I am not a minimalist by any means, and I’m certainly not a clean freak. I do however, hate clutter. The more stuff I have, the more stressed I feel. For me possessions are something if a burden. This hatred of clutter wasn’t really a problem until I became a parent. Whenever I felt overwhelmed by stuff I just had a good clear out. When I was pregnant, I bought only what I was sure I would need. Once the baby came, things changed. I was shopping for England in a desperate attempt to make the early years easier. Now that my kids are 6 and 9, the amount stuff in my house has reached epic proportions. Despite the fact I regularly clear out and sell their crap, I reckon they still have around 20 times the stuff I owned when I was a child.
What have they got then?
Here is a summary of the types of stuff they own:
- Soft toys – Admittedly, this is just Girl Child but she owns at least enough soft toys for ten children. Whenever she is allowed to choose something in a shop, another stuffed animal comes home to join the party.
- Kits – These seem to be a favourite amount gift givers. We have kits to make slime, kits to make cars, kits to grow crystals, we even have a kid’s 3D printer. All of these items, which you would expect a kid to love, are still inside their shrink wrapped boxes in a teetering stack in Boy Child’s room.
- Craft stuff – I don’t like craft. Boy Child doesn’t like Craft. Girl Child doesn’t like craft. Yet I somehow have an entire, overflowing cupboard of craft stuff.
- Books – OK, these might be my fault, let’s move on.
- Games – We have 46 different board games in our house. We play 4 of them.
- Weapons – I have an entire arsenal of weapons. We have machine guns, nerf guns, cap guns, rifles, swords, cutlasses, daggers and an equal number of shields to protect from all of these. It kind of makes me wish I went down the “no violent toys” route.
- Stuff they’ve made – While my children aren’t crafters, they are junk modellers. This means that my spare room is filled with cardboard box creations that they for some reason assume I’m going to treasure forever.
- Plastic tat – A history of McDonalds toys, the last ten years of party bag trends, a showcase of recent collectibles. There are enough of these items secreted around my house to start a museum of plastic tat. I literally poor the whole basket where we keep them in to the bin on a regular basis and it’s full again the next week.
Where does it all come from?
I often question why my children have so much stuff, where has it all come from? I’ve narrowed it down to a few sources:
- Parties – Weather they are guests who gets given a party bag or the birthday child that receives 30 gifts, parties are a key source of the crap in my house.
- My Mother – My Mother looks after each of my children once a week. Each week they come home with more crap. Usually multiple items. It’s a mix of stuff she buys them in the charity shop and stuff from my childhood that I stupidly left behind in her loft, not realising that she would eventually have her revenge.
- My Mother-in-Law – We only see the in laws every few months now but they never fail to have gathered several carrier bags full of “goodies” for the children in the meantime.
- My Work – Running nearly new sales was a great advantage when the children were younger. I would get first dibs on loads of great bargains that I actually needed before the sale opened. Now that they are older, the kids come to the sales to “help”. Unfortunately they consider their payment for helping to be cash to spend on yet more toys.
Watching them play with it must be fun though?
So, with all of these toys in the house, my children are of course, never bored are they? Yes. Yes they are bored, and frequently. The truth is, most of these items are of interest for maybe 24 hours after they arrive in the house. Then they are shoved in an already overflowing drawer and forgotten about.
The only things my kids actually play with on a regular basis are, Lego, their drawing stuff, their play kitchen, the trampoline and the pair of crutches Boy Child got from the hospital when they thought his leg was broken.
Why don’t you just get rid of it?
As every parent knows, once a child owns an item, they consider it theirs for life. Getting toys out of my house is like robbing the Bank of England in reverse. Girl Child in particular won’t even let me get rid of clothes that no longer fit, let alone her precious stuffed friends.
Over the years I have developed a system for removing crap from my house in stealth mode. Toys from the playroom migrate to the cupboard upstairs. When they’ve been there, untouched, for a few months, they make their way to the loft. After a few months there, unrequested by either child, they are snuck out, either to the charity shop or a nearly new sale.
This strategy works fine for Boy Child who is oblivious to anything that isn’t right in front of him. Girl Child however has been known to remember an item long after it has left the building. I then deny all knowledge of said item until she eventually gives up claiming that it existed. The image below is stuff I took to the charity shop three weeks ago. Neither child has noticed that anything is missing. If I can take away that much stuff without them noticing, they clearly have way more than they need.
