The power of less. Especially during this pandemic!
Updated: Oct 16, 2020
Someone once said to me “your home is supposed to be your haven.”
Truth is, my home was everything BUT a haven for me. There was not a corner I could hide in without feeling overwhelmed by the quantities of things everywhere.
It’s October 2020 and for a lot of us our home is now:
Our office (or office building with more than one person working from home)
Our school (even if your kids do go to school, they spend a lot of time at home because of every small cold they catch)
Our gym, in my case it’s a combination of a yoga studio (bedroom) and a martial arts gym (basement)
And of course, we still have to fit in the regular roles of a home, such as play area, family room, kitchen etc.
All this can drastically increase the mess and clutter in your house, and what is supposed to be your haven becomes your nightmare.
The mental burden associated with clutter is immense!
COVID creates a lot of anxiety for parents and clutter just adds to this anxiety.
The problem with clutter is that it overwhelms our senses with excessive stimuli and doesn’t provide the sense of peace we need to get when we are home.
Clutter is also very distracting and makes you unable to focus properly as you find yourself picking up one thing on your way to…. well you already forgot what you were going to do in the first place.
Let’s not mention that we never get the satisfactory feeling that things are done: “Ahhhh… kids are sleeping, dishes are done…. But look at all that stuff everywhere!” It will also be the first thing you see (or step on) when you wake up in the morning.
How did we get here?
I remember a long time ago reading somewhere that if there was one group of people who had to learn to be minimalistic, it would have to be mothers.
The burden of “things” on a mother—on parents in general—is immense. And it starts from the day we find out we are expecting.
We live in a culture that encourages possessions in all their forms, but possessions meant for our child’s growth and development? More please! We want more!
This consumerism ideology had us buying an outrageous amount of unnecessary gadgets marketed to us by the advertising gurus of the child-rearing industry. I mean who came up with the wipe warmer? When has anyone used a baby robe? Why invent a diaper cream applicator? And how many swings, baby bouncers and walkers do you need?
This industry relies on the anxiety of parents, their fear that they will not do enough or that if they don’t buy the latest flashing educational toy their child will somehow fall behind. Did we forget that little humans have always developed and grown very well without the need for all of these plasticky things?
These gadgets don’t just impact your wallet, they impact your physical and mental space too. You are always on the lookout for more and as your child grows you need to pour energy into figuring out what to do with the stuff you have in order to make room for the new acquisitions.
We think that it’s just at the baby stage, but it’s not! After the baby years, you have the toddler years with a multitude of toys that make sounds and spell words in multiple languages, massive stuffed animals that take up half a room, colourful dancing robots that repeat what you say, miniature versions of telephones and computers that will supposedly make our kids more tech-savvy and teach them letters, numbers and shapes. Full disclosure: all of these have entered my home at some point, and I am still struggling to kick out some of these unwanted guests.
Once this stage is over, we are now marketed the collectible superheroes or tiny characters with accessories that you will step on in the dark while holding back a swear word and a threat of “I swear to God I am going to throw all this ____ away!”
Everything has been turned into a collection. Children’s books, little dolls and characters, even Legos, which at their origin were a creative building toy, are now insane collections of complicated to assemble structures that once broken can no longer be put together. Their individual pieces having lost their traditional Lego simplicity, they no longer serve much purpose at the bottom of the Lego bin (or large canvas bag in our playroom).
My point is, there is no point in time when clutter will disappear from our house when we have kids. We need to change our approach and our philosophy around things, especially “things that they need,” as early as possible.
So if you are feeling overwhelmed with stuff, more stuff and bigger stuff all around you, it’s time to make a change. When you start, remember that the two reasons we hang on to things according to the decluttering guru Marie Kondo are:
Attachment to the past
Fear of the future
Both of which are extremely unhealthy emotional patterns to carry. I genuinely repeat this to myself every time I struggle to get rid of something: “what are you hanging on to?” and “what are you afraid of?”
General guidelines for decluttering toys and encouraging meaningful play:
If you want to declutter your toys but don’t know where to start, here are a few key guidelines:
Keep simpler toys, also known as open-ended toys, that will encourage creativity and don’t dictate how a child should play.
Keep toys that mimic real life. Through play, children re-live and re-affirm what they learn by observing us daily. Having toys that mimic real life, such as dolls, kitchen toys, and vehicles, encourages children to practice their skills and imagination.
Keep building toys. And I don’t mean fancy Legos, but simpler building blocks for younger children, and magnetic tiles, or even just sticks and cords, for older kids—all toys obviously have to be age appropriate.
Get rid of toys that entertain while the child remains passive. They are usually loud and repetitive and quite annoying to the parents. Moreover, the child rarely stays entertained for long and never actually engages in play with these gadgets.
Get rid of endlessly collectible toys, they end up all over the place and rarely do your children really take care of them.
Decluttering doesn’t simply apply to toys! But if you’re a parent, they are a huge part of the problem and a great place to start.
Watch The Parenting Junkie’s 13-minute video on decluttering toys for some great tips on how to get started.
And remember, we tend to buy more toys because we want our kids to play but having too many toys will actually take your children away from deep independent play.