Why I Took My Kids’ Toys Away {One Year Later}

Ever wonder what happened to the kids whose mom ignited a firestorm when she took all their toys away One year later, this follow-up post addresses all the questions brought up by that very controversial post.  A must read!

A year ago this week I posted this (now infamous) post about taking my kids’ toys away.  At the time, I honestly had no idea what a brouhaha it would cause.  I was simply sharing our own experience.  The comments and reactions to that post have run the gamut, from parents applauding the decision and letting me know that post inspired them to do the same, to a few others who were sure I was causing permanent psychological damage, depriving my children of a happy childhood, and setting them up to be neurotic hoarders who will require years of therapy.

Oh my.

There have been so many comments left on that post that there is just no way to respond to them all.  I thought instead I could address some of the questions that have come up most often:

What did you do with all their stuff?  Did you throw it away?

To be honest, for the first week it all sat in huge pile in the hallway outside their room because I didn’t know what to do with it.  Eventually I was able to sort through it, but very little actually got thrown in the garbage. More than half was sent to Goodwill, while almost everything else went up into the attic.  The few remaining items went on the high shelves in their bedroom closet.

Why I took all my kids' toys away (and why they still won't get them back) One Year Later!

Why did you take their comforter away?

In that moment, I just wanted to completely clear their room of everything.  We live in Florida where our A/C is usually set to 79 degrees all the time, so it wasn’t a matter of taking a basic need away–we can barely even get them to stay under the sheet, much less a heavy comforter.  I guess to me it was just a symbol of all the excess in their lives.

Aren’t you afraid of causing lasting psychological damage?

Honestly, no.  Of all the things I worry about for my kids, scarring them by limiting the number of toys they have is not even on the radar screen.  In fact, I worry about the opposite, the psychological damage caused by a society that is constantly telling us we need more stuff to be happy.  My girls are in no way deprived, and they still have plenty of things to do and play with.  In fact, by most of the world’s standards, with enough to eat, a comfortable home, and access to school, sports, medicine, and art, they are still extremely privileged.  My goal is for them to grow up with an attitude of gratitude for all that they have, not to complain about the stuff they missed out on.

Are you a control freak?

Well…..My husband would probably say yes.  I prefer to think of it as decisive. :-)

What are your guidelines for the toys that you keep?

My main guideline is that we only keep toys that encourage their imagination or creativity.  I hate toys that have a billion pieces, but that seems more or less unavoidable, so instead we rotate toys out on a regular basis.  For instance my girls have a box of Littlest Pet Shop figurines that they love, as well as a big bin of Barbie dolls.  If the Littlest Pet Shop stuff comes down from the attic, then the Barbie dolls go back up.  Right now the only toys they have down are their American Girl dolls, a few doll outfits, and the food & dishes for their play kitchen.

What do you do with kids who are super sentimental?

My oldest daughter is super sentimental about everything so we often end up putting things in “keepsake” boxes up in the attic rather than giving them away.  However, as she has gotten used to the idea of less she is more open to the idea of giving stuff away.  One thing that helped a lot was donating many of their toys to our church nursery.  That way they still have a chance to go and play with them every once in a while.

How do I convince my spouse to get on board with this idea?

It is definitely not good for kids to have their parents at odds over parenting decisions, and I think ultimately this will only work if parents are willing to stand together.  If one spouse is reluctant to make such a drastic move, perhaps instead agree to a trial run before actually getting rid of everything.  Fill up some big boxes or garbage bags with all the toys, then put them away in the garage or attic or basement–any place that is completely off limits–for a few weeks.  At the end of the trial period you can decide how to proceed together.

Would this work with only one child?

I only have my own experience with two kids to go on, but I honestly think that most kids these days are overwhelmed by too much stuff.  So….I guess yes, I think it probably would.

I’ve tried this but the stuff always comes back… How did you stand your ground?

Keeping on top of the influx of stuff is a constant battle!  I recently had to do another major purge and reorganization because stuff was starting to pile up again.  Several items somehow made their way down from the attic at the same time, while birthdays brought some new games and a few treasures and outfits for their dolls.  They are also constantly bringing home papers and projects and little trinkets from church and school and birthday parties.

