Usually when we think of decluttering, we immediately imagine grabbing the garbage bags and planning for a few trips to Goodwill. But first, take a step back, and let’s consider your home’s environment, specifically the spaces in which your children play. Do your children enjoy spending time in certain rooms besides their bedroom? Where are the toys, books, games, and art supplies stored? Do those areas align with where those things are actually used?
Younger children tend to want to play near others in the family, while older children crave a space of their own. How can you creatively address the needs of all of your children, regardless of the size of your home? Sometimes it takes a little ingenuity to reimagine the rooms in your home to better suit the whole family. If you live in something much, much smaller, can you dedicate a shelf or small space for each child to have as their own?
So let’s talk about what children actually need to grow and imaginatively play. But first one caveat--you know your child better than anyone else, so trust your own intuition. The reason we aren’t advising you to minimize your kiddos’ things in “5 Easy Steps” is because, well, it’s a process that takes time and intuition and isn’t always easy. But it will be worth it!
Have you ever watched your child become absolutely engrossed in an activity and become completely unaware of the world around her? The goal with minimizing is to create those opportunities for focus and immersion in imaginative and creative play as much as possible.
It can be overwhelming to a child to have too many options, toys with broken or missing parts, or overflowing toy boxes. We want to provide them with the basics of creative and imaginative play, while respecting the natural limitations of the spaces we live in.
Observe your child this week and make a list of what your child is drawn to. In general, the best toys and activities for a child are open-ended, meaning the child decides how to play with it rather than the toy only having one purpose. Art supplies, books, building toys, simple dolls, play kitchens, and anything outdoors--will have a lasting impact, even as your child ages. You know what your child loves best, so plan to keep the items that bring your child the greatest joy and spark long-lasting engagement.
And one more thing: toys do NOT need to be expensive, fancy, or hip to be special to your child. Anyone who has watched a toddler play for weeks with a cardboard box intuitively knows this. The goal here is to cultivate the toys and books in your home to better align with your family’s philosophy, rather than running out and buying everything new. Sometimes simple really is better and less really can be more.
So now is the time to actually gather those garbage bags and plan to declutter. You’ll need to decide at what level to involve your children and much of this depends on their age. It’s always best if you start simplifying when they are toddlers or babies, but often older kids are surprisingly receptive to cleaning up their spaces if approached with the right attitude.
Plan to start small and watch for how your child reacts to the change and act accordingly. Explain that you’re making room for the most loved toys and sending the other toys to another family to enjoy. But truly what you say doesn’t matter as much as how you deliver the message, and again, this depends so very much on each child. You’ve got this!