We have a sweet little room in our house which was once set aside as a place to meet with God in quietness and peace (a “prayer room” if you will).
As Christmas gifts, and birthday presents, and “just because” gifts from all our adoring family members and friends have piled up these last couple years, our prayer room slowly transformed into a toy room.
Last week I decided to convert the space back into a prayer room just for the night as I met with three college women I mentor.
But then at the end of the evening when I went to pull Zoe’s toys back into the room, I had a thought.
What if I didn’t get all her toys back out?
This isn’t a new concept for me. I’ve often thought and talked about drastically simplifying and reducing Zoe’s toys. I greatly value living simply and want to model this to Zoe. But I guess I’ve never known where to start or have been skeptical that it would actually work for us.
BUT this time I finally took action, and wow, has it ever worked!
Here’s a bit about our situation and what I did.
- First, I think it’s important to note that I believe this isn’t just for those who have extreme excess. That’s what I used to think. I was comparing our family to others. And since we weren’t by any means the family with the most toys, I assumed we didn’t need to simplify. Wrong! I think this is for anyone who notices that materialism or selfishness may be taking over, or if you recognize a lack of gratitude and good stewardship.
- I didn’t permanently get rid of any of her toys (at least not yet). For now they are all in storage and can be rotated out as needed. Zoe also knows she can ask at anytime to play with any toy that is put away if she wants it. So far this has only happened one time! And she has whined zero about her stuff being gone. In fact she’s been more obedient and happy this past week.
- I didn’t put away all of her toys. I left out two of her favorite things… all her dress up stuff and her toy kitchen with accessories. Also still out are Zoe’s puzzles and books along with a few other choice toys that encourage development.
So why do this? What difference has it made?
Here are four specific, positive changes I’ve observed in our family…
- Zoe is more content. Gone are all the complainants about being bored or needing instruction of what to do next. Now all of a sudden with about half (or less) of her previous options readily at her fingertips, there’s more than enough to do.
- Her creativity has increased. Zoe has always been extremely creative as are most children her age. But I’ve seen her creativity increase even more in her play. Instead of thinking that she needs five specific items for her current activity, she’s more open to pretending like one toy is all five items in turn. She’s also been creating worlds and characters in her brain even more than before and acts it out using little to no props…just her voice and actions. How fun!
- She has a longer attention span. Obviously this goes along with being more content. Zoe seems suddenly able and happy to spend more time doing each activity than before. Of course she’s still a preschooler and gets distracted from time to time, but her ability to stay focused and interested in what’s she’s doing at the moment has definitely increased.
- Our cleanup time has dramatically decreased. Part of this is obvious; with fewer toys out, there’s naturally less to pick up at the end of each day. But then there’s also the fact that she just seems more responsible with her stuff. Two of her toys which have the most parts (her kitchen set and dress up stuff) are still out. But her play with these seem more purposeful and less “I’m just going to aimlessly scatter as many items in as many different directions as possible…”
Obviously we are new to this and still have a lot to learn in this arena. And I’m sure it will look differently as Zoe ages and as another little one joins our family soon. BUT I’m so excited about the steps we’ve made and the way it has allowed me to spend more quality time with my daughter and less time cleaning up.
I’ve also been reflecting a lot on how these same truths are equally applicable to me as an adult.
It what ways do I need to de-clutter my life to get to what really matters and to throw aside the distractions of stuff?
What about you? Have you ever done anything like this? What was the outcome? Or what practical step could you take to apply this concept to your family?
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