It would be easy to blame drastic actions on the new year, but the truth is I have been thinking about this for awhile. And maybe you'll see that, despite this title, my actions weren't really all that drastic.
It all started a few months ago when I read this blog post about a mother who took all her kids' toys away. I was amazed, but let it go. Then a friend of mine posted the article again on her Facebook page a few weeks ago, and I opened it and left it open on my computer for about a week. It's a fascinating idea: taking all your kids toys away. I'm sure most mothers are tempted, especially during the clean-up/clean-up fight portion of each day. But can you really do it? What will your children do? Would it ruin them for life? So I mulled it over for awhile. Then my husband read the article and said he was on board.
So here's how it actually happened: last Friday we were going to have our carpets cleaned in our living room and our girls' bedroom, the two major offenders of mess. So I brought out big tubs and put all their toys in them, leaving out a few precious bed buddies and two or three new toys from Christmas. The girls watched me do it. They asked why, and I told them because we were having our carpets cleaned. They thought nothing of it. Then I took the toys down to our basement and put them back with the piles and piles of other junk. And I left them there. The carpet guy came and went, the carpets dried and we put the rooms back together. Minus the toys.
Guess what? My girls have not once in the past week asked for their toys. Not. Once. They have their bed buddies and those few toys left, and my middle girl really would rather spend all her time coloring anyway. I left out the coloring stuff and the puzzles are accessible. I also left out all the baby toys for the 10 month old, and for some reason, my girls are satisfied. Completely.
I'm trying not to feel like a big schmuck. I agonized this Christmas season trying to figure out what to get my girls for Christmas. We don't get them tons of stuff anyway, but apparently I didn't need to get them a thing. Their beloved Tummy Stuffers were all they needed. And when I think of the past few years of birthdays and Christmases and all the stuff we got for them that is now just sitting in tubs in the basement, not missed by my girls, well, regret is the only word I can think of.
I'm not heartless. I did leave out a few toys, especially the ones that I see them playing with regularly. And my husband and I decided that they can have any toy they want from the basement, but only if they ask for it. The point is, though, that they need to ask for it specifically. If they miss something, I am more than happy to get it for them. But so far they don't miss anything. And maybe I'll adopt the one in, one out rule. If they ask for a toy, one of their upstairs toy needs to go downstairs.
It is so freeing to not be overwhelmed by all the toys. Toys they just dumped all over the place because of lack of better things to do. They didn't really care about them. But if it's there, then they'll dump it. If it's not, then they truly play with their favorites. Another bonus I saw in this was a few days after I put away the toys, the girls got a belated Christmas presents from some dear friends of ours. They were little toys, and the girls have played with them non-stop. I think because they didn't get lost in the piles and piles of stuff.
So from now on, I think my husband and I will concentrate on experiences for the girls. My oldest has a very sharp memory, and I think she'll appreciate getting to do things rather than getting things anyway. I'm not, however, going to dictate what others give them. If grandparents or aunts or friends want to get them presents, then they should be able to give however they want to. We'll just get the girls involved in deciding which toy is ready to be put away when a new one comes in.
If you're not convinced, then just imagine only having to put away five toys at night, instead of 50. It's a beautiful, attainable dream.