Keeping the Playroom Manageable

When Justin and I first became parents, we decided to make a conscious effort to minimize the amount of stuff we accumulated. The baby/kid market is oversaturated with things and from the very beginning we’ve tried to be very intentional with what comes into our home. Yes to a breastfeeding pillow. No to a baby bathtub. Yes to a baby carrier. No to a wipe warmer. Amid all the decisions like those, it really wasn’t too challenging to avoid stocking up on toys at first – a few books, a couple rattles, a wubbanub (we had no idea how beloved that thing would become!) and we were good to go.

As LJ grew, we started to accumulate a few more toys. We rarely bought him anything, but he would get occasional gifts from grandparents and receive a few things around the holidays. I wrote this blog post about two years ago and showed all the toys we had during his first year of life and how I stored them and kept them manageable. (Look at baby LJ! Where does the time go?! Also, notice the musical lion walker – we’ll circle back to that in a bit).

LJ in playroom

We’ve slowly added to our toy collection over the past two years as LJ’s interests have grown and changed and we added another baby to our family. While we obviously have more now than we did then, it still feels very manageable. Today I thought I’d share some of the things I do to keep our playroom from becoming overwhelming. I definitely don’t have all the answers or think this is the only way to do things – these are just the things that work well for our family to keep our playroom a fun space where everything gets used!

Low-key holidays and birthdays. For each of our children’s first birthdays, we asked for no gifts (read about LJ’s here and Vi’s here). Honestly no judgement here if you love gifts for your one-year-old, but asking for donations to different organizations in lieu of gifts was a great alternative for us. Then for LJ’s second birthday, we got him one big gift (a train table) and had our families decorate their own train car as their gifts to him. This was a great option for making his day special without going overboard.

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Obviously, there will come a time when our kids have opinions and desires for their birthday gifts and we will honor that, but when they’re this little, it’s nice to keep birthdays very simple and intentional.

We’re not at all opposed to gifts or toys and Christmas is always a fun time for our relatives, particularly our parents, to gift things to our kids. I’ve previously blogged about how we usually ask for things like non-toy gifts and experiences or toys with a greater purpose (looking for toys that either support a small business, are made in the USA, are sustainable, use proceeds to support a cause we believe in, etc). These types of gifts do sometimes cost more, which means our children might get fewer gifts, but that is okay with us. We’d rather have fewer things that are meaningful than a bunch of stuff just for the sake of more. Do our kids still get toys and gifts outside these lists? Of course. I’m not going to stress myself or my relatives out with being too vigilant about this. It stops being fun when we try too hard – we just do the best we can.

Borrow (and return!) Toys. I am a big fan of swapping toys and baby gear with friends. There are so many things that your child only uses for a short window of time, so instead of cluttering up your house or filling up your storage spaces, see if anyone you know could make use of something. Remember that musical lion walker from earlier? That belongs to a friend of ours. Our kids are alternating ages, so when their oldest was done with it, we borrowed it for LJ. Then we gave it back when LJ was done so their second child could use it. Then when their second outgrew it, we borrowed it again for Vi. We used this same system for their rock n play, and we’ve borrowed a few other things over the years like a musical activity center and the beaded maze toy you see below.

We’ve also lent things like our baby swing, bassinet, and slumberpod out to friends and family as well. Toy and baby gear sharing is such an awesome way to save money, space, and sanity! You’re not only not spending a ton of money on ALL this stuff that will likely only get used for a short period of time; it’s also more sustainable and helps keep your homes less cluttered because you’re not storing a bunch of unused stuff in the interim between children. Win, win, win!

And on the topic of borrowing toys, I also “gifted” LJ three library books for Christmas last year. I chose three I knew he’s love, we read them a ton in our three week loan window, and then returned them. He had gotten enjoyment out of them and it didn’t result in permanent clutter. Score!

Purge Regularly. Even with borrowing toys and being intentional with gifts, we still accumulate more over time, so it’s important to regularly check in and assess what you have to make sure it’s manageable. At the end of the day, I like to be able to clean up ALL the toys and restore order to the playroom (and all the other rooms toys have migrated to) in under five minutes. Now, if every toy – every single block, train, ball, book, etc. – was taken out of its storage container and was strewn about multiple rooms around the house, it would definitely take me longer than five minutes to clean up. That’s okay though because that situation is rare; normally, not every toy gets played with every day. I want the average, everyday toy mess to be manageable and for me, that means able to be cleaned up in five minutes or less.

Anything that is broken or damaged gets fixed or removed. I also remove things that don’t get played with. Sometimes this is hard. Sometimes it’s a toy that you spent a decent amount of money on or it’s something that you think is adorable and wish your child wanted to play with or it’s a gift someone else gave. Ultimately though, if your child never plays with it, it’s just taking up space and there is likely another child out there who would love to actually play with it. If it’s been several months since it’s been chosen to play with, it’s time to find a new home. I just collect and donate these items to a local charity. I do keep a small amount of baby toys, but I really try not to keep too much because honestly, babies typically prefer to play with the toddler stuff anyways.

When I see something that fits in one of the above categories, I usually take it out then and there. But sometimes, I need to sit down and spend time just going through what we have and taking out things we don’t use. By doing this regularly, it keeps things super manageable and keeps it from getting too overwhelming.

Lately I had been feeling like our playroom was a little too much to handle. It was starting to take longer to clean up, and even when it was all cleaned up it still felt cluttered. So I spent about 15 minutes going through the room – we returned the toys we had borrowed from friends, I took down the pack n play from one corner (I used to corral Vi in there), and I took out the toys that the kids don’t play with. I also took out this plant because seriously…what was I thinking? Oy vey.

Our playroom now feels fresh and spacious again and we still have plenty of toys to play with. In this case, less really does feel like more! More space, more time not spent cleaning, more time spent playing because we’re not overwhelmed with too many choices. ❤

What tips and tricks do you have for keeping your playroom manageable?

Storing Kid’s Clothes

I consider myself to be a pretty organized, minimal-ish person, but there is one big area that has always presented a challenge: kid’s clothes!

The first year of life is especially full of clothes since there are so many sizes (newborn, 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12 months) and you need a new wardrobe for each size. It slows down a little after that but you’re still changing sizes and seasons and needing clothing in each stage. I don’t try to achieve capsule wardrobes or limit a closet to a certain number of items, but even for someone trying to keep wardrobes small – it’s a lot of clothing!

To give you an idea of how much clothing we use at each stage, here was Vi’s wardrobe for 3-6 months:

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And here is LJ’s 2T wardrobe:

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Obviously, LJ has a lot more clothing because 2T lasts a year, so he needs a variety of options for seasons, whereas Vi’s only covers a couple months. They each have a few items also hanging in their closets like coats, dresses and nice button downs, but for the most part, this is all they have! I only keep their current sizes out; every other size is in storage.

