For a long time, I’ve struggle with simplifying my home. We have a lot of stuff- a lot of unnecessary stuff. I’m the Queen of Chaos. Unfortunately, I’m the Queen of Chaos because I can’t get a handle on my stuff, not because I function well in a state of chaos. I find stuff totally overwhelming and if I do as an adult, I figured that perhaps, just perhaps, my kids were overwhelmed with too much stuff too. This summer I blogged about how my children were spoiled and didn’t take care of their things and how I was keeping the things that they weren’t picking up. Well, I decided to take the purging up a notch and I’d like to share just a couple things we’ve done.
We love books. My kids have been surrounded by books since they’ve been born. People have been shocked to see me reading to my newborns and we were proud of the fact that “we were starting them young.” We’d often have 30 or 40 (sometimes more) books taken out from the library. Well, I’ve come to realize that even with books there can be too many. My son started racing through the Magic Tree House books just to get to the next one. Or reading 4 or 5 chapters books at a time. When asked about them he’d just mumble something like “oh, they’re alright.” He never had a favorite. He didn’t take the time to savour the book he was reading because he was in such a rush to start the next one because it was waiting right there on his desk.
The first thing we did was find all the library books and bring them back. I allowed Liam to keep one chapter book and one research book and Morgaine to keep one picture book. We didn’t keep any books for Ruadhán. He’s little and really doesn’t need to be read to. At least not all the time. That weekend we brought back 32 books to the library but that certainly wasn’t a record for us.
I also wanted to get rid of all the piles of books that somehow end up taking over their bedroom, the school room, and our living room. I packed up the vast majority of books that we’d displayed on bookshelves earlier in the summer. Most ended up in storage bins because they wouldn’t be looked at in years. Most of our homeschooling material also got set aside. I moved a nice selection of children chapter books to a shelf in my bedroom closet to be given to Liam one at a time and then. I did the same with Morgaine’s picture books and she was left with only 5 books to be switched out on occasion (I’m thinking every 2 or 3 months but we shall see). She’s been enjoying the 5 she was left with without complaint.
In the end, we were left with 2 books of poetry, 1 book of nursery rhymes, 4 research books on Liam’s topic of choice, 1 book for read aloud, 5 picture books and whatever small selection of books we have from the library. The children are both loving hearing the same poems over and over again and choosing their favorites. Liam is sharing much more about his books with us and is devouring his research books (and sneaking in some time with the our World Books as well, even though I’m trying to keep things simple and not so academic).
It was quite the adventure visiting the used book sale at the library (I would have boycotted it but Mike brought the kids in while I was nursing in the car). As a homeschooling mother, it is expected that I will be all over books and the librarian knows we homeschool and kept making lots of suggestions (good suggestions but, really, we just packed away a lot of books). I’m happy with the decision that we made about the number of books we have available to the children and I still LOVE books.
I had no trouble letting go of many of the children’s toys. Everything that I’d picked up and taken away because they were left out was tossed. Anything that was a noisey annoying toy was donated or posted on freecycle. I gave away two building sets that were very fixed in their use. They didn’t allow for much imagination as only one construction could be built with each set. They went from 9 bins of toys to 6 which I covered with flannel so that they wouldn’t be too distracting and so they’d be more likely to choose one bin to play with instead of dumping everything from all the bins.
This worked alright but after two weeks there were a few toys that hadn’t got touched at all so I changed things up again and put a few more things in storage. Removing the toy shelf from their room I moved the remainder of the toys downstairs to our newly emptied bookshelf.
In the main living room, they have their train tracks and blocks, animal puppets and figurines, and plastic play food (that will be switched out come Christmas as I am slowly working on making them felt food instead). They have a shelf for the materials we need for circle time (playsilks, bean bags, string) and homeschooling (some math material as we are doing a math block now and some water colour paper). We have a shelf of craft supplies and one of board games that we like. There are very few toys for the baby.
In their room they have a wicker basket of their most loved teddies. (sssshhhhh….there are two big bags of teddies in the storage area because I had no idea how to choose which ones to part with….maybe it is me who is attached!). They also have a box of receiving blankets and clothes pins as they were both THRILLED when I donated the blanket to them. I’ve made them a clothes like feature around the bunk bed (no worries, it is safe and they can’t get caught on it) so that they can drape blankets and make forts.
Liam was allowed to keep his Lego and K’Nex sets. They are open ended enough that he can build for hours without using plans and their enjoyment is not dependent on motors and parts that move. Morgaine also got to keep most of her Barbies but I am really, really hoping to phase them out soon. While I grew up with Barbie, I cannot help finding her inappropriate. I’m happy that Morgaine plays more with the playsilk doll that I knotted for her than she does with the Barbies so I’m hope the transition away from them will be easy.
The idea was to keep the things that allowed them to use their imagination. Get rid of the things that were gadgets meant to stimulate (lights, motion, NOISE), that were broken, or too fixed in their use. I think that we have done quite well! I do have one bin of toys to cycle in and out of their room/play areas but I’m thinking that since the majority was not missed (and I thought that some of it would be) we’ll have some things to be donated soon. Since we’ve set up the room the kids have been playing better together and things somewhat stay more organized so that it is easier to follow a proper routine as I don’t walk into the room to start something and then have to spend twenty minutes cleaning instead!