A Helpful Guide to Owning Fewer Toys

The following post is from Joshua of Becoming Minimalist:

source: dawnzy58

Toys. Sometimes, they feel like they are everywhere. And with the holidays right around the corner, that feeling is likely going to be around awhile. Unless, of course, we do something about it.

Just to be clear, although we have taken a number of steps to reduce the amount of toy clutter in our home, I claim no expert status. Believe me, sometimes we feel like we are winning the battle, but other days we feel like we are losing. But I did want to begin a conversation with parents everywhere because we have definitely found some very practical tips to help minimize the number of toys in our home. And with some of your tips added in the comment section below… maybe, just maybe, this site can become a resource for parents everywhere hoping to own fewer toys and gain back some control over their toy rooms.

To be fair, the exact “ideal number” of toys will vary from family to family (if there even is one). But hopefully, each of these tips will be helpful to those of you who know the ideal number is certainly less than you have today.

1. Be convinced that less is better. As with any organizational project, it almost always begins with a heartfelt belief that less can be better.

It’s counter-cultural thinking to believe that fewer toys may actually benefit your child, but it’s definitely worth intentionally thinking through. To help you along, take a moment to read Why Fewer Toys Will Benefit Your Kids.

2. Choose quality over quantity. You and your children will benefit more from toys that are chosen for their quality (in workmanship) and purpose (playability) than for sheer quantity. Think wisely about your toy purchases. Do some research. If you are going to own fewer toys, you’ll want to specifically take the time to choose the right ones.

3. Set a confined, physical space for toys. Whether it is a container, a shelving unit, or a closet, set a confined physical space for your children’s toys. Once the space is full, there is no room to add more toys. Help your children understand that principle by clearly marking the boundaries. If they want to add (think holidays and birthdays), they’ll need to remove first. It will force them to think intentionally and strategically about toys… and help you keep your sanity.

4. Limit your purchasing with a budget. If you budget for other categories in your life (groceries, clothing, entertainment), you already understand how this principle helps keep your spending and consumption in check. If you don’t, start today by setting a monthly/yearly budget for toys. Enforcing a predetermined budget amount will immediately help in limiting your toy purchases.

5. Don’t give into fads. Just like clock-work, toy companies will generate a new “toy-fad” every few months by artificially generating a cultural buzz. If done well, this artificial buzz will become mainstream in the culture and no longer feel artificial. But it is. And it will always pass. You don’t need to give in just because every other parent is.

6. Keep a healthy, realistic attitude toward toy companies and toy stores. Their advertisements will always tell you that their main goal is to help or educate your child, but often times they are driven most by their bottom line – after all, that’s why they are in business.

7. Avoid duplicate toys. Instead, require your children to learn the invaluable life lessons of sharing, generosity, cooperation, and compromise.

8. Don’t give in to temper-tantrums at the store. Every time you give in to a temper-tantrum at the store just to avoid a scene, you embolden your child to do it again. They quickly learn how to manipulate you. Don’t worry about the scene that is taking place in public. Wise parents in the store will respect you for not giving in – and the foolish ones will learn a valuable lesson.

9. Purge often. Most likely, you need to make a clean-sweep of your childrens’ toys right now. Removing the “low-hanging fruit” (toys that are no longer used) is a great place to start and shouldn’t take too long. Put the clean, unused toys in boxes and donate them to a medical center, nonprofit organization, local church, homeless shelter, orphanage, school, or Goodwill. Simply discard the dirty or broken ones. Then, stay on top of the clutter by purging on a regular basis and going beyond the low-hanging fruit.

10. Watch less television. Consider the fact that marketers are brilliant at shaping the desires of men and women, both young and old. Now, imagine giving them hours each day to shape your children’s minds anyway they desire… and you’ll quickly realize that you don’t stand a chance.

11. Intentionally teach them to value other activities. Although all kids have natural tendencies towards certain endeavors, expand their mind by regularly introducing them to new activities that don’t revolve around toys.

Keeping fewer toys will never be easy. It will always require thought and intentionality. But it will always result in your children learning to value who they are more than what they have. And that always make it worth the effort.

Please, add your own tips to this helpful guide. What advice can you offer to parents hoping to win the battle against toy clutter?

Joshua Becker inspires and encourages others to live with less on his blog, Becoming Minimalist. He has also authored two e-books, Simplify and Inside-Out Simplicity. But more importantly, he loves his wife and two small children.
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