the puppets and puppet theater as her last choice, to appease her older sister. Haleigh was miffed about the puppets because they just missed her top five, and Linsey saved the day.
Change-ups were allowed during the final process of sorting, and I let them keep a few things that didn’t fall into their top five. Once Linsey realized that we had found all the pieces to her beloved pretend school set, she decided to trade one of her original five in for it. Good move. The rest was either “trash” or “sell”. We’re participating in the community yard sale on April 9th and I’ve agreed to let the girls keep any money they earn in the “toy department”. This incentive helped them part with what was left.
When it was all said and done we had 6 heaping boxes of toys to sell, and we half-filled our roll away trash can. We even filled a recycle bin with badly damaged books, used up notebooks and workbooks, some plastics and other paper and cardboard trash. There were also a few larger items – a Barbie house, a toddler ride on toy, a (broken) framed Hannah Montana poster and an easel (which we may keep to use for outside play). The girls took their laundry baskets with their five things upstairs and proudly cleaned and organized their rooms.
Just as I suspected, the kids are relieved and content. A weight has been lifted off of their shoulders (and mine). They haven’t missed a thing and probably never will. For now at least, they don’t have enough stuff to create a disastrous mess and won’t have to spend hours cleaning their room. Linsey’s room actually looks downright bare. I’ll suggest using her part of the yard sale money to redecorate her room and I’m pretty sure she’ll love the idea. Haleigh is so pleased with her organized, uncluttered room and all the extra space. She has vowed to spend a few minutes straightening it up every evening. So far, she’s done it. The girls have less stuff to keep up with and more freedom to use their imagination and to just be kids. And I’m happy to let them. And I’m happy that we solved the mystery of the missing socks.