We have found that the only real solution to the continual flow is a commitment to the idea that we will not let ourselves or our kids get buried.  We have to be diligent about clearing the clutter on a regular basis and only keeping out a few things at any given time.  It is an ongoing process, not a one-time event.

Why I took my kids' toys away (and why they won't get them back) One Year Later

What do you do about birthdays & holidays?

I think really the most important shift we’ve made when it comes to both birthdays and holidays is de-emphasizing  the presents in favor of the experience.  Our girls love planning their elaborate birthday parties but no longer equate birthday parties with gifts.   Changing the attitudes of our friends and family was a little harder at first.  However, when they saw we were really serious (writing a very public article helped), they did begin respecting our requests for no gifts.   Even their aunt, who was constantly showering them with gifts, has amended her ways and instead asks my husband for ideas on what they need.

This is not to say that we never give our kids any gifts; we do.  We just really try to limit the quantity and to give things they need–such as new clothes or shoes or books–along with something they might want.  We also prefer paying for experiences, such as a trip to a theme park or to go see the baby alligators hatch at a local zoo, rather than just a meaningless toy.

Alligator Hatching at Gatorama

How has this experience changed you?

Seeing the changes in my children was definitely a catalyst for change in myself as well.  Over the past year, my husband and I have found a lot more common ground in our quest for a simpler life.  We started last fall with a two-month spending freeze that resulted in a lot more financial peace, and over the past year we have also worked really hard at clearing our lives of excess clutter and filling our “time jar” with the things that matter the most.

At the end of the day,  intentional parenting is always going to be a lot of really hard work.  Unfortunately for all of us, there is no magic solution for raising perfect kids.  Teaching my kids all the things they will need to know to be productive and joy-filled adults–how to work hard, use their manners, eat their vegetables, think about others, clean up after themselves, to be content with what they have, to problem solve and use critical thinking skills, and so,so much more–is an ongoing, daily responsibility.  One year later, taking my kids’ toys away was an important turning point in our lives, but it was still only one moment in a whole lifetime of parenting moments.

And we’re not done just yet.

 

*   *   *

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue!  How did this idea of taking kids’ toys away affect you personally?  Did you try it with your own family?  What was the result?

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{ 242 comments… add one }

  • Linea September 13,

    I just found your blog a few days ago on Pinterest and I am SO glad I did! I loved your post on taking your kids toys away and I am excited to know it has worked for you all this time. I am still trying to convince my husband but I love your idea of doing a trial run. Can’t wait to try it. Way to go mama!

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup September 15,

      Thanks Linea!

      Reply
  • Teri September 13,

    I think what you are doing is brilliant. I look at the mounds and mounds of stuff my niece and nephew have (pre-schoolers) and it boggles my mind. So much of it is cheap plastic junk. As another doting auntie I am trying to be selective in what I send them. Books, healthy treats (nuts, dried fruit, etc), bubbles, art supplies, and so on.

    Reply
  • Nicole September 13,

    Great to see an update! I read your original post recently and I definitely agree – some toys are great, but a million are not! We all have our toys – kids and adults – and a simpler life allow us to focus on the important things more.

    Blessings,
    Nicole @ WKH

    Reply
  • ashley September 13,

    I was wondering how you handle taking your kids to places where there are lots of toys. I really think this would be beneficial for my kids but I know my parents and my sister have lots of toys and they live close by.

    Reply
    • Clare September 13,

      My kids have actually noticed what a pain it is for other people to have “too many” toys. They, at 5 and 7, recognize that it leaves less room to play, it is more to clean, and they aren’t necessary. They aren’t jealous at all-because the things they have are the ones they love, and they know the rest is just junk! I don’t think my kids are special, I think this makes so much sense they intuitively recognize its value. Kids are smarter (and less stuff-oriented!) than we give them credit for.:)

      Reply
      • N September 13,

        “Kids are smarter (and less stuff-oriented!) than we give them credit for.:)”

        Amen sister!!!