With a son and a daughter and an unknown future (possibly having more kids and obviously not knowing their genders), we are currently keeping a lot of unused children’s clothing in our house. I quickly learned that I needed to be intentional not only with what I kept, but also how I store their clothing or things could quickly spiral into unorganized chaos. Vi turns 6 months in less than one week and she’s all but busting out of her 3-6 month clothes. Over the weekend, I was sorting through her clothes to put into storage, and I was struck by how far I’ve come in this area – storing her clothing was super manageable and didn’t take long at all.

Today I thought I’d share some of the strategies I use for what I save and how I store it in case anyone else is feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of their child’s wardrobe and wanting some tips. This isn’t a perfect system by any means, but it has helped me keep their wardrobes manageable and kept me from feeling overwhelmed by holding on to clothing.

Before Storing, SORT!

The biggest tip I have is to keep LESS. I save the outfits I really love, and I pass on the ones that have served their purpose for me. Sometimes I take clothes back to the consignment store and recoup some of the money I spent the first time. Other times I’ll donate it to a friend with a younger baby. I’ve also donated clothes to a local rescue mission that helps women and children working to overcome homelessness.

I don’t hang onto everything for two reasons. One, it’s a lot of clothes! I focus on keeping the type of clothing we use the most. We received a lot of baby outfits as gifts, only to find I mostly keep my kids in sleepers when they’re that little (it’s just easier!) My kids both sleep in pajamas every night (and sometimes we stay in them all day) so we need several pairs of pjs. I also need lots of play clothes – I make sure to have options like soft shirts and joggers that make it easy to move in. But we don’t need a lot of dressy clothes like button downs and dresses, so I only keep a few in each size.

The second reason I don’t hang on to lots of clothes is, trends change! Once I use clothing, I like to pass it on so that it can continue to be used while it’s still trendy. I have received both boy and girl hand-me-down clothing from others, and honestly, some of it seems outdated even though it was only 3-4 years old. A big place I noticed this was in pants, particularly jeans. The trend for kid jeans has shifted in the last few years and baggy, flared baby jeans from 2012 kind of look silly on Vi right now.

I also only keep quality clothing. If something has a stain that won’t come out or is torn or otherwise damaged, I donate it to a textile recycling program (I love H&M’s because they make it very easy to donate!)

Store in a user-friendly, inexpensive way

Once I set aside the clothing I love, that we use a lot, and that is good quality, I make sure it is washed and put it in storage.

My storage system for clothing is super easy, inexpensive, and not at all fancy. I have big plastic tubs that I keep in my kids’ closets. I fold up the clothes, divide sizes with cardboard pieces from broken-down diaper boxes, and use index cards to label each section. Then I just stack the tubs in each closet so they’re out of the way and nicely organized for the future.

I wasn’t kidding about it not being fancy ha! Since we don’t find out the gender of our babies ahead of time, most of our newborn clothing is gender-neutral so we only have one box in that size; otherwise, all the not-in-use boy clothes are stored in LJ’s closet and the girl clothes are in Vi’s.

Whenever Vi bumps up a size, I do go through LJ’s clothes in that size too. LJ has a lot more than Vi, only because I end up using a lot of his clothes for her (like plain colored onesies and joggers). Also, I keep future sizes stored in the shelves so they’re easy to add to as people give us gifts or hand-me-downs and are ready when we need them. In Violet’s case, I also keep sizes over 12 months in the bottom stacked tub since it’ll be so long until we use those.

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I tried to be mindful of not keeping a lot with LJ, but I’m finding that I’m keeping even less with Vi. (The middle tub above is her 0-3 and 3-6 month stash and it’s about half of the amount LJ has in those sizes!) I’m buying less, using less, and keeping even less. I just realize that babies don’t need a whole lot of outfits and we tend to wear the same things over and over. I’m favoring the functional things over the cute-but-impractical and it’s amazing how much that lessens the burden of storing tons of clothing.

Bonus Tip: Don’t overspend on clothing to begin with

As a first time mama, I was so excited to buy cute baby clothes. My mom and I went shopping the week after LJ was born and in our excitement we bought so many cute boy outfits. I didn’t realize I’d mostly keep him in sleepers. I didn’t realize he’d be a little peanut and wouldn’t even get to wear some of the sweaters because by the time they fit him, it wouldn’t be sweater weather. I have lots of cute, barely used items that are harder to part with because I don’t feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of them. I learned my lesson and these days, I mostly shop consignment. It’s better for the environment to get more use out of clothing and it’s WAY more economical. Plus, once we’ve used a $2 shirt several times, it’s very easy for me to pass it along to someone else because I feel like I’ve more than gotten my money’s worth. Just some extra food for thought!

What tips do you have for storing clothes that aren’t currently being used?

Reducing Waste: Snack Time

One thing I am passionate about is reducing waste. Whether it’s finding plastic alternatives, avoiding single-use items, using products made of recycled materials, choosing bulk items with reduced packaging, or just consuming/buying/using LESS, I like to try to make choices that are a little better for our environment. I thought I would start sharing some ways that I do this here on the blog in case anyone else is looking for some ideas about how to reduce waste in their life too. Today I’m focusing on a specific area of reducing waste that’s big in my life right now and that is: toddler snack time.

Before getting into this, I need to share a disclaimer. Part of me hesitated to write a post about reducing waste because I know there are other things I could be doing in this area. While I would love to use the best, most environmentally-friendly option for everything, it’s just not always realistic. There are barriers like expense and time that are prohibitive and I’ve had to make some decisions with what to prioritize. In some cases, I know I’m not making the most environmentally-friendly choice. But have you heard the parable of the starfish? I think it applies here – just because a change is small, doesn’t mean it doesn’t make a difference. I’m just trying to do the best I can with what works for our family, and I know that is all anybody can do. If these small changes I’ve made inspire anyone else to make a swap and reduce their waste in even one small way, I’m happy!

Now I love snacks and so does my toddler, but there can be a ton of waste when it comes to food. Obviously, some of it is unavoidable and I’m certainly not perfect here, but there are a few little changes I’ve implemented that make a difference.

Reusable Snack Containers

20200206_151316When it comes to dry snacks, I buy the bulk package instead of individual serving size packages. Then at home I’ll just pour some into a reusable container like this or baggie like this and LJ has an appropriate portion to carry around and eat. This is a quick (literally takes a few seconds) super easy option both for home and travel, as both the container and baggie can easily be thrown in my diaper bag.

20200206_152939I also like to use these stainless steel containers when I have something like fruit to take along as a snack – it keeps the food fresh and protected from getting squashed.

Reusable Food Pouches

20200206_152116When it comes to applesauce, LJ is borderline obsessed. When it’s served over lunchtime, he’ll eat it from a bowl with a spoon but when it’s served as a snack, he loves the pouches. Honestly, food pouches are a parents dream – so convenient, so easy to use, and a mess-free way of delivering different nutrients. The problem is, with the plastic top and individual packaging (compounded by the fact that we go through so. many.) pouches feel really wasteful to me. I found these reusable pouches online and they are a great alternative! I can buy applesauce in bulk or use my mom’s canned version and pour it into the pouches; it’s great because I can choose the type of applesauce (I choose unsweetened, but you could get different flavors or use homemade purees) and the amount that goes into the pouch. Plus they’re dishwasher safe!

