If you’ve been following along, by this time you know that clutter makes me very anxious. In fact, the various shapes of plastic that are kids toys kind of make me want to scream, so when we were shopping for the house we currently live in, one of the selling factors was a finished lower level with what would make the PERFECT playroom. Thanks to this playroom, the mess would be confined to this one room and I wouldn’t have to look at piles of toys and junk and pieces and sticker books and dolls and trucks and train tracks in the other areas of my house.
Aaaaaaaand cue the LOL heard ‘round the world.
That is not what happens. Much like a colorful fungus, the toys and costumes and pretend kitchen items and craft stuff (#glitter; #cringe) have spread to all areas of the house. Creativity and play abounds!
And yet, much like the saying goes, they have really enjoyed just “playing with the box.” We apparently purchased something that came in a massive box, and now the pretend shopping mart that it has been shaped into is my kids’ prized play thing. Looking at it makes my stomach turn, but I’m trying to see it through their eyes. They envisioned it and created it, and made it into their own and actually play with it. So who am I to judge? (Ugh. It’s just so displeasing to my eyes and hurts my soul.)
I think that playrooms fall subject to unrealistic expectations and what parents envision versus what actually facilitates healthy and stimulating play for children.
Furniture stores, such as Pottery Barn (oh how I looooooove me some PB!) and Ikea would have you believe that kids’ playrooms are always neat and organized with little pods of tidy learning and play. Those of us who are parenting from the trenches of this War on Excess, however, know that these images are clearly the calm before the storm and that clearly no child has come in contact with these “play rooms.” Like, ever.
I have not actually tackled the playroom. In fact, past attempts at minimizing it have only slightly delayed the total bursting of the seams, which is about where we are now. The other night, I was working on the garage (a whale I am eating one bite at a time) and Little Princess came out to “help,” only to find baggies of toys that I had sorted and earmarked for donation. She claimed to have been “looking for those forever” and immediately reclaimed them. They were scattered over her bedroom floor within minutes.
The girl . . . she emotionally attaches to things. I get it; I have a tendency to overthink my connection to “things” as well. I think that shows she is empathetic; she feels as though her things can feel, and opens her heart. The boy . . . he does not really care. He is still pretty concrete and out of sight = out of mind for him. But the fact remains that the playroom and other nooks and crannies in our house are filled with broken and fragmented items, things that have been long outgrown, and duplicates. These are what I am going to address first with the playroom and toy situation, as the kids are still young and I don’t want to scar them. (I can envision them telling a therapist that things were going well in life until their mom threw out all their stuff in a fit of minimalistic rage.)
I want this to be a positive experience for my kids.
I want them to understand the value of things and what we can do with things we don’t use or are too grown-up for. This has led to some deep-ish conversations with the kids (ages 6 & 3) about how fortunate we are and how others do not have as much as we do, and if they no longer play with a toy, how wonderful would it be for them to show love to another child by giving it to them to play with.
I’m kidding. That was a hard sell and immediately aroused suspicion in the ranks. It’s like the scene in Toy Story when the all band together to make sure none of them get tossed. And in a way, the Toy Story saga shows a great evolution of the problem we are dealing with here: How do we hold onto what we love? And once we have no use for it anymore (such as a toy we played with as a young child), what is the point of holding onto it? SPOILER ALERT COMING – IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN TOY STORY 3, AVERT YOUR EYES… Just as Andy does, he realizes that he loves his toys and wants them to continue to be loved and therefore hands them down to his little neighbor.
I love that concept: Sharing and passing on the love of special items. It’s hard to get rid of things sometimes because a memory is attached to it. But just because the item is no longer with you, that doesn’t mean the memory disappears.
I read a trick once where if someone had a hard time parting with something “special” but knew it just served no purpose any longer, she would snap a picture of it so she always had that visual reminder of the memory and could do away with the tangible item.
So back to the Kids’ Playroom…. I’m going to tackle it little by little. It will be more organizing and sorting than removing, I am sure, but I know I will focus on eliminating (as much as possible) these things:
- Toys & items that are no longer age appropriate
- Things that have been broken or are mismatched/missing pieces
- Duplicate toys
Exceptions to this will be:
- Removing of anything that causes the kids emotional angst*
*That exception might not seem very “minimalistic” or make me sound like a softy, but as my mom always says, one day they will be completely grown-up and moved out, and that will give you a really sad reason to get rid of all of it. I will not miss stepping on a Lego, but I will miss the happy colors and sounds and joyous faces of play.
The playroom is a big project that must be tackled, but it is not a huge priority at this point. I just want it done before Christmas, giving Woody and Buzz time to strategize on what to do when the new toys arrive.
There will be more to come on the status of the playroom. I know so many people with kids who are overwhelmed by all the play “stuff,” and when kids are involved, it isn’t as easy as just bagging it up and tossing it. It’s a journey for them, too, and should be a gentle and positive one.