        Reply
    • Ruth Soukup September 15,

      My kids enjoy playing with toys when we go to other places but before we leave I will usually make them help clean up the giant mess. Suddenly they remember why having so many toys is not always so much fun!

      Reply
  • Christina September 13,

    I was one that thought it wasn’t nice to take away kids toys. Bringing up 4 children have changed this in me. I am all for taking it away. My thing is I am the person who needs to get rid of her things. We live in a very small house and do not have places to put things. I have a huge amount of books ( I am a homeschooling mom) This is why so many books. I am trying to get hubby to let me get a e-reader so we know longer have anymore books coming into the house at a huge amount. My other problem are my cloths I have way to many. I think you are doing a grate thing, keep it up.

    Reply
    • English Teacher December 31,

      As a teacher, it scares the life out of me that you are a homeschooling mom. The grammar and word choice errors here are unbelievable. I know that’s not the spirit of this post, and I wholeheartedly agree with the spirit of this post. But I beg of you, if you are committed to giving your children the best, please learn and model the difference between cloths and clothes, great and grate, any more and anymore (which isn’t a word), as well as proper sentence structure. Taking their toys away doesn’t teach them proper English, and they need that skill, too.

      Reply
      • Anonymous December 31,

        Yes! I also see then and then used incorrectly. English teachers cannot help it! I have taught high school English for seventeen years, and those kids who have gone through public school do not use proper English either.

        Reply
        • Anonymous December 31,

          Sorry! It should say then and than!

          Reply
      • BriandAudsmom January 1,

        I know many elementary school teachers whose grammar is worse than I have seen on this blog. I have often been shocked by notes from my sons teachers and even caught mistakes on his math homework. He goes to a California Blue Ribbon School which has also won national recognition. A lot of the errors that you felt the need to mention could easily be chalked up to typing mistakes. It can be hard to proofread your own work for these things, and most of us are not coming to Ruth’s blog to nitpick her grammar. I find her posts refreshing and inspiring. I know some teachers get all huffy about homeschooling. They really can’t stand the fact that most homeschooled children perform about 4 grade levels above their conventionally schooled peers.

        Reply
      • Norma Flanagan January 5,

        Thank you, there are far too many people who use wrong spelling and grammar and it seems to just pass them by. How do children learn the proper use of the language if their parents do not use it properly themselves

        Reply
      • Anonymous January 8,

        One of the most beautiful things about homeschooling is the ability to judge it so easily. With test scores and academic reports so readily available, we can quickly assess the merits of homeschooling. Homeschoolers outperform public schooled children across the board. While, of course, there are exceptions on both sides; overall homeschooling is an option that is wildly successful!

        Reply
        • Michelle January 9,

          It is much more important for children to be raised with good morals, standards and values, than it is for them to be master grammar police. Public schools cannot teach this. By the way, anymore is just as much a word as “that’s”. Contractions are basically slang.

          Reply
      • Susan April 12,

        How terribly rude English Teacher!! I’m shocked at your judgmental attitude towards someone you know NOTHING about!!

        Reply
        • Anonymous April 22,

          Sorry, I’m a home-schooling mom also and I was also shocked with the same e-mail. How can she teach what she obviously doesn’t know or practice?

          Reply
          • R April 24,

            Anonymous, I hope you realise you’re coming down on someone else about something you’re doing yourself. (Practice is a noun; you used it as a verb). Honestly, it seriously could have been a simple typing mistake, which can happen to the best of us. I went to a private school, and we used to correct our English teacher’s spelling all the time. It doesn’t make her any less of a person, though, and certainly doesn’t warrant a personal attack. Have some respect, people! Like Susan said, she is a person you know nothing about. Stop assuming you have the right to criticise her.

            On a completely unrelated note, fantastic blog post, by the way! :)

            Reply
            • QD May 2,

              Well, the OED has “practice” as a verb, so, first of all you’re wrong, second of all we do know something about this woman– that the evidence here indicates that she does not know how to speak English at a basic functional level.

