What happened when I binned our toys…

(Toy Binning, Phase 1)

The number of toys in our house is something I have been questioning for a while. Initially the thoughts of “we have too many toys” sat alongside my other “should” thoughts, such as “I shouldn’t let the kids watch so much TV”, “I should probably take school more seriously” and “I ought to be taking the toddler to more toddler groups”. But for once I decided to listen. I continue to ignore the rest of my ‘should’s’ for now but a recent holiday opened my eyes to a life of less toys.

During half term we visited Tenby and for the first time since our youngest could move, the kids didn’t argue! Not at all… Without the usual mountain of toys, they played classic games like Tag and Hide & Seek, they spent ages in the bath with a colander and a milk jug. They ran around the apartment, jumped on beds, made dens and played ‘mums and babies’. They had fun… without toys… and together.

So the day after I unpacked our suitcases (a week after returning home), I got some black bags and went crazy. I explained to my eldest (the only one who noticed my wide-eyed and hyper frenzy) that I have noticed that lots of toys do not make her happy, and that we were going to try life without them for a while. And then she carried on doing her colouring in. Don’t get me wrong, I had a couple of moments of “But muuuuuum, I loooooove this toy, I play with it everydaaaaay”. So I allowed them to keep a few extra’s, only to bin them during phase two last week (she still hasn’t noticed).

Let me just be honest about why we had so many toys to begin with. I allowed encouraged it because:

  • Each new toy represented time… A perceived time that I would have freed up to read, catch up on emails, clean the house etc.
  • I liked seeing them have fun with something that they enjoyed
  • British weather is so crap, we are at home long enough to justify a house full of toys
  • Me and the hubby might get to have a conversation while they play with their own little toys
  • Everyone else has lots so if I have less I will look like a bad mum and the children will want to live somewhere else

I admit I have credited toys with far too much and have been pretty delusional for the past 4 years… Since doing it though, I can honestly say it is one of the best decisions I’ve made. And guess what?! When I got rid of the toys (and the storage to remove future temptation), strange things started to happen:

  • I suddenly have more time!!! It seems the less toys they have, the longer they play! Woo-hoo! What a revelation, my youngest (now aged 2) will sit and play with a train track – my personal favourite – for 15 minutes. We didn’t really have this before, she would move on every few minutes and need support retrieving or setting up something new. I get 15 minutes now where she will play with a toy pretty independently, which frees up time for me if I need it.
  • We have more fun. We had literally hours of laughter playing catch, football, and piggy in the middle with a single red balloon. I don’t even remember where we got it or how it didn’t end up in one of my black bags but the day it deflated was a sad day indeed.
  • We go out more. Fortunately, this autumn has been particularly mild but I don’t think the deepest and darkest of winters will keep us home now. The kids LOVE being outside, whatever the weather. And so do I. We go for walks and catch leaves, we visit the quiet – and wet – parks, we go look at boats and ducks. And another amazing perk of doing this? Our youngest is sleeping better! We’ve had 5 nights through in a row – until 7am! Literally unheard of here.
  • The kids play nicer together. We still need to intervene 100 times a day but it’s far less because there is less to argue about. They do more role play which causes less arguments, increases their levels of patience and teaches them better social skills.
  • They are happier. I am happier. There is less mess, less distraction, more connection and more fun. If only I knew this 4 years ago 🙂

From now on, for birthdays we are asking for money so that we can have more experiences, for Christmas we are buying them practical gifts or role play gifts and attempting to make our day less about presents. I am so excited by it all. Children really don’t need very many toys, they need connection, and they need love. And that’s it. I’m done surrounding them (and me) with things they do not need. Are you brave enough to minimalise your kids toys? Let me know if you do, I would love to see some photo’s and hear about how it’s changed things for you.

(Disclaimer: I haven’t binned all of their toys. We have 3 buckets full left, which are staying… For now. Almost all of the toys went to charity shops. I also took some advice from this article on the Becoming Minimalist blog).