I’ve spent a lot of time getting rid of clutter over the past couple years. We no longer have storage corners filled with who-knows-what. We’ve got a solid routine established of getting rid of stuff any time new things come into the house, which is working well. And as soon as our younger son outgrows clothing or toys, we donate them or bag them up for a friend who is hoping to get pregnant this summer.
I’ve done a pretty good job of getting over the habit of holding onto stuff we don’t use “just in case.” I downsized my craft supplies by about 50% last summer, and haven’t missed any of the stuff I gave away – in fact, I could probably go through my current craft cabinet and get rid of even more stuff. Since we’re working on finishing the basement, we no longer have out of the way corners where we can just stash stuff. We’ve been moving a lot of stuff out of the basement and into our garage in an effort to make it easier to work in the basement, and since neither of us likes the piles of stuff in the garage, we’ve been getting rid of some of the stuff instead.
We definitely prefer a clutter-free home, without piles of stuff in storage. And I’m no longer a fan of holding onto stuff just in case we might need it someday. But what about stuff that we know we’ll need, but don’t need yet? When you have small children, you know that you’re going to need clothing, shoes, coats, etc. in larger sizes as the years go by. You know that your children’s interest and tastes will change, and that they will outgrow their current toys and books. Do you stash things away for the future in that case?
Having two little boys, both born in the same season three years apart means that we have a constant supply of hand-me-downs for our younger son. As our older boy outgrows clothes, shoes and toys, we put them away for our younger son. But we’ve also been paring down the supply as we go, and donating some of the stuff rather than storing it. When I dug out the 12 – 18 month summer clothes a couple months ago, I found something like 15 pairs of shorts. And since then, my mother-in-law has added a few more pairs to the pile. Given that I wash laundry every couple days, there was no justification for having that many pairs of shorts, so half of them got donated. We’ve whittled the clothing supply down so that all of our boys’ clothes fit in the four drawers under our older son’s bed (they share the drawers) and their two closets. Nothing is stored away in the basement or garage, and it’s easy to see what we have on hand for our younger son to grow into.
We used to use an additional dresser for their clothes, but my purging over the last few months meant that we didn’t need that space anymore. So we moved the dresser into the guest room, and it sat empty for a while. But now I’m using it to store things that will work for our older boy in the future. I had been reluctant to have such a storage area, because you never really know what the future holds or what your child’s interests will be. But we can be fairly sure that he’s going to need things like a winter coat and bigger shoes, and I’ve also come across some truly fantastic toys – I’m taking a gamble that he’ll like them.
In order to purchase something for my “in the future” dresser, it has to be a killer deal, great quality, and fit in the dresser. Those rules mean that I’m not going to end up with a basement full of things that our boys may or may not want someday. But it also gives us a place to put a few great finds.
This past weekend our town had its town-wide garage sale, and there were more than 100 garage sales. My in-laws were in town, so my mother-in-law and I took the boys and spent a few hours on Saturday morning going to garage sales (we only made it through three neighborhoods, out of about ten). We found a couple of great toys that are perfect right now for our older son. We got a huge tub filled with Playmobil stuff – numerous sets all mixed together, and our son has spent hours and hours playing with it this week. We also got a giant tub of marble tube tracks. It has at least three full sets of track in it, both wood and plastic, and it’s also been a huge hit with our son. In keeping with our one-in-one-out rule, our son came home and purged several things from his toy collection to make room for the new toys. I’m very happy with his current toy supply, as pretty much everything fit in bins along one wall of the playroom, and just about everything is a toy that requires a lot of imagination (Playmobil, LEGO, blocks, marble tube track, Lincoln Logs, etc.).
But in addition to those toys, we also found a few things that we knew would be perfect a few years down the road. I got a brand-new pair of shoes that will fit our son next summer – for 25 cents. And my mother-in-law found an excellent winter coat for a 6/7 year old, for three dollars. We also found a K’Nex Screamin’ Serpent kit for five dollars (it retails for about $300). And yesterday at Goodwill I found two LEGO Technic kits that retail for about $55 each – Goodwill was charging four dollars each. I already had one toy stashed away before I set up the dresser as storage (another K’Nex kit), and the rest of the stuff has joined it in the dresser.
I feel pretty good about our storage dresser – especially since it was already in use to store our sons’ clothes until very recently when I got rid of enough clothing to not need it anymore. We haven’t taken up any additional space in our house, but we’ve got some really good stuff stored away. I know that the shoes and coat will be used, and I’m 99% sure that our sons will love the K’Nex and LEGO stuff too – especially given how much our older son already loves LEGO, Playmobil, Lincoln Logs and other building toys. But if they don’t, we could always give them to a friend or sell them on Craigslist.
If you have small children, do you have a storage area dedicated to things that your children haven’t yet grown into? Do you allow yourself to buy things for the future if it’s a great bargain, or do you always wait until you need something before buying it?