If you’d like to avoid ending up with a house full of toys, check out my posts on the best toys for each age group.
What’s the solution?
Recently I have found a new weapon in my fight against the crap. Both kids have been learning about the environmental impact of plastic. They are horrified by what we are doing to the world. They lecture me every time they see me buy anything in plastic packaging. I soon realised that this works both ways. When they asked for £1 to get a toy from one of the godawful machines the other day I say “no, because we’re trying to reduce our plastic use aren’t we?” They eagerly agreed and went off to play. The next step is getting them to refuse the toy next time we’re at McDonalds, then, having a plastic free party bag. Maybe I could even suggest that instead of presents they ask for donations to an environmental charity? Ok, that might be going a bit far but this plan definitely has legs!
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Sarah - Arthurwears says
I’m so woth you on this – I dread birthdays and Xmas as I know that there will be even more stuff to find room for! I don’t like cheap, plastic stuff – I have an obsession with buying natural resources and ‘real things’ for the kids to play with from charity shops such as silver teapots, wooden pots etc…I do find clutter stressful but our house just isn’t big enough for everything and I’m wildly sentimental so find it hard to let go of anything of sentimental value
Denise Lindsay says
My son isn’t quite 18 months yet I already see this happening. That’s why I got outdoor toys for his birthday to stop cluttering up our house. It seems to be never ending as they get older, I will need to buy a bigger house if it continues. I’m already eyeing up what can go before Christmas. Thanks for the post and the laugh.
Great article. I like going do the environmental route, it’s a win, win for everyone.
I could have written that first paragraph myself, that is me, my husband doesn’t understand it. He is not bothered by the amount of stuff we have, and I am trying so hard to limit it.
Nicky Phillips says
Lovely to see the different responses from your boy and girl children to toys stealthily removed. It’s the same in my house but with added “oh, i’ve missed you” whatever it is when they discover the hidden stash! Cue eye roll at not hiding well enough. We did a box for charity where the children added things that were “too babyish” which helped clear some space. Lovely, honest article.
Marta - Imperfect Life Balance says
I’m with you Josie! I keep throwing or donating stuff and I seem to have the same amount of crap a few weeks later! And I have to get rid of them in secret as well. I once put baby toys in a bin in my basement to give to my niece, toys that they have long outgrown, only for them to be discovered a couple of weeks later… I had to drag them back upstairs…
I can totally relate and with 3 children the toys are never ending. As someone who is also trying to reduce our plastic and be more eco friendly we tend to have a lot of second hand items however I have started to put money into a money box instead of the small tat toys and when we get to a decent amount we buy a bigger item (usually I gear them towards wooden items) which they would really like or have been asking for repeatedly. These toys, the ones we save for aren’t played with more in a day but I do notice they are use consistently through the week or month. I’m thinking this is a better way to go. As for your games I’d put the four you play away and try some new ones before you decide to get rid of them.
Viv Simone says
I really enjoyed this post. I can’t believe how much you took to the charity shop! I’m already hoarding lots of crap and my daughter only just turned one! I actually considered hiring a storage unit the other day just to store it all!
Oh I can totally relate to this!
We are planning a declutter soon and would love to try and live a more minimalistic life. We don’t need so much things!
Best of luck clearing out some of your stuff 🙂
Anita Faulkner - Brazen Mummy Writes says
The environment excuse – I like it! Yes, soft toys. Take up loads of room and do absolutely zilch. What’s that all about?! Good luck with getting rid…xx
Jo | My Anxious Life says
Grandparents are dreadful tat delivers!! And when my Mom comes over, she has the nerve to ask why my house is such a hellhole. Whilst handing out more Hot Wheels and plastic dinosaurs….
Anne Murphy says
Great post. I was like you when my kids were younger. Now that they’re teens I don’t have to worry so much about toys.
(Visiting from the Blogging Mums Club FB Group)
I’m completely feeling the same way! We don’t have a dedicated area for a playroom, so right now it’s contained to shelves in our main area and a playmat with his race set etc. I’ve been wondering how I’m going to tackle this as he gets older. Right now he’s under 2, so if he doesn’t play with it that day he’s forgotten it exists.
Better enjoy it while I can!
We do the loft trick too because if the toys are spotted trying to escape the house, they suddenly become the greatest and most favourite toy ever!