Reduce Your Kid's Toy Collection, And You Will All Be Happier

by Meredith Ethington
Helen Sushitskaya / Shutterstock

Sometimes I daydream about living in a tiny house, or an RV, or a little house on the prairie in the 1800s just so I don’t have to deal with all the kids’ toys overflowing all around me.

I currently have four boxes of toys/kid junk to donate sitting in my basement, and it still doesn’t feel like enough. My kids don’t even care that it’s gone, and there’s plenty more where that came from.

I don’t know when it got so out of control. When you have your first kid, it’s all sunshine and rainbows and one little toy box, and then when that third kid comes along, it’s like you’re running a freaking Toys”R”Us co-op out of your house.

There are toys in my bedroom, in my bathroom, littering the hallways and floors, and stuffed inside every closet. Last night, as I was tucking my boys into bed, I found a tiny toy shoved into the doorframe of their bedroom door. How is that even possible? Toys are literally in every crevice of my home, and it’s making my anxiety peak and giving me the desire to throw it all out.

It’s not like my kids are really playing with this stuff. I think I play with it more than they do. But by “I play with it,” I mean I’m organizing it constantly, kicking it out of my way, stepping on it, cursing it, and finding a place to throw it. The time I spend thinking about how to rein in the toy chaos we live in is embarrassing, and I’m on a mission to get rid of almost everything. I guarantee we’ll all be happier because of it.

I know I will be. And a happy, stable mother is pretty damn important, right?

A friend of mine recently moved all three of her kids into one bedroom. She had a huge yard sale to get rid of most of their toys. And as far as I know, her kids are managing, and they are still a cute, happy family surviving on one-third of the toys they had before. I’m more than a little jealous.

Now the minimalist movement is happening in my house, and I am so excited to have less crap lying around that I almost can’t contain myself.

One thing I’ve noticed is that for every box that goes out of my house, I feel lighter, happier, and less weighed down. So much of my mental energy is spent organizing, reorganizing, and looking for ideas to organize the mess that it is affecting my overall mood — in a bad way. I don’t want to look back at my life as a mom and remember myself bent over a kid’s messy bedroom floor trying to figure out where to put all their stuff.

Think about it: How much time are you spending dealing with your kids’ toys in some way? Are you constantly hounding them to put all their toys away, clean them up, or play with them if they’re just lying on the floor? How much energy are your kids spending trying to stay on top of their own messes? Is it making everyone in your family happier, or is it a constant source of contention and stress?

For me, the answers to those questions were easy. I don’t believe that having a lot of stuff is making my family happy. I think we’re overwhelmed by it all, and our family life is suffering because of toys.

The thing I love most of all about helping my kids get rid of their toys is how much they learn to appreciate the toys they actually play with and love, and how much they start to use imaginative play instead. I’m realizing more often than not, when kids have less, they use their imaginations more. By constantly throwing toys at them, I’m actually robbing them of using their imagination.

For our family, I’ve seen nothing but benefits since we started this decluttering mission. We have less mess to deal with, which we means we have more time to breathe, relax, and hang out as a family. We have more energy for other activities like outside play, sports, and family adventures. My kids are more motivated to keep their rooms clean when the mess of toys isn’t so overwhelming, and they are actually becoming more creative in the ways they play with each other. It’s awesome.

This weekend, we went on a family hike. My kids were entertained by dirt, rocks, and sticks. There wasn’t a toy in sight. We spent hours out in nature, and no one said “I’m bored” once. For several hours straight, we were happy, entertained, and none of us wanted to get back in the car to go home. It taught me a powerful lesson: Family time is what most kids really want. They don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy.

In fact, I’d argue that the stuff is making all of us unhappy. So I say, don’t give it a second thought. Pack it up. Give it away. Stop taking more of it in. And most of all, ignore the groans from your kids and get ready to feel free. Your kids will thank you one day.