#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.

Week Three.jpg

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.

Week 3.jpg

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?

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!