In the interest of full transparency: I do not solely use the reusable options. I do still buy the individually packaged ones (included in the picture above) because the reusable ones need to be refrigerated since I opened the bulk container. Refrigerated options are not always feasible for taking along outside the house. When it comes to reducing waste, I think the important thing to focus on is reducing. I’m not perfect, but I think any effort still makes a difference. Hypothetical situation: even if LJ eats 500 pouches in his life and 400 of them are single-use packages, that still means I saved a landfill from 100 extra pouches by using the reusable option and I focus on the positive of that 20% waste reduction.

Misc. Items for Restaurants

20200206_152525When it comes to eating outside the house, I have these items stored in my diaper bag: a food-grade silicone mat, reusable utensil, and silicone straw. We don’t eat out very often, but when we do it’s nice to have these options instead of using disposable plastic items from the restaurant.

20200206_152638When Vi is a little older and eating food as well, I’ll throw a silicone bib and reusable spoon + case (I love the ones pictured from the brand RePlay because they are made from recycled milk jugs, helping with the waste problem again!)

20200207_080329While we’re on the subject of meals, at home we use RePlay’s plates and utensils. These are also made out of recycled milk jugs, which means my purchase kept a few more milk jugs out of a landfill. I believe there is power in the purchasing dollar and I will gladly support companies trying to find ways to create quality products out of recycled materials and reduce our society’s overall waste.

Paper Towel Alternatives

20200206_152742I was gifted these Swedish dishcloths (similar ones here) from my mother-in-law and they are awesome paper towel alternatives! Perfect for cleaning up toddler spills or wiping LJ’s hands or mouth. He doesn’t like when his food gets really sticky on his hands, so I usually wet one of these dishcloths and put it next to his plate for him to wipe his hands as needed. These are easy to clean and reuse, which is great! When we do use napkins at home, I have actual cloth napkins that can be washed and reused or I buy these napkins made out of recycled paper.

Also, when it comes to reducing waste around food, I try to reduce the waste of the actual FOOD. Making sure not to buy more than we’ll go through, trying to use produce before it goes bad, keeping track of expiration dates – all these things are important too. Again, I’m not perfect but I do think the effort matters.

What ways have you found to reduce waste around snack and mealtimes? I’d love to hear other simple changes to implement!

 

Final Destination: Decluttering Edition

Something about the new year always makes me want to de-clutter. After all the Christmas decorations come down, I’m ready for clean spaces and fresh rooms!

Last year, I did the “Declutter like a Mother” challenge (see my posts here, here, here, and here) and did a huge overhaul of the house. The thing I’ve found is, you’re never really done decluttering. Clutter has a way of continuing to creep into our homes, but I’ve found that staying consistent and going through rooms periodically keeps things at a good, manageable level for me. This year, I’m just doing a sweep of each room and getting rid of items we don’t need, don’t use, or that are just taking up space unnecessarily.

If you’re like me, sometimes it can be hard to get rid of perfectly good items. My #1 tip for decluttering is: know the ‘final destinations’ for your items. In other words, where are you taking them once they leave your home? Sounds simple, but just deciding this helps tremendously! It’s so much easier for me to get rid of something if I know exactly where I’m going to take it. It’s like once I have a purpose for the item beyond the walls of my house, it becomes a much simpler task to accept that it doesn’t belong here anymore and I can move on.

It takes some initial research, but I think it’s really beneficial to find local places to take specific things. Rather than just throw everything in one big bag and drop it off at the Salvation Army or Goodwill (which, I’ll admit, I have done in the past too), these large stores are often overwhelmed with donations this time of year. According to many articles I’ve read, like this one from HuffPost and  this one from ABC News: “In most cases, a small amount of the items, the best quality castoffs — less than 10 percent of donations — are kept by the charitable institutions and sold in their thrift shops to other Americans looking for a bargain.” (source) I used to volunteer in a thrift store in high school and can personally attest that it’s overwhelming to just receive heaps of stuff, particularly when it’s obvious that the person donating just threw whatever they didn’t want in a box. Sometimes it’s quality items, but sometimes it’s just junk. So the first order of business is: recognize when something truly does need to be trashed (like something broken beyond repair). The second item is: figure out where your items will be best used or most needed and then take them there!

For things that still have value, I have five tried and true destinations to take things.  When I do a major de-cluttering sweep, I’ll designate boxes for each destination and add things to the boxes as I go through my rooms. Keeps things simple and organized and when I’m done, I just have to load them in my car and drop them off at the right place!

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My five favorite places to take things to are:

1 – ReStores

ReStore (a Habitat for Humanity store) is a great place to take donations to be used for home improvement. They will accept everything from used furniture to home decor items to the kitchen cabinets, countertops, sinks, baseboards, etc that are taken out of houses during a renovation. I just keep a box in my garage so every time we have a home improvement item we don’t want or need anymore, I put it in the box and when it gets full, I drop it off at the local ReStore. I would show you a picture of the box, but I just dropped off our donations (of curtain rods, door handles, and light fixtures from our guest suite renovation) last week.

2- Local thrift stores with a mission

We have one thrift store in my area that is part of a broader ministry of raising funds, creating training opportunities, and providing clothing and goods to help local people overcome homelessness. I take clothing, toys, books, etc. there, (and it’s also a thrift store that I’ll frequently shop and support!) My mom’s church also runs a program where gently used formal wear is collected for teens to come and purchase items for prom. Everything is sold by pay-what-you-can donations (and can be taken for free as well) and the proceeds go to local ministries. I love taking cocktail dresses, heels, and Justin’s suit coats or ties to donate there knowing my items will not only get new life, but it contributes to the greater good. Every area is going to offer different options, but I encourage you to find local organizations with missions you support to donate your quality items to!

3 + 4 – Consignment Stores

Every time I declutter, some items stand out as ones that I could sell and make a decent profit off of. When we lived in a subdivision, it was easy to corral items and sell them during our association garage sales. We don’t live in a subdivision anymore so a garage sale feels like a lot of work for very little profit, which leaves two options: sell the items online or take them to a consignment shop. I typically only sell something online if its value is over $50. It’s just not worth it to post pictures, write a description, field questions, designate a meeting spot with the buyer, and then travel to that spot to exchange the item, only to make $5. I’m trying to simplify here, not make a ton of extra work for a couple bucks.

Consignment stores are the best option for me right now and I have two that I take items to: one for my clothing/purses/shoes/home decor and then another one for kids’ items. I keep a box of my stuff and a box of kids stuff (making sure all the clothes are washed and in good wearable condition) and once I’m done de-cluttering, I drop them off and make a little money. What doesn’t get sold will get donated to my local thrift store.

