I still smile writing that title…
I smile because it is so far removed from who I was and what we were. I am the perfect example of someone who can turn things around, no matter what stage of childhood your children are at and no matter what habits you have created. I know this because I use to buy my kids a lot of stuff. Amazon boxes would regularly pile up in the hallway and perusing toy catalogues, was a day to day pastime. I wanted my children to have it all and then some.
Only I didn’t realise, that by giving my children ‘it all,’ I was actually taking something much more important away. I was taking away me. Because having more stuff, meant having less of me. You see, it wasn’t just the time and money spent buying the toys in the first place, It was the ongoing cleaning, tidying and storing of the toys which always fell to me. Time that I could have spent playing games with my kids, was instead spent tidying up after them. Sure my children helped but at the end of the day, when I wanted the job done, it always fell to me.
And then there was the realisation about what I was teaching my children. Telling them with my actions that this is how to live, to value things over people and that stuff will make you happier than anything else. I knew this not to be true and so why was I telling my children the same lie, that I had been sold? Something had to change. It was obvious that this stuff wasn’t really making us happy - in fact, it was actively getting in our way.
When I first started simplifying, I never believed that I could get both kids on board and I definitely couldn’t see, how I would dig our way out of shopping regularly for new things. I didn’t want the children to think that they had done something wrong and I didn’t know where to begin. It felt overwhelming but I knew that I had to try.
I’d read the science behind the benefits of less and I believed it but how would my children adjust to less, when the mindset they’d seen from me, was always of more? But I knew that toys were being discarded daily, thrown grumpily out of the way, whilst hunting for their favourites - you know, the toys that were always played with, despite what came and went. They were the keepers, I knew that. The rest were just a distraction.
And it happened. Slowly, slowly it happened. We stopped buying (so much) stuff, swapped shopping centres for the great outdoors and not only did we survive - we thrived. The children started decluttering, gathering unwanted toys with eager hands and gifting to others, rather than themselves. Bedrooms emptied, larger toy storage was replaced and they were doing it, they were really truly doing it.
I can’t say that my children started playing with fresh air, as I had once read. After all they were use to being entertained by masses of toys. But after a while, their play lasted longer, it seemed happier, tidier, less stressful, it was good. It made me realise that the excess of toys wasn’t needed at all, it was purely a habit we had gotten into because that was the story that we had been sold.
And it wasn’t just the play that reaped the rewards of simplifying. They had more time with their mum - proper time, not one eye on the clock time, long stretches of afternoon stood before us, it was ours and ours alone.
We started going outside more, hands in the mud, feet on the ground, rosy cheeks and treasures found. Heck, they even started playing with air. It felt like some kind of magic. Our pockets were fuller and so were our hearts. We didn’t need more toys, we just needed more time.
Now, I want you to know that it is never as black and white as one blogpost will portray. Shifting habits and values is a multitude of muggy silvers, slithers of gold and phases of grey. My children didn’t suddenly stop wanting more. They didn’t one day decide, that they didn’t like toys and they didn’t stop asking for things they had seen.
But it got easier, we became more intentional about what we let into our space and it rippled, like a waterfall into the sea. It wasn't perfect, which is a good job really because things rarely are - this is real life, after all. We all have an array of personalities, needs and wants and we have to respect what each of us bring. One way isn’t better that the other and I’m not the fun police, here to spoil my kids play.
Our children still like toys, in fact they love them but they love their time with me more. It took me years to realise, that we didn’t need quite as many toys as I once thought and I think that slowly, the children are realising this too.