Simplifying: Environment, Part 1

I was really encouraged the feedback I got from you guys on my last post, about wanting (and needing) to simplify. It's so good to know I'm not alone! :) Our home (and life) is still a work-in-progress, but I thought I'd share a few of things we have done or are planning to do in each of the main areas that Simplicity Parenting recommends to work on.

I'm not going to summarize the chapters, you'll have to just read the book yourselves (!) but I will tell a little about my own experiences.

So first up is Environment. For me, the challenge was mostly along the lines of toys. For mamas of littles this issue is our nemesis. We love to see our children happy to get a new toy but then we remember, oh, shoot, now I have to fit that in my house with all our other toys.

And am I alone in my belief that stuffed animals multiply?

Anyways.  We have been working hard around here to control the clutter and organize the house so that we can use it more efficiently and enjoy it more.

But toys? Toys are hard for me. I want the simple home, but getting rid of toys is hard. I think Gigi really likes all her toys, even the cheapies and the hand-me-downs. Plus I feel bad about it because I know many of these toys were gifts from well-meaning loved ones.

We've tried to stick to (roughly) a 3-gift (+ stockings) Christmas plan and have made our wishes for simplicity known to the relatives. I know this is hard for some of them. They love to shower our kids with gifts. I get that. But I don't think they realize that sometimes, all their gift-giving is actually a detriment to the kids.

It's flat-out overwhelming.

This past Christmas was a bit of a wake-up call for David and I. We'd both been feeling the internal pressure to simplify and purge. I had just started reading SP. I think as much as I longed for a simple Christmas though, I secretly loved all the presents still.

This year, even I was completely overwhelmed. In fact, we didn't even give Brody all of his presents from us on Christmas day because he wouldn't have even noticed them because of all the other fun stuff he got. I am so thankful for family that loves to give but on that day, I almost couldn't handle it. The kids were overwhelmed, too. They were stoked and excited and happy, but definitely overwhelmed as well.  Add to that more gifts given outside of Christmas day from other well-meaning loved ones and whew, it's a lot.

Too many things makes it hard for kids to fully enjoy the things they do have, to really engage and get into that feeling of lost-in-play that's so good for them. That's something that SP reminded me about.

When Christmas was over, I couldn't start throwing out toys fast enough and was already making plans for seriously simple next Christmas.

In Action

Now, of course, I didn't actually throw toys away (unless they were broken) but I did put a significant number of them into the garage to sell or store for later use. So the big kids spent the night at Yaya & Papa's so we could happily sell toys without their fighting it, and we made a good chunk of change that we are saving toward an iPad, something the whole family will (eventually) enjoy to a certain extent.

It's amazing how much better (and less plasticky) our playroom feels as what is left are things that are truly loved and provoke creativity and imagination. I'm vowing to really avoid toys with batteries as much as possible-- things that "do things" for the kids, rather than them being able to creatively play with them.  I'm also sticking to things being as natural and real as possible. That means lots of fabric and wood (over plastic), and realistic playthings or even small-sized real things rather than cheap replicas (a perfect example of this is our stainless play pots and pans for the play kitchen (yay Ikea!) instead of cheap plastic ones.

My mantra for toys has become what I think I would have liked to be all along (I just didn't realize it): Quality Over Quantity. I would so much rather my kids get one, more-expensive present, than twenty cheap things that will probably break or get forgotten anyways.

I think we could still pare down quite a bit, but we've definitely made some headway, that's for sure. Next job to tackle? Art & craft supplies-- both mine and the kids'-- need to be simplified and better stored/organized

Last-minute tips for honest hospitality

Quilt Showcase