5 – Recycling

I love donating to textile recycling programs rather than just throwing away old socks, a shirt with holes, or a frayed and worn towel. I use the H&M program because they will accept any textile in any condition and for every bag you donate, they’ll give you a coupon to use in their store. What can’t be re-worn or re-used in its original condition gets broken down into textile fibers, or is used to manufacture products such as damping and insulating materials for the auto industry.  I keep a bag in my laundry room to collect things and once it gets full, I take it in to my local H&M store.

Like I said earlier, it takes a little work on the front end to research local options and decide where to take everything, but once you do that one time, you don’t have to do it again. Now that I know where to take things, it’s super easy to just designate a box, fill it up, and drop it off!

Do you declutter this time of year too? Where do you like to take your items to?

Intentional Gifts: Toys with a Greater Purpose

A few years ago someone told me that they think of spending money like voting for the type of world we want to live in. You use the power of your $ to tell companies what you value and what type of products you want. (A good example of this is grocery shopping – if it’s important to you to have quality organic food, you need to purchase quality organic food. The more money companies make off of organic food, the more they’re inspired to keep working to provide lots of organic food options. Then other companies notice and start providing their own organic products, the food industry starts to shift, now there are more organic food options – often at better price points! – because consumers ‘voted’ with their money).

This has stuck with me ever since, and I now try to be very intentional with the type of purchases I make. Whenever possible, I try to consider the type of world I want to live in and ‘vote’ with the power of my dollar. Does it always happen? No. But one area that I do really try to consider how I’m ‘voting’ is with toys.

Toys with a Greater Purpose

Last week, in my post about gift ideas that aren’t conventional toys, I shared some ideas for practical gifts, experiences, and consumable products. It’s true that I love non-toy gifts, but it’s also true that I do love toys! I just don’t love having a TON of toys around. There is a big difference in my mind between having a few quality toys that get frequently played with and inspire my kids to be creative, use their imagination, and have fun than having a playroom so full of toys that half of them don’t even get played with. (As always, if that’s not your thing, no judgement here! This is what works for us).

My kids will always have toys on their Christmas wish lists. Since they are still too little to request specific toys, I’m the one coming up with items for their lists and I try to be intentional about what goes on the list. I love finding toys that are not only cute and fun but also have some sort of greater purpose: this could mean supporting a small business selling products made in the USA or fair trade products made in Peru. It also means trying to find toys that are made from safer materials or sustainable materials (even better if they’re made from recycled materials). In other words I’m not looking for just a toy, but I’m looking for my dollar to also do a little good in the world. Now, does every single toy we own fit this bill? No. Do my kids still receive toys that aren’t on their list? Of course they do. We’re not perfect and I’m not worried about making sure every single thing that comes into our house has a greater purpose. We just try our best to make the effort when we can and don’t lose sleep over it when we can’t.

Since the holidays are coming up, I wanted to share some of the brands/stores I’ve found over the years that sell toys that have a mission or purpose that I love. This isn’t sponsored at all and I’m not making any money off of this – I just enjoy sharing what I’ve found! Plus, you know how I like to keep things as simple as possible so having this compiled list of go-to stores makes my own holiday shopping simpler.

There are so many great options beyond the specific items I share so if you’ve got some little ones in your life that you’re needing gift ideas for, I hope you’ll consider checking one of these brands out!

Plan Toys – I love Plan Toys because they are eco-friendly and made from sustainable materials like reclaimed rubber woods. They also have a strong focus on providing toys that aid in child development. A green company that makes development a priority and has cute products? Sign me up! LJ’s still frequently plays with this bulldozer that he got last Christmas so we’re putting this firetruck, this mini roller, and this excavator on his list this year.

Eco Kids – I mentioned in my previous post that I love asking for consumable toys because they are fun, inspire imagination and creativity, and eventually get used up (less clutter over time). I love this company because it is a family-owned business that uses non-toxic, natural ingredients and environmentally friendly packaging AND all products are made in the USA. I love these crayons (made from all natural beeswax so I don’t worry if LJ puts them in his mouth. . . which he does) and I have this finger paint set on his Christmas list this year.

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Begin Again – This small US company is committed to making toys for plastic-free play by utilizing plants such as rubberwood, natural rubber, and water-based stains. Last year LJ got this dump truck (seen in the corner of the picture above!) made of a bio-plastic consisting of sugar cane and corn cob and he still plays with it almost every day. They also have cute puzzles and bath toys!

Caaocho – This company makes bath toys out of 100% natural rubber and they are colored with food-grade paint. Plus they are super cute! LJ got this turtle during his first Christmas and Vi has this butterflyfish on her list this year.

Cuddle + Kind – I love the mission behind this company! They sell heirloom-quality knit dolls that are SO beautiful. Their products are handmade and fair trade, meaning the artisans that make them are compensated fairly for their work. Not only that, but for each doll purchased, the company provides 10 meals to children in need around the world. It’s just an incredible mission and I feel so good purchasing their products. Now their dolls aren’t cheap, but my preference would be to get one super cute and high quality doll rather than 10 cheaper dolls that aren’t made as ethically or sustainably. Vi has this one already and this one is on her Christmas list. 

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Green Toys – These toys are made safe in the USA from 100% recycled materials. They have recycled over 83 million milk jugs to this day! I have this dough set on LJ’s list this year – bonus that the dough is made with organic flour in a food-safe facility!

Chalk Full of Design – These small business sells a variety of cute and educational chalkboards made in the USA. I love so many of them! LJ is a little too small this year, but next year I’m going to ask for this personalized name chalkboard!

New Creation – I love supporting small businesses and I especially love supporting small businesses with a great mission. This shoppe’s mission is “design for justice” and they partner with many organizations in the fight to end sex trafficking and provide next steps for survivors. They are faith based non-profit selling survivor made goods and fair trade accessories, and they also provide prevention education on and rescue from human trafficking. I always ask for jewelry for myself (they have a great selection, and this mini stud set is on my list this year!) but they also offer some adorable items for children.  LJ got this donut rattle and this woodland fox for his first Christmas and I love these bandana bibs for Vi.

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OMG – baby LJ making me feel all the feels!

Secondhand shops – Another great place to buy toys? A secondhand shop/Facebook marketplace/yard sale/etc! There are so many places that sell used toys that are still in great condition. These toys are often sold for a fraction of the retail price and still have a lot of life left in them! Now does this mean every toy there is in good condition and worth buying? No. I’m not interested in adding junk toys to our collection, but when there are quality options, I’m all for it! Last year LJ got a full bag of Mega Blocks and a Melissa and Doug Spin Gear Board for Christmas. Both items were bought at a local consignment shop for less than $10 total (retail price is about $32 for both).  They were both in great condition and he loves playing with them. And I feel good about the purchases because they were inexpensive and gave new life to toys that were no longer being played with by their original owners and might’ve ended up in a landfill way too soon. Buying secondhand means you might have to hunt a little more for treasures, but it can be very worth it!

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What are your favorite places to buy toys? If you have found a great shop that sells toys and has a great mission behind it, I’d love to hear about it!

