Step into our home and you will find…
A trail of lego left carelessly on the floor, play tents draped with fairy lights, ready to host a grand tea party and well used books at every turn. But you will also find a place for everything and each toy, a considered choice of what has remained - be it a much loved teddy or a remote control car.
Once upon a time our house resembled a toyshop, rather than a home. I use to think that I had to fill every available inch with toys, to busy little hands. But I wish I’d known that little hands don’t always need entertaining and that empty space, can hold more opportunities for play - than a bunch of toys ever could.
If I had found minimalism when my children were young, I would have given them less. And thats not to say that I don’t see the value in toys because I absolutely do but I would have given them a handful, rather than a roomful. Seeing my children play with less, has made me realise that they really don’t need, all that we think they do. They play exactly the same with fewer things and I can say with certainty, that our children really didn’t need a roomful, or if I’m honest, rooms full, of more.
Being a parent put me off simplifying for so long. There were so many toys, that I didn’t even know where to begin and so I didn’t. We stayed where we were, drowning in stuff. Until one day I decided, that despite having children - in spite of having children, we needed to pursue a life of less. Because it wasn’t just me that was overwhelmed with our stuff, the children were too.
For years we played that familiar game, where toys were thrown onto the floor in frustration, at not being able to find that one thing they wanted. The bedroom floors were constantly awash with a sea of toys, bobbing discarded on the surface and there was never any space left to play. Yet we all thought - for so long, that the answer to this, was more.
Deciding to simplify our life, meant sitting the children down and conversations being had. There was never any talk of throwing away toys that were special and expectations weren’t placed on what they had, to be gone. We just threw our reasonings for what living with less would mean into the air, and let the ideas fly.
Soon enough, after quietly watching us declutter our things, the children started on theirs. Bags were gathered together for children with less and sold belongings, were sent. There were no big gestures being shouted down the halls but rather, a ripple of lots of little decisions being made and slowly but surely, that sea of toys became a stream.
It’s not perfect by any means but good things rarely are. Scruffy teddies are held onto tighter, the box of cars that haven’t seen the light of day are suddenly declared their favourite and someday’s, somehow, stuff makes it’s way back in. But that’s okay. Because we are not just minimalists, we are humans - as are our children and we are working it all out by living it, in the here and now.
We are more than glad, that the muscle of letting go of things we no longer love and use, is weaving it’s way into our families lives. Because every toy that is donated to someone in need, gives a lesson in valuing people over things and every time that money is spent on experiences over physical items, memories of days together are being made.
The method that we have chosen, where the children are in control of their belongings; from the toys they choose to keep, to those they give away, means that we are in it for the long haul. There is no quick fix for us but a new way of thinking about the things we own and why. Our way of simplifying with children may not aline with hard core minimalism, or adhere to certain rules. But for me minimalism is individual and it is is ours alone, to decide.
So yes, step into our home and you will see toys, you will find well loved toys, less loves toys and collections being kept, that to you, don’t make sense. (look up my sons reverse shelf declutter, to see what I mean on this! @somedayslower.)
But look closer and you will see the children letting go of what they can, when they can, whilst I let go of my own idealism of minimalism, to instead focus on what is enough - for them.