I’m living the dream, you guys, in so many ways. I am joyfully married, have two beautiful children, loving and supportive siblings/parents/in-laws, we’re financially stable…I am richly blessed. Which may be why over the past few years Brian and I have been increasingly indifferent towards “things.”…also, you move once or twice and you get tired of hauling around stuff. 😛 In any case, we send a bunch of stuff to Goodwill every time we move, and recently we’ve purged even more. My wardrobe, his movies, even our books have been scrutinized (gasp! Don’t worry, we got rid of duplicates only, haha). I’ve gotton rid of half completed projects, all of my fabric, half of my “crafty stuff” and more than half of my clothing. We’re slimming down the amount of things we own and we are so much happier for it.
Obviously, the biggest “stuff accumulator” is “the boys”. From toys to clothing to gadgetry, children compound the stuff problem. I finally had had enough about a month ago, as I struggled to find the living room carpet under all the accumulated crap strewn over everything. It was too much. Since I had already started packing things for the move, I decided to try an experiment. Over two days I went through all of the toys and packed up all but 15. 15 total, not 15 each. I moved the changing table out of Zane’s room and arranged the toys on the shelves for easy access. I figured if the boys went nuts I could always unpack a box of toys, but I was hoping to give it at least until we moved to our next duty station (hopefully in October).
Their reaction was significant, especially from Cade. The afternoon I packed the final box and displayed the surviving toys Cade played with one of his toys he hadn’t touched in weeks for a solid 15 minutes. To this day, he plays with his toys, focused, calmer, engaged. He used to flit from one to the next like a demented humming bird jaw forward and teeth clenched as he fought the impulse to just do something. Now the time he spends spazzing out running and flailing has been halfed and his temperment improved. Inside is overall calmer.
Now, it ain’t perfect. I’ve still got two rowdy boys on my hands and the chasing and wrestling and crazy play has definitely not disappeared completely-nor do I want it to! However, the lack of toys certainly hasn’t made anything worse and has, to my mind, actually made playtime much more enjoyable and Cade is present when he plays instead of flaking out. I think he was just honest to goodness overwhelmed with all of the toys he had. I also put all of the musical instruments in a box and pull them out 4-5 times a week post nap while I’m cooking dinner. The novelty and noise making potential has done wonders for keeping them occupied while I’m cooking, plus I like making “music time” a treat to encourage interest.
Both the boys are outdoorsy anyway. Zane has already started running to the door and smacking it, looking over his shoulder at me to make sure I’m getting the message when he wants to go outside. I’ve removed quite a few of the outdoor toys and am continuing to purge the outdoor space-again with zero negative fall out from the boys and a lot more space to actually play under the carport.
It has been fantastic so far. I am loving how easy it is to pick up the living room. I’ve been able to maintain a vacuuming schedule with little fuss, and tidying the toys up at night takes seconds. Neither Cade nor Zane have toys in their rooms which keeps those spaces as predominantly for reading and sleeping and makes them a lot tidier as well. Cade has a bookshelf in his room, Zane a book basket, and there are two more book baskets in different cornors of the living room. Cade and I play make believe just fine with the toys we have available-and frequently improvising with forts out of blankets and kitchen spoons as swords, etc, and as long as Zane has a car or ball he’s pretty much set. I’ve acquired a toy here or there and simply exchanged it for one of the no longer played with ones on the shelf. The occassional swap like that keeps the boys entertained and I’m toying around with creating a “Finding Place” to leave a new toy once every few weeks to spark different ways of play.
All in all, this minimalist experiment is working really well and I find it faith affirming. Our needs are met in abundance, and we thoroughly enjoy the things we own-but they are not the center of our lives. 🙂