Non-Toy Gift Ideas

The first snow is on the ground here in Indiana and something about looking outside and seeing a fresh coat of white puts me in a festive mood. I love this time of year – cozy nights snuggled under blankets, candles burning, gathering with friends and family for a meal. I love the holiday seasons!

With every holiday season comes the inevitable gift-giving. My children are lucky to have grandparents, great-grandparerents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who love them and want to give them gifts. Every year around this time, I start getting asked what is on their Christmas list and every year, I struggle to come up with enough things to go around. On the one hand, I love that others want to show love to my children in this way. On the other, I don’t want our family to just accumulate stuff for the sake of getting gifts. I want our gifts to be meaningful, special, and not just clutter-creating.

LJ’s Christmas list does have some toys on it. I get it, I totally like gifting fun items! Who just wants to gift things like socks all the time? But that doesn’t mean that ALL his presents need to be toys. Currently, his list has practical things, experience gifts and consumable products. And yes, we did include a few books and specific toys he’ll love.  That’s completely okay! I’m not trying to be a grinch here. Just trying to keep what comes into our house a little more well-rounded.

Today I thought I’d share some ideas of what I’ve put on LJ and Vi’s Christmas lists. I want to be clear that if you’re all about giving toys for Christmas and want to go that route with all their presents – go for it! I’m not judging anyone for requesting or gifting toys. I just prefer to have a wider variety of gifts and avoid adding lots of clutter to my house. I’m sharing what we’re asking for this year in case anyone else out there is looking for ideas for gifts to ask for that aren’t toys.

Practical Gifts

I know my kiddos are still really little and don’t care so much about getting “fun” gifts, so I loaded up their lists with things that they need for the coming year. This includes things like snow pants, snow boots, and socks. I also put practical things on LJ’s list that are a little more fun like this Paw Patrol potty (he needs one for potty training and he LOVES Paw Patrol so this will be fun for him haha) and a backpack. Since she will only be 4 months old and we already have plenty of age-appropriate toys for her, Vi’s list is almost exclusively practical with things like clothing, a swimsuit for summer, a mirror for the car, bathtub spout cover, diapers and wipes.

Meaningful experiences

LJ adores his grandparents and loves to spend time with them. And on the flip side, they love spending time with him! This makes experience gifts an easy thing to ask for. I love the idea of experience gifts because they keep on giving – they are exciting to get, fun to look forward to, enjoyable in the moment, and afterwards they become fond memories to cherish. I let our loved ones know if they want to give an experience gift, such as a zoo pass, they are welcome to join our family when we use it or they can even take our children on a special date without us and experience it together. Justin and I did this several years ago for our niece and nephew; we bought them passes to a local children’s museum and then took them ourselves. We don’t get to see them as often as we would like so it was a special day just us four and we made some great memories and had so much fun!

Here are some ideas of experience gifts I have requested for my kids (or may ask for one day):

Zoo Pass

Whether it’s a day pass or a full membership, this is an experience gift that appeals to children of many ages. LJ absolutely loves going to the zoo, and we are lucky to live close to a great children’s zoo where he can not only see many different animals, but he can feed giraffes, ride a train, and brush goats (or kiss like he’s doing in the picture – haha! So sweet and so gross). The zoo is always a hit!

Day at a Children’s Museum

We have a science museum nearby. My parents live near a living history museum and my in-laws live near a children’s discovery museum. We all live in vastly different sized towns and cities so just because you live in a small town doesn’t mean there isn’t an option for you within driving distance. Maybe there is something 5 minutes away and this experience gift takes an afternoon. Maybe you have to drive an hour and it becomes more of an all-day trip. Maybe the museum is geared towards something specific, like art or science, or maybe it is more of a play museum. Or maybe it’s not a museum at all – for my nephew’s 7th birthday instead of getting him a physical gift, we bought tickets for our families to go to a trampoline park (highly recommend!) Whether it’s a hands-on museum or an indoor waterpark, there are memories to be made. 🙂

Inexpensive local experiences

Experience gifts don’t have to be expensive. Just think about what your child loves doing and try to create a special experience around it. Maybe the gift is a movie night at grandma’s with a new DVD or Redbox/Netflix/Amazon Prime/etc. movie, popped popcorn, and your child’s favorite splurge candy. Maybe there’s a local farm you can visit and explore together. If you live near a town with minor league teams, you can often find inexpensive tickets to a game. If your child loves to help in the kitchen, perhaps a gift of baking (gifting ingredients for chocolate chip cookies and then spending the afternoon baking together) is something he or she would enjoy. My nephew loves Legos, and if we buy him a set, Justin helps him put it together and this has become a special ‘thing’ they now do. There are a lot of options out there for things to do that don’t cost a ton but will provide lots of fun!

Consumable Gifts

A consumable gift is something that can be used up. It’s no secret that I am pretty minimal-ish and don’t like clutter. A gift that can get used up is perfect for creating fun memories without a ton of long-lasting clutter! LJ is starting to really enjoy doing little art projects at home so we put things like stickers and crayons (I love these!) on his list this year and I know he will be so excited to receive them.

Examples of consumable gifts:

-bubbles

-stickers/sticker books

-crayons, markers, colored pencils

-coloring books/activity books

-sidewalk chalk

-fingerpaint

-bath bombs in fun colors

I also love consumable gifts because they often inspire creativity and play in ways that conventional toys don’t. Win win!

And in addition to all those ideas, we did put a few toys and books on LJ’s Christmas list, although I try to be intentional about the toys I do ask for (I’ll share more about that next week). I’m not about restricting toys, just about finding balance. 🙂

Do you have any other ideas for non-toy gift ideas? Or toys that are definitely worth asking for? I’d love to hear them!

 

 

#DeclutterLikeAMother Week Four

Good morning friends!

For the month of January, I’ve been participating in the #DeclutterLikeAMother challenge. The goal is to spend 30 minutes each day targeting an area of your home and the focus is on progress, not perfection. Previous weeks focused on bathrooms and closets, kitchen, and toys. This week’s focus was clothing.

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About four years ago, long before the Netflix documentary brought about her KonMari frenzy, I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and implemented a lot of her strategies. I literally emptied my entire closet and all my drawers and went through every single item, only keeping what brought me joy. After that experience, I really have shifted my focus to trying to keep only the items I really love or that serve a purpose and get worn. I also apply this to what I buy and only purchase items I really truly love. While I periodically go through my closet and purge, and I do the same with LJ’s things, my closet has remained very manageable since my first KonMari experience. I don’t have a lot of clothing, but I also don’t have a “capsule wardrobe.” I don’t subscribe to any rules about what to keep or what not to keep other than: I keep what I love and I wear what I keep. That being said, I still did get rid of some items this week!

