A few weeks ago, I received an advance copy of Joshua Becker’s new book, Clutterfree with Kids. The book went on sale last week (and quickly became the #1 self-help book on Amazon – congratulations Joshua!), so you may have already heard of it or read it. But if you haven’t yet, I highly recommend it.
I only made it halfway through the book before I had to stop reading and begin a major clutter-purge. I spent an afternoon in the playroom with our boys, getting rid of stuff. We ended up with two big bags full of stuff to donate to the thrift store, a huge bag for the recycle bin (our older son loves crafting and art – papers overfloweth!), and a smaller bag for the trash can. I have always been very intentional in terms of the sort of toys our boys have. Very few things have batteries (except for the circuit-building supplies that our older son and my husband spend hours tinkering with), and all of their toys require a significant amount of creative input – it’s never the same thing twice, since they have to use their imagination to play with their toys. I have always felt good about the sort of toys we have.
But we just had too many of them. It was a case of too much of a good thing, and clean-up time in the playroom was becoming overwhelming.
Since virtually all of the toys we have are from thrift stores or Craigslist or yard sales, we’ve been able to get them for a tiny fraction of their retail price. For the last couple years, we’ve limited our purchases mostly to expanding sets we already had (Lego, Lincoln Logs, Playmobil, K’nex, wooden trains, blocks, house/farm/food/furniture, etc.) That worked pretty well in terms of limiting purchases, but the result was that the bins we had were overflowing. Our wooden train collection – including buildings, tracks, and trains – had expanded to fill two huge bins and one small one. Our Lincoln Logs were overflowing the tops of a huge bin. They were all “good” toys, but we still had too many of them.
After reading half of Clutterfree with Kids, I was inspired to tackle the overflow. Our boys both helped me, and we talked about how much easier it would be to clean up if we didn’t have so much stuff. It was easier than I had expected to get them on board. By the time we were finished, the lid closed on the Lincoln Log box and one full bin of train stuff is getting posted for sale on Craigslist today. It was initially hard for me to make the decision to let go of those toys (most of the stuff in the donation bags was easy, but the Lincoln Logs and trains were harder). But I knew that our boys would still have just as much fun with a little bit smaller collection of each of them, and removing stuff from the playroom would make it easier to find stuff, provide more room for play, and make cleaning up easier too.
When we were finished, we all felt great about our progress (and then I was able to go back and finish the book!) For the last few years, I’ve kept a box in the garage for donations, and I’ve taken it to the thrift store whenever it gets full – usually about once a month. But in the last two weeks, we’ve dropped off two trunk-loads of stuff, and it feels great. We went through a major clutter-busting purge a few years ago, but it definitely needed to be done again. I’m grateful to Joshua Becker and his Clutterfree with Kids book for the inspiration! If you’re looking for a little inspiration yourself, the ebook is available for $6.99. It covers all aspects of achieving a clutterfree life for your family, from the basic nuts and bolts of how to go about it, to the more intangible parts like changing your thinking and your attitude. It addresses issues like overcoming envy (and teaching kids to do the same) and taking on board the concept that less really is more. It’s a great reminder that advertising has one purpose – to separate us from our money – and that constantly purchasing the latest whatever-it-is-that-you-crave will never bring happiness. That’s a concept that most of us already know in theory. But in reality, our actions often indicate that we forget it on a regular basis. So even though we know that happiness doesn’t come from a store (even if it’s a thrift store), it’s good to have a fresh reminder every once in a while.