What Happened When I Got Rid of All the Toys

“Are you seriously going to get rid of all of your kids’ toys?” a neighbor asked me after reading my latest blog about moving to New York City.

“Absolutely,” I said with confidence.

(But, deep down I realized how awful it sounded coming from another person’s mouth.)

::Sigh::

Here we were a month away from moving from a northern California house to a New York City apartment with our four kids (ages 1, 2, 4, and 6). I knew space was going to be tight and I just felt so overwhelmed by the amount of STUFF we had already. I thought simplifying in every way would make us feel freer.

But then, this rational, blunt neighbor of mine spoke up, and it had me doubting the practicality of it all.

All right, I’ll meet somewhere in the middle. I had originally said that they could each keep one toy, and here’s what they picked:

Instead of going to those drastic measures, I went through the toy room and got rid of everything that annoyed me: those pieces and parts that you’ve no idea what they belong to but you still pick up and put away, anything that makes noise, anything that requires batteries, and books that make me cringe when my kids pull them off the shelves.

With that criteria, I eliminated 50% of our stuff.

The next morning, I was waiting for the kids to wake up and freak out. And, guess what, THEY DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE.

Not once, did any of my kids say, “Where did _____ go?” Instead, they just played with what they had.

Fast-forward four weeks when it was time to move, I did it. I got rid of most of our toys. I kept the four things that they requested and I kept anything that benefited my life. As much as I hate stepping on and picking up Legos, they do keep my son entertained for a long time. I love all of our Melissa and Doug puzzles because they’re great teaching tools. I also kept the books that I love to read.

That’s it. I donated most everything else and put the leftovers in storage. And, guess what?!

It’s. Been. Awesome.

We’ve lived in New York City for six months and the lack of stuff has made my kids so much more creative.

They constantly want to paint and color. They ask me to make masks and various craft projects:

(I assure you they do not get this creativity from me. I’m one of those parents who thinks art-project-mess should only be reserved for preschool.) They’ll be quiet for a while, and I’ll walk in and find amazing, massive forts. They sing songs, dance, and make-up games, and I keep thinking to myself, “What the hell is going on?!”

I had a feeling that getting rid of some of the excess might make things simpler, but never in my wildest dreams did I see it going this well.

We moved to the city in the summer and I didn’t have the time to arrange for camps or activities. Those first few months, they had no friends and we were living in a cramped space but reveling in it.

 They’ve never been closer, and they’ve never had more fun doing…well, nothing in some sense but everything, with each other.

As we prepare for our next move (most likely to a smaller city where the cost of living will be much cheaper), I’m starting to re-think the McMansion house with the mega-toy room and massive back yard. Perhaps all we need is some blankets and crayons.

 

Julie Forbes

Julie Forbes

Julie Kroenig Forbes graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She spent the next 10 years working as a news anchor and reporter in various cities, most recently in Nashville, Tennessee. After a few years in Northern California, she now lives in New York City with her husband and four kids
Julie Forbes

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