Of the things I got rid of, I noticed two distinct categories: things I once loved and things for future use. I had a skirt and a cardigan that I absolutely loved once upon a time and would have once listed as my favorite, most-frequently-worn items. But they both have holes now and to be honest, they were both “teacher” items. My stay-at-home mama clothing needs are different than my teacher needs. I don’t wear the teacher-y items and looking at them now, I don’t love them anymore. I just did once. Into the recycling bag they went. I also got rid of a few other items that I once wore a ton but just don’t anymore.

The other category was things for future use. The bulk of these were maternity clothes. I had someone offer me maternity clothes for cheap after she was done having babies. This was so generous! The problem was, she and I aren’t the same size normally. And I wasn’t very far along in my pregnancy with LJ when she offered. So I bought clothes I thought I might use in the future. Unfortunately, even in the last weeks of my pregnancy, these clothes still didn’t fit well because they weren’t the right size. So there clothes didn’t fit and honestly weren’t much my style, yet I kept them because I thought they served a specific purpose for a specific window of time. Honestly though, I have enough clothes that I bought that I like and are the correct size, so there is no need to keep what didn’t really work.

I didn’t declutter much this week because clothing is something I do try to regularly stay on top of. I thought I would share a few of the strategies I use for maintaining the clothing we take in and the clothing we keep (“we” meaning LJ and I. Justin is in charge of his own clothing and I don’t worry about what he keeps or doesn’t keep). Most of these are pretty simple concepts, but they have all served me well!

Accept the size you are right now.

When I got married, I was my smallest size ever. I was working out a ton, eating super well, and had that wedding dress goal that motivates like none other. A few years into marriage, I had gained a little weight back. I still felt healthy and strong, but my body naturally is happier at a slightly bigger size than my wedding size. I held on to my smallest jeans for so long thinking “I paid good money for these and what if I drop a size and fit into them again?” so I kept them for far too long. The problem with this thinking is that I wasn’t accepting that my body was happy and healthy at it’s current size; I was holding on to the mentality that smaller was better. Plus, let’s think about this. I got married almost 6 years ago. Jeans that were in style in 2013 are not jeans that are in style in 2019. I didn’t own skinny jeans then. I don’t really wear flared jeans now. Even if I had kept those jeans to this day and fit into them again, I probably wouldn’t want to wear them. I’ve learned it’s better to accept your current size and keep what works for you now and let go of what doesn’t (unless you’re going through some huge transition like pregnancy or postpartum).

Keep a bag for worn-out or damaged textiles.

I keep a bag behind my closet door where I’ll toss in old clothing with holes, stains that don’t come out, or other damage. I’ll also toss in old items that are not worth donating (clean but used underwear, socks, etc) and whenever the bag gets full, I’ll take it in to H&M for their textile recycling program. I love this program – I clear out old clothing that I don’t want but isn’t in good shape to donate and the clothing stays out of a landfill. Plus, for every bag of textiles you donate, you get a coupon to use at H&M! Win-win!

Be discerning as things come in.

This is a particularly big one for LJ’s clothes. We had a huge influx of clothing when he was born! Some people bought new outfits as gifts, others were happy to donate outgrown clothing from their babies. I was truly so thankful for the generosity of everyone who gave us clothes! But the truth of the matter is, we had way more than we needed. We got so many 0-3 month outfits that we couldn’t get through them all before he was the next size up. We also got things that were in good condition, but just not at all my style or something I would have picked for LJ. And I got a lot of donated clothing that was way too big for him and would take years (literally) to grow into. So I had to learn to be discerning with what I kept from the beginning. I looked at what all we had, thought about what we needed, and kept only what I knew would work for us. Whatever we didn’t need, I turned around and donated to various places. There are so many organizations out there to help young single mothers or struggling families and I was so happy to donate items we didn’t need to these places.

Kids clothing: be discerning about what you keep for siblings.

LJ spit up a ton when he was little, and baby spit up can stain over time. Once he outgrew them, the stained items went in the H&M recycling bag. No matter how cute the item was originally, I did not save a stained item for a future baby. I also didn’t save items that I didn’t enjoy using. For example, I had a few really cute baby sleepers that I liked the look of, but they had snaps. Why oh why do companies do this?? I absolutely hated snap-up sleepers. When you have a sleepy, squirmy baby with a poopy diaper in the middle of the night, a snap sleeper is super annoying to work with. I prefer zip-up sleepers and that’s what I buy if I have the choice. So once LJ outgrew the snap ones, these went into the donate pile and I only kept the zip-up ones.

What tips do you have for purging clothing?

#DeclutterLikeAMother Week Three

Good morning! We’re back with another installment of the January #DeclutterLikeAMother challenge! If you missed them, be sure to catch up on week one (bathrooms and closets) and week two (kitchen).

Week three of the challenge centered on decluttering toys and to be honest, this is not an area I feel overwhelmed by. From the very beginning of parenthood, Justin and I decided that we don’t want our home to feel overrun by toys. Of course, we want our kids to have toys and to enjoy playing with them, but we don’t want to have such an excess that it becomes unmanageable. We’ve always been very intentional about the amount of toys in our home, so I spent very little time decluttering last week (honestly like 20 minutes). Today’s post is going to be more of an update on how I consistently manage the intake of toys, since that is the main reason this week wasn’t a big one for decluttering. I realize everyone makes their own choices when it comes to toys for their children; this is just what works for us.

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I have previously posted how we find balance with toys and you can read all about what toys LJ has and how we store them here. Since I first posted that in October, we have had both LJ’s first birthday and Christmas and I still feel that our toy situation is manageable. For LJ’s birthday, we asked for book donations to a local charity. This worked out so well – we got to support an organization we love and LJ didn’t get a bunch of toys (We had a little celebration, but he actually got no gifts at all, which was our goal. He had no idea what was going on or what he was “missing out” on, and we knew he would get plenty of gifts for Christmas in a few weeks). We won’t do this for all his future birthdays, but we’re really glad we did it for his first one!

When Christmas rolled around, LJ received several gifts, including new toys. Both of our families requested wish lists for presents, and LJ’s list was mostly filled with non-toy items (he got things like wipes, a stroller attachment, money towards a convertible car seat, clothing, socks, etc). Like I said before, he is too little to know that he’s getting the “boring” gifts and there is no shame in my mom game to limit the toys and ask for other things he really needs. That being said, I did include some toys and books I knew he will use throughout the next year. There were also a few toys my mother-in-law texted me about that she found while out and about and I was honest about what I thought he would love and use and what was pretty similar to something he already has. Communication is key! I appreciated that she asked me what I thought so I could give feedback on what I thought he’d like best. For the most part, we got things on our list. We also got a few extras and that was 100% okay!! The goal for us isn’t to be super controlling and only allow x number of toys or these exact things into our home. The goal is to just keep things manageable and a few extra toys does not push us over the edge. At the end of the day, we focus on being grateful for the generosity and loving spirit behind the gifts. It’s fun to see the things our families find that make them think of LJ and sometimes, an “extra” gift ends up being one of LJ’s favorites!