              Reply
        • Anonymous May 15,

          Exactly!! How does she even know if Christina is a native English speaker…and if she is not, I would LOVE to see English Teacher go read and comment CORRECTLY on a blog post in Christina’s native language!! I think people tend to forget that the online community spans the globe and there are a great many countries and languages represented. That English is one of the main ones is a given, as it is an international language…but that does not mean that every person who reads and comments on English blogs is a native English speaker. As a multi-lingual myself who has lived in several other countries outside of the US and communicated with many more people online from other countries…Christina’s post to me seemed to indicate that maybe English was not her first language, not that she was ignorant nor that she was jeopardizing her children’s education.

          Reply
        • Rainey Daye May 15,

          Exactly!! How does she even know if Christina is a native English speaker…and if she is not, I would LOVE to see English Teacher go read and comment CORRECTLY on a blog post in Christina’s native language!! I think people tend to forget that the online community spans the globe and there are a great many countries and languages represented. That English is one of the main ones is a given, as it is an international language…but that does not mean that every person who reads and comments on English blogs is a native English speaker. As a multi-lingual myself who has lived in several other countries outside of the US and communicated with many more people online from other countries…Christina’s post to me seemed to indicate that maybe English was not her first language, not that she was ignorant nor that she was jeopardizing her children’s education.

          Reply
  • Tara September 13,

    I love these posts, and while I don’t have children yet, I hope to be able to keep their lives simple yet fulfilled. I love the picture of your girls with the chick, btw! I hate clutter and try to live by the quote, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Too many things and options are overwhelming (a lesson I especially learned looking at paint colors…too many shades of gray!!!).

    Reply
  • Jennie September 13,

    I love this! We are in the process of cleaning out toys right now (we have 6 kids so it’s a little daunting). We’re also in the “let the toys sit in the hallway for a week” mode! (I’m so glad that’s part of the “program”!) For me, clutter brings chaos (mostly in my heart), and with a household of 8 people, I do NOT need more chaos! I feel like if I’m getting crabby with my kids all the time for their messy room, then it’s going to be more than worth it when we’re done (and yes, I know it’ll be a continual thing). To be able to only have to do this a couple of times a week (cleaning the room), would definitely bring me some tears of happiness. I’m excited to see what happens with this, it’s just a matter of “getting there” and then making it a lifestyle. Thanks for posting! :)

    Reply
  • Clare September 13,

    I found this post a few months ago (its actually how I found your blog!) on Pinterest. I had recently pared down my kids’ things after having removed all my daughter’s toys for about 3 months, and this helped me to feel better about my decision. My initial reasoning was wanting things to be clean, but after that time I realized it is so much more. My children *truly* enjoy having less! We have about 1/4 of what we started with, and they (I have a son, 5 and a daughter, 7) love being in there playroom. About every six weeks now we “purge” some more-but it only takes about 1/2 hour from the original 3 hours! They join in and participate, and they don’t miss the “stuff”! I’m a much happier mom, and they are more creative, thankful kids.

    Reply
  • N September 13,

    This is so us! My children are both still under two years old so we simply haven’t had the time to accumulate at much stuff as you guys did, but we were on track for excess, that’s for sure!!! I have already had to do several purges! An the amazing thing is, we don’t buy our children toys… we are lucky to come from a very large and generous family, but most of them totally do not get the concept of simplicity we embrace. Presents galore. The thought behind them is nice, but I think my girls are HAPPIER with less stuff. Mommy (and they) spend less time cleaning, and more time baking cookies together, reading together, rolling on the floor together. That’s all they really want; deep relationships. Not a pile of crap.

    Also, it looks like your girls share a bed. Our youngest is still a baby so right now they sleep separately, but our plan is for them to share a bed too! I think the more time siblings spend together, the more cooperative and peaceful they get. But we shall see. Like you said, there is no formula for “perfect” kids.

