Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Why We Got Rid of [Almost All] Our Kids' Toys [and why we don't regret it]

One of the questions I hear from moms most often is, "Where do I put all this STUFF?"

Sometimes they're referring to kids' clothing, or the supplies needed when you have a baby or multiple little ones, but many times... they're referring to TOYS. Books. Puzzles. Dolls. Stuffed animals. Dress-up clothes. Trucks. Cars. Blocks.

Ok, I won't keep going. Add on to that any amount of art supplies that little kids have, and it's easy to see how moms could be so overwhelmed and frustrated!

It's easy to see that, because... I was totally there.

Now, we never had a LOT of toys, but we had enough so that messes were made easily, and I needed multiple storage containers to organize what the kids had.

When we last moved, we downsized how many toys our kids owned, and I even packed half the toys away in a storage closet to help with the scattered-messes-everywhere situation.

And yet still... This is what we were dealing with on a daily basis:

1. The kids would pull out the toy containers and dump them.

2. The toys would get kicked all over the room.

3. The kids wouldn't spend much time actually PLAYING with the TOYS.

4. If one child was playing with a toy, instead of the other children playing with ALL the OTHER toys on the floor, they would end up only fighting (and wanting to play with) that one toy (whichever one it was).

5. It would be time to clean UP the toys, and it would take a very, very long time. Every time.

It was a constant struggle to keep the toys cleaned up. What made it worse is that the kids hadn't especially enjoyed playing with them to begin with! And the fighting. Ohhh, there was a lot of fighting.

Neither Matt nor I was happy about the situation at all. Matt kept suggesting that we get rid of all the toys--or that each child could only have one. I hesitated, thinking, What would our kids play with then?

And then one morning, it happened. We'd asked the kids (like we did all the time, multiple times every day) to clean up their toys, and they hadn't, and the toys were just sitting there, un-played with, but very messy and scattered and frustrating.

I got a trash bag, and we just started filling it. All the toys that were worth selling, we set aside to sell.

You know what was the most shocking part of that moment? How happy the kids were with getting rid of their stuff. Instead of being upset, they were like, "Okay! This is cool! I'll help throw away my toys!!"

We chose to keep two sets of toys--one set of plastic blocks, and my son kept his wooden toolbox (with a few tools inside).

The next few weeks, we could not believe the change in our childrens' behavior.

There was less fighting, because there was less to fight over. There was WAY more drawing, which had hardly ever happened before. I suddenly found the kids sitting at the table with crayons and colored pencils and paper and happily drawing--for very long periods of time!

Which brings me to... they were more content to sit and play the same thing, over and over, than they'd ever been, surrounded by countless plastic and stuffed toys. Their attention spans were longer!

And lastly, they actually became very creative. That set of plastic blocks (which cost me all of $3) has turned into a castle, weaponry, phones, bridges, writing utensils, cups, roads, even a pinata.

As I'm sure you're wondering how long it takes them to clean up all their "toys" now, it's something like 2 minutes and 50 seconds, even if they're not hurrying. Except for the wooden toolbox, which is a little bigger, all their toys can fit in ONE square basket from Target.

If they want to play in their room, they take their basket to their room. It's also been seen in the living room and downstairs. But whenever they're done playing, everything goes back in the basket. And... done.

It's such a relief--all of it--that I can't ever imagine going back. But I know that as our kids grow older, they'll enjoy more games, or puzzles, and I'm sure we'll accumulate a bit more, but for now, this is perfect for us.

Now a couple additional thoughts...

Getting rid of toys (no matter how many issues they may cause) does NOT eliminate bad behavior. Believe me, the bad behavior is still there as long as there are people present! While the fights definitely lessened between the children, they still fight over other things. It's honestly kind of amazing how one child holding something can increase its desirability by an exponential amount!

Secondly, I'm not recommending this sort of action for everyone. As I mentioned at the beginning, I hear moms all the time lamenting their messy family rooms, and asking for help. This is what we did, and I'm so very glad we did, but I'm sure there are other good ways to solve the problems these moms are facing.


  1. Interesting... Lots of bickering over toys at my place today. Maybe a no-toy experiment might be worthwhile.

  2. Your blog post reminded me of these verses... :D

    Proverbs 15:16-17
    Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure with trouble.
    Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.

    You have to figure out what works for your family. This is a great idea, though. I envision a lot of playing outside with my children since the "toy" options are endless. :)

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. I need to try this! My kids tear out all of their toys and don't even play with them!

  5. I love this; curious: do they each have dolls?

    I feel a toy purge coming on, just reading this!! ��

    1. Oh goodness, I'm so sorry: I JUST saw this. Nope, they don't have dolls. They play with Caroline all the time, though! :)

  6. So your house was messy... big deal! Part of having children is having toys and mess (and noise). "Bad" behaviour? If you call not picking up toys "bad behaviour" - I'd hate to think what you call things like sleepless nights, tantrums and a bit of character in children. I bet you had your kids easy and now you obviously take for granted what many many couple would pray for - to have mess in their house!

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  9. Try giving them to women's shelter instead of throwing them out or selling them...


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