When we came home from Christmas, I immediately looked at the space we had for toys  and decluttered before putting anything away. While I do keep a few small amount of toys in his bedroom and my bedroom (see my toy post for more info), most of his toys are in the playroom. In our playroom, we have a green cabinet where we store toys and we have a rule that unless a toy doesn’t fit because it is too large (like his activity table), it must be stored in the cabinet. This allows for plenty of toys but keeps the overall amount to a manageable number. If the cabinet doors don’t close, we have too many toys!

We’ve always kept a loose definition of toy and LJ had things in his toy cabinet like a snack can and a plastic waterbottle with a straw. These are things I easily got rid of to make room for his new toys. I also took out some toys he never showed much interest in or that were really similar to other toys. Once I streamlined and made room for his new items, I put everything back in the cabinet.

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When it came time for this week of #DeclutterLikeAMother, our toys were mostly already streamlined from Christmas, but I did find a few more things to get rid of. Our book bin was pretty full and it was hard to fit everything in there, so I got rid of a few he never chooses to read and a few that won’t be age appropriate for several years (like one for learning how to tell time – that’s helpful, but I can find something like that in a few years when we’re ready to teach him this). We had several stuffed toys so I got rid of a couple he doesn’t use. And I set aside the two bigger items we had borrowed from a friend, a music table and push toy, so they are ready to be returned to their owners.

Even with all we got rid of, LJ still has plenty to keep him busy. Ha!

week three declutter

For me, the key is to just keep an eye on what is being used and what is fostering imagination. LJ doesn’t really have many toys that are passive entertainment; most of his toys require him to move them or do something with them. If I notice a toy isn’t working well anymore or he’s never wanting to play with it, I take it out to sell or donate. Just a little effort every now and then to make sure we’re using what we have helps keep things at a manageable level.

If you are a parent, what tips do you have for keeping your toy inventory manageable?

#DeclutterLikeAMother Week Two

Good morning friends!

I hope you all had a great weekend! LJ stayed with my parents from Friday-Sunday (it was the first time I’ve spent more than one night away from him!) so that Justin and I could attend several of his work functions. It was so great to have a chance to sleep in, recharge, and enjoy staying out late with friends but we were pretty darn excited to be reunited Sunday. 🙂

Declutter Like a Mother – Week Two

I explained in a previous post that I’m participating in the #DeclutterLikeAMother challenge (read more about it here) in January. You can read about my week one experience with decluttering bathrooms and closets here. Last week was all about: the kitchen!

week two

So I have to first admit that I strayed from 30 minutes a day goal. In fact, I really only spent maybe a total of an hour over the whole week going through cabinets in my kitchen. I decided not to stress about doing things perfectly, because the spirit of the challenge is progress over perfection, so I just focused on doing what I could. That being said, I feel like the work I did still made a huge impact!

Week Two declutter.jpg

Over the years, I have done a pretty good job of weeding out small kitchen items. I don’t keep a million spatulas, I get rid of items that don’t work well, and if I bring something new into the kitchen, it has to be something I know I’ll use frequently or for multiple things. For this reason, what I have is mostly what I use. I only got rid of a few items from my drawers (a cookie frosting decorator I got as a hand-me-down years ago and always “thought I’d use someday”, an old round cake pan that has seen better days, etc). The big change happened in two main cabinets.

Cabinet one was my appliance cabinet. I don’t like clogging up my counter top with lots of appliances, so I use a large cabinet as storage to store everything (crockpot, toaster, blender, stand mixer, etc) except our coffeemaker. This cabinet had two really huge items that take up a ton of space and don’t get used: my juicer and my Instant Pot. Now, I’m not getting rid of my Instant Pot, I just need to actually spend some time figuring it out (people who love theirs, tell me your tips! I have made one soup and it had so much prep work that I’m not sure it was actually faster for me than just dumping things in a crockpot? Help!) This challenge was a great reminder for me to get it out of the cabinet and spend time learning it. Use it or lose it, right?

While the Instant Pot remains, it’s time for the juicer to go. I love a yummy juice, but I just don’t take the time to buy all the ingredients, prepare it all to go in the juicer, clean all the parts afterwards, etc. It’s too much work for me and I haven’t used it in over a year. It is going to find its way onto Facebook marketplace this week so someone who will actually enjoy it can put it to use.

The other HUGE change happened in a large pantry cabinet off the kitchen. You guys. This space was so. bad. It had become a catch-all cabinet for mostly serving items but also things that just didn’t have a place anywhere else. And it was a disaster area. I literally had to try to keep things from falling down on me.

Why oh why did I have the things I most frequently use on the bottom of the top shelf? This basically guaranteed an avalanche every time. See the nice eye-level shelf full of things I rarely or never use (a growler and an old coffeemaker!?) – why didn’t that house the things I most often reach for? I’m honestly baffled.

Check out this before and after.

I’m ridiculously excited about this change. I can easily access the things I most often need, and even the things I use less frequently are now very easy to get without causing a landslide.

The biggest thing that was reinforced to me from decluttering the kitchen was to let go of my “someday” items. It is so tempting to fall into the trap of keeping something that is in decent condition and could be used “someday.” Take all those big plastic food storage containers. I don’t use them now because they don’t fit in my cabinet. They’ve been in storage almost three years because maybe “someday” I’ll … what? Move and have a bigger pantry? Will I even want to use them at that point? Or would I prefer to get a matching set? Or by that time will I just prefer to leave things in the original container? Why would I hold on to something I haven’t used in several years and have no clear idea of when I would want to use it again? Same with my Brita water pitcher. This was great at a previous house, but then we moved and now have a fridge with a filter. I don’t take up space inside the fridge with a pitcher that provides water we can easily get from the outside. Again, haven’t used it for several years and have no goal to use it again. WHY AM I KEEPING IT!? If any of these items cost hundreds of dollars, maybe I could make the case for keeping them. But these are things that if “someday” comes and I really do wish I had them, I can get them again pretty easily. And you know what else? When I asked my sisters if they wanted anything, my younger sister jumped on the coffee maker and food storage containers. These are things she wants now. They can fulfill a purpose for her now. Why on earth did I want to keep these things in storage for “someday” when someone else can put them to use now? 

I may not have spent a ton of time decluttering the kitchen last week, but I’m super pleased with what I was able to accomplish. It feels so much lighter to just have what I need and know the things I’m not using will now be able to be used by someone else.

Is there one spot of your house that baffles you like my pantry baffled me?

 

Finding Balance with Toys

While I love the simplicity of living with less, there is one area where things can quickly move into chaotic overabundance: TOYS.

That being said, I honestly do not feel overwhelmed by the toys in our house. I don’t feel like our living space has been taken over by toys. I don’t spend hours picking up toys and in fact, spend less than four total minutes putting away all our toys. And while I am going to share how I organize all our toys, spoiler alert: there is no magical storage system or organization strategy that makes me feel in control of our toys. I feel in control of our toys because we limit our toys to a manageable amount. Simply put, we do not have more toys than we can handle. Justin and I both agree we would rather LJ have fewer toys that he actually plays with than more toys than he knows what to do with. And while I know our choices in this department will not be for everyone, I wanted to share what has worked for our family in case there is someone out there who feels like they are drowning in toys and wants suggestions for ways to simplify the toy chaos and take back control of their house.