    Reply
  • Sarah September 13,

    I love this. I have a 14 month old girl and another girl on the way. We have been trying to really purge and organize our tiny apartment in preparation for baby #2. My daughter does not have a lot of toys (about a laundry basket full and most are stuffed animals that take up the room) and I do not want her to end up with overwhelming amounts. I recently separated her toy (blocks in this box, balls in that one, books on the shelf she can reach, etc.) and try to get just one box out at a time for her to play with. When all the toys are out she just wants to sit on my lap and not really play with anything. Hopefully our reorganizing will be finished soon so I have a place to put the toys she is not playing with. The little boxes and baskets are all currently together and on her level.

    I hope that I can start now and maintain something close to what you are doing with your girls. I want my babies to grow up with memories of experiences and people not mountains of junk and cleaning battles! Thanks for your example and bravely being so public. I am learning so much from your blog.

    Reply
  • Erik September 13,

    We keep most toys in the basement and very little in their bedrooms, but they hardly ever wanted to play down there and when they did the mess they made was incredible. Then a couple weeks ago, we read your original post and while most of the kids were gone for a couple days decided to give it a go. I’d say about 2/3 to maybe even 3/4 of their toys were purged. Most went to Goodwill in three van loads, one of which prompted the comment, “are you cleaning out a day care center?”. In one sense, I’m not sure we got rid of enough because there hasn’t been a word about it. Not a peep! It’s like they haven’t even noticed. I think I heard one of them say, “it looks cleaner down here”, but that’s it. So, I’d like to get rid of some more, however I think it has already made a difference. They seem to play with what they have more and there’s not as much to make a mess with.

    Reply
  • Marissa September 13,

    Greetings from California! I could hardly wait for nap time, so I could read your post! I’d like to try this as well. I do have a question, however. How does your family handle children’s books? Do those count as toys? I’d love to cut down on extra’s, but I am always finding books to add to our growing collection. My 13 month old is a voracious reader. (Hurray for board books!)

    Reply
    • Anonymous September 14,

      Two of my children are boys, 7 and 8. My oldest loves Legos and reading. So I have paring room down to just that. I love books and I want my kids to love books. But too many books can be overwhelming, just like toys. So I try to circulate them just like toys.

      Reply
      • Ruth Soukup September 15,

        I agree, the books can be overwhelming too! That is definitely something we still struggle with minimizing.

        Reply
    • Jennifer October 3,

      Books are good, and hard to give up, but I try to use the library (especially at younger ages) as much as possible. Also, here in STL one of the food banks started taking books in good condition to make birthday gift packs.

      Reply
    • Anonymous October 3,

      Library!! I got rid of most of my kids’ books as well, & we just go to the library every week & get a huge bagful of new ones! It’s free, keeps things interesting, & is something they look forward to b/c it means a trip out of the house!

      Reply
    • Samantha February 15,

      In my house, art supplies and books do not count as toys. Each child has a 7 foot tall bookcase that they can fill to their heart’s content, as well as free access to all of my books. I disagree, there is no such thing as “too many” books, but if “too many books” is your truth, then purge the excess. Keep the ones you love, the ones you can’t imagine not having, and donate the rest to a local library. If you live in a major city, where libraries have tons of funding, then donate to a nearby small town’s library, or a church or school library.

      Reply
  • Karen September 13,

    I found your original post the day after I took away all my daughters’ toys! It was very affirming. We have limited our clutter by the space that we have…when the basket is full of stuffed animals, we have to decide what to keep and what to give away. I can honestly say that my three daughters are no worse off for having less things. They take care of what they have better and are more generous with what they do have. They play with each other more and have become better sisters – they even LOVE sharing a room with each other. Love your blog and your thought process. Keep up the great work!

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup September 17,

      Thanks, Karen!

      Reply
  • Bree September 13,

    My husband and I both grew up with only one small box of toys. He grew up in the mountains with no running water and electricity. I grew up overseas as a missionary kid. We were both very happy kids. We want our kids to grow up using their imaginations like we did so we did this same thing. They each have a box and they love it. My daughter asks me to get rid of stuff. I think it is freeing to her for sure. My son only plays with toy cars so he sure doesn’t mind. Birthdays and Christmas do cause a clutter pile up though.

