Sunday, March 13, 2011

Minimalism and Simplicity - The Kid's Rooms

I'm skipping right along to Chapter 3: Environment of Simplicity Parenting because it jives with what's up here at the Mount household. Clean it out and simplify!

Our kids have too much stuff. And by 'our' I don't mean mine I mean 'our' in the collective sense. Most of the kids in America have a pluthera of toys they rarely if ever play with. They are scattered here and there, tucked in places, found on the kitchen floor and in the living room. It's rare to go to a friends house (I'm including my house here folks) that has kids without tripping on at least ONE toy.

Have you ever sat back and watched the kids go through the process of play with so many toys. They are like bulls in a china shop pulling everything out and running around like maniacs dropping toys in their wake. They are crazy eyed and lack focus. Then it's time to clean up and they whine and complain that there is TOO MUCH for them to do it all. (Okay parents this is clue numero uno.. if there are too many toys for your kid to clean up there are likely just too many toys in general.) And every time we are out they are begging and pestering us for more toys when the ones at home barely get played with. They really just get dumped on the floor and then put away.

Here's the deal (according to the book) imagine you collected all of these toys... from all areas of the house wherever they have landed. Now imagine that huge pile in your family room. This pile needs to be halved, then halved again and perhaps again. Discard what's no longer even working, donate others that are never played with, store some to be reintroduced later (I did not do this) and the rest are your keepers.

There is lengthy discussion about the types of toys that should be kept. Basically all the ones with batteries.. yea, they can go. (good luck w/ that.) That toy that promised that it would get your kid into Harvard.. guess what, it probably won't. Kids learn the best when they are sort of left to their own devices to use some creativity. Ever seen a kid pick up a stick and use it as any number of things? (We are currently on sword battles. Yeah!)

Here is the 10 point check list for toys that NEED TO GO!
1. Broken
2. Developmentally inappropriate (you know the ones you are holding onto from their younger years or the ones you got from someone, but your kid isn't really ready for just yet.)
3. Conceptually 'fixed' toys - leave nothing to the imagination - think 'character toys'.
4. Toys that 'do too much' and 'break too easily' - most of those battery operated monstrosities.
5. Very high stimulation toys - think flashing lights, mechanical voices, speed and sound effects.
6. Annoying or offensive toys - awful noises, project an offensive attitude or are generally ugly
7. Toys that claim to give your child a developmental edge
8. Toys you are pressured to buy
9. Toys that inspire corrosive play - not only guns and weapons, but anything that inspires play that isn't joyful and fun
10. Toy multiples

The book even moves into the realm of your child's book collection. I have had some direct experience with this one. At bed time your kid goes to pick his/her bedtime stories and has so many choices that it takes them an eternity to choose. The book suggests only 6 or so books per kid. Store the others to rotate in as you see fit. My kids didn't notice that I took most of their books away and now choosing stories at night doesn't become a battle. I put the rest in a bin up in my room in the attic where I can rotate them in and we go to the library to change it up a bit.

There is a long section about what to keep. Think basic multipurpose toys. Toys that aren't locked into one thing usage. You want your kids to be able to use their imaginations for part of the equation.

 Now that you have gone through and gotten rid of a large chunk of toys what do you do with what remains? You put the favorite toys where the kid can see them and you take the rest and put them in 1 to 2 bins that are covered so as not to distract them from play. They can still play with them obviously as they want, but they aren't bombarded by their presence and distracted by them.

All of these ideas apply to your child's wardrobe as well. We have also cleaned out their clothes (okay mostly it's my daughter that needed this.) and it's helped tremendously. Lily is quite particular about what she wears and she had a lot of clothes that did not fit the bill, but I liked them and was hopeful that she would wear them. Okay really? She won't wear them. They would just end up on the floor so she could get to the ones she wanted so my only interaction with these outfits was to pick them up off the floor to put them back where they go. So out the went. Now she has only her favorites to choose from and it is a manageable amount of clothing that she can take care of it herself (to include putting it in the drawers after I wash it for her).

Your goal with your child's space is to offer them an uncluttered space that is inviting and restful to the senses so they can go in there and productively be themselves. Imagining and creating and LEARNING!

Again I have no before pictures, but here are the after pictures of my kid's rooms. I'm loving it! They are now able to pick up after themselves with out complaining that there is too much stuff. And guess what, they haven't even NOTICED that most of their stuff is gone. Yes there has been the occasional 'where is xyz?" and I just say, "I don't know did you look in your bin?" and they usually trot off and then forget about it.

As an aside I had an epiphany the other day about this subject. Our bedroom is nearly empty aside from a bed, two end tables and two chairs. It's a big space - bigger than any bedroom we've ever had and we never purchased any more furniture. The kids LOVE to play up there and I never really got it because there is nothing up there. They would usually bring a few animals with them and just go to town up there... for hours. After reading this book I get it. It's like they've been trying to communicate all of this to me and I just wasn't hearing them.

The light blue/dark blue paint was already there. We added the circles because his sister had circles and he wanted some too.
 That's it. Those are all the toys! (I do have some games stashed for us to all play together.)
 I've since moved Lily's bed to open up the room and allow for more play area.
And the night stand holds all her clothes except her dresses.
 She loves to draw/color.
 The rest of her clothes and her toys.

This process is ongoing and I've really enjoyed the results. If you aren't ready to go whole hog and get rid of stuff I suggest that you get yourself some bins/boxes and just try it for one month. See if your kids notice and how they react and see how you feel as the parent now that you don't have to constantly trip on your kid's stuff and nag them to put it away!

This book is worth the read I'm serious! Pick up a copy at the library or a used copy from Amazon then pass it along to a friend or sell it on Amazon ... that's the simple way to do it! 


  1. I think this is a great idea! Too many people clutter up their kids' lives with toys and other items when all they really need is a place to play - using their imagination!

    Bravo for standing up and making these changes, I think it's 100% worth it!!

  2. Wow, that looks awsome! You are not kidding though, with the paring down. That is serious. Riley could really use that too. She has WAY too many clothes - some of it is stuff that she hasn't grown out of yet and I think, well, she can still wear the book idea too. It's hard for me to get rid of books though! You have inspired me yet again! :-)

  3. I'm insanely jealous. It looks like toys-r-us vomited all over my house. I wish I had the strength to do that, we are like borderline hoarders over here. Ok not that bad, but you know what I'm saying. You have inspired me...

  4. You guys should check out:

    for more inspiration and a game plan. You can totally do it. It all went in phases here. I would go through one time. Take a break. Go through again (maybe a few weeks later) ... and again, and again.. you get the picture.

  5. I LOVE THIS!!! Thanks do much for sharing. I am getting this book.

  6. Great post Laura! We too operate on the less is more principle. My in-laws would drive me (and my wife) crazy buying the children all this junk that whistled and was loud. My two sons want nothing more than to play basketball, baseball, swim, and run all spring and summer. That just requires various balls and legs.

    Congratulations on downsizing!