LJ in playroom

How we keep our toys manageable

1) We rarely buy toys for LJ.

In a minute, I’m going to show you every single toy in my house. And since LJ has been born, I have bought exactly one of these toys (a xylophone). While there are a lot of beautiful, fun toys out there that I know he would love, I also know that at this point he is so happy with the variety of toys that he was given through my baby showers and Christmas last year. He gets exposure to other toys when we go to the library, play dates with friends, or grandma’s house and I do not need to spend money on more infant toys in our home for him.

2) We keep a loose definition of “toy”

LJ regularly plays with the hard plastic water jug I got from the hospital where I gave birth (he particularly loves the straw). He loves the ridges and crinkly sounds of a recyclable plastic water bottle. He is just as happy playing with these as he would be playing with a $20 toy from Target. Free promotional balls from local sporting events, books from Kids Eat Free night at Chik-fil-A – these are all fun for him to play with and also very easy to dispose of or put in a 25-cent garage sale bin when we need to make space for toddler toys down the road.

3) We’re honest about gifts

Both sets of our parents know about and respect our desire to live with less. We have communicated honestly with them that we love seeing their love expressed through quality time spent with LJ, cards, video chats, etc and do not need them to constantly gift LJ toys. We totally understand their rights as grandparents to occasionally spoil, so if they happen to see something that they just can’t resist giving him, of course that is okay! The key is occasionally and we so appreciate that they have mostly limited gift-giving to Christmastime or special occasions.

And speaking of Christmas, we don’t fill LJ’s wish list with toys. We do choose a few toys or books we know he’ll use throughout the next year as he develops and grows, but we also include other necessities (clothes, diapers, wipes, stroller attachments, money towards a convertible car seat). He is too little right now to know that he’s getting the “boring” gifts and there is no shame in my mom game to limit the toys and ask for other things he really needs. Gifts don’t have to just be toys!

4) We toy swap

We currently have a musical walker and learning table that we borrowed from friends – their first child has outgrown these toys and their second child is still too little. By the time LJ is done with both toys, our friends’ younger son will be ready to play with them! It’s a win-win; neither of us has to take up space storing these toys when our kids outgrow them. I do this with baby gear too (my niece is currently using LJ’s doorway jumper and Justin’s colleague is going to use LJ’s baby swing) which really helps keep storage spaces manageable!

5) We clean up when we’re done playing

When we’re done playing in a room and ready to move on, I very quickly scoop everything up and put it back in place. I’m a big believer in “outer order, inner calm” (thanks Gretchen Rubin!) – I am much less stressed when my house seems somewhat orderly and toys aren’t left everywhere. The mess always seems manageable because it is confined to one room and not spread throughout the entire house. Plus, I am always amazed by how little time it actually takes to get things back to baseline. Just a minute makes a huge difference!

How we keep our toys organized

We spend most days at home so LJ plays with his toys often. While I know I could keep them all in one room, I prefer to have them stored in three main areas as we move throughout the house during the day. Keeping toys in a few strategic places helps prevent the feeling that they’ve taken over our entire house but they are readily available where we hang out most frequently.

Nursery

Nursery Toy Storage

In LJ’s nursery, I have an old crate that I use as an end table + storage. This is where the bulk of LJ’s book collection is kept because we often read in the rocker. I store stuffed animals in a fabric basket and found the perfect little wire basket that fits just right to house a few other toys – crinkly books, rattles, animal links, and a wooden ball toy.

LJ and books

LJ frequently pulls everything off the shelf, but because it is a limited amount of toys and everything has a clear belonging place, it takes me between 30-45 seconds to put things back in order when we’re done playing.

My Bedroom

bedroom

I often have LJ in my bedroom with me if I need to fold laundry or get dressed to go out of the house. I keep a small basket with textured balls and a few other toys so he stays occupied playing while I do whatever I need to do. I timed our clean-up after the last time he was playing with these – it took ten. seconds. to throw everything into the basket and put the basket back against the wall. Just ten seconds out of my day and my room felt put back in order. Totally worth it!

Playroom

Playroom toy storage 1

We have a small den in our home that has become our main hangout space. It’s got a comfy sectional and our TV so it’s where we naturally gravitate as a family and is therefore where we have created a little playroom for LJ by blocking off the doorways with the sectional ottoman and a baby gate. I painted a buffet hutch that was handed down to me and we use the entire bottom to house LJ’s toys.

Playroom Toy storage 2

While I have the doors open to show you how I store the toys, I rarely have the doors open while we’re playing in this room. Instead, I’ll alternate taking out a basket or two at a time and close the doors so LJ doesn’t pull out the rest. I know eventually he’ll be big enough to open the doors himself, but for now, this method works really well for us in preventing all the toys from being pulled out every time. Examples of things I’ll bring out at any one time are:

Side note: You’ll notice I keep some of these toys in their original packaging. I know I can just throw everything into a bin, but I personally don’t mind spending an extra 10-20 seconds putting things back in the plastic pouch so I can store them vertically (space-saving) and make sure I have everything (easy to see if I need to search under the couch for missing items).

Last night I snapped a picture of the playroom after LJ went to bed but before I cleaned up.

nightly clean-up

I timed myself picking things up just to see how long it took. It took me ninety seconds to put away everything you see here. Then it took me an extra 49 seconds to grab my broom from a nearby closet and retrieve two balls that had rolled past my reach under the couch. A total of 2:19 and the room was back in order so I could relax and enjoy the evening!

Bonus – pack n play

While it’s not frequently used anymore, I do also have LJ’s pack n play set up in our main living room for anytime I need to set him down and leave the room. I keep just a couple toys in there so it’s always ready to plop him down into. I also keep his activity center next to it, although now that he is so mobile he does not like being in the activity center much so this will soon get converted to a toddler table when we give our friends their learning table back.

pack n play

And that’s it! That is literally every single toy in our house. There’s nothing hiding out in a closet, there’s nothing I pulled out of pictures to seem like we have less. This is everything LJ has. I hope you can see that just because we choose to live with less does not mean we deprive our son. He still has plenty of toys to play with that engage his mind and help with stages of development.

Did you notice how much time it takes to clean up when we’re done? On an average day, I spend less than four minutes cleaning up. Four minutes is all it takes to get back to baseline for the next day. FOUR. MINUTES. This is not because I’m a magical cleaning wizard who can put things away at super-speed. This is not because I’ve discovered the perfect organizational system to store toys. It is because we have decided on what “enough” toys looks like for our family and we stay within that amount of toys. Living with less toys has simplified our lives and allowed our home to still feel like a relaxing haven rather than the inside of an overstuffed toy box.

I hope this encourages you to know you can still live abundantly without an overabundance of toys for your baby. What tips/tricks do you use to manage toys within your home? I’d love to hear what works for you!