    Reply
  • Caro September 13,

    I found your website through that original post and fell in love with your blog! Here’s my problem. I love the idea. I have found that when I have less out, my oldest (4) picks on her little brother, instigating fights, because she is bored. She begs for the iPad or TV, and if I say no, she wanders around unable to find anything to occupy herself with. How did you overcome this?

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup September 15,

      I think it takes time for kids that have been overstimulated by toys and electronics to develop the ability to self-entertain. It definitely took my 4 year old a few months to stop being so restless. I wish there were an easier answer but patience and sticking to your guns are what will work (eventually.) You can also try offering two choices, such as “you can color OR you can do a puzzle” instead of a whole bunch of choices, and then when that activity is over, offering two different choices.

      Reply
      • Lavaida October 3,

        I have 4 children and am a former kindergarten teacher. What I have found to help with the “boredom” is to offer 2 or 3 choices on a wheel-type chart. They may do one activity for 10-15 minutes; that’s all. Then it is time to move to the next activity on the chart. This way they make 1 choice and the rotation is set for 30-45 minutes-depending on whether you use the 10 or 15 minute time slot. After that time, we do something together as a family (or class in my teaching days)-read, clean up, play a game, snack, outside, etc.
        Then it’s on to another wheel with the same cycle-1 choice, rotations, family (class) activity.
        Because the activity is close-ended, they don’t get bored with the activity and it has more value b/c they can’t do it either all day long, or choose it every time.
        I have many different wheels -or actually pie wedges that go on the wheel- for different ages or activities or places.
        Hope this helps,
        Lavaida

        Reply
      • kim March 28,

        Wow! I’ve been a working single mom for as long as I can remember. My 4 children (today) range in age from 24 – 30. When any of them got bored, I would simply say ” find something constructive to do or I would put you to work”….amazing how quickly boredom seems to leave! Those were always my two favorite choices.

        Reply
  • Anna September 13,

    I can relate to the children having too many toys. Even though we have not taken a lot of toys away, my husband and I have asked people in recent years to stop with b-day gifts and instead bring donations to which ever charity we have chosen for that year’s party. It always works out nice since the kids get to have fun filled parties with their friends and have realized it is not about the gifts.

    Reply
  • Charlotte September 13,

    Thanks for this idea! Since reading the classic Charlotte Mason books on raising children, I’ve made a rule that my kids (now 7, 5, 4 and baby) only have good quality toys like blocks, dollhouse and play kitchen. Plus tons and tons of (also good quality!) books! They don’t have nearly as many toys as any other kids we know. Even so, the dolls and costumes and blocks were always lying in piles on the bedroom floors. Today I remembered seeing your original post on facebook, so I found it again.

    I read the whole article to the kids, not saying that I wanted to do this. They LOVED the picture of the simple, clean room. Then my oldest said, “Hey, would you let us do that to our rooms? Then we’d never have to clean them.” Of course, I granted his request and we did it today. Our hall closet is stuffed to the gills with bags of toys, and I’ll need to do some sorting and better storage. But the rooms feel so open and fresh! I’m glad the kids feel like they thought of doing it, and they like how clean it is.

    Reply
    • B November 12,

      Great idea to get them involved in the process! Love this.

      Reply
  • Trina @ afewmineradjustments.blogspot.com September 13,

    I am so glad that I found your first article a while ago. I have been trying to minimize what we have in the house and that helped push me along. The boys and I purged a ton of toys in the spring and then more last weekend. They get some of the money from selling them, so it is a good motivator for them. And I too am finding that they are being more creative with what they have. They are also fighting less…playing together. I am in love with it and strive to continue the “less is more” philosophy!

    Thank you!

    Reply
  • Jess September 13,

    I’m 32 and I still have a box of My Little Ponies somewhere because my mother has guilted me out of throwing them away my entire life. Her house is filled with box upon box upon box of old toys/trinkets/etc from when we were all kids & she can’t bear to throw most of it out b/c every. little. thing. has sentimental value attached. So no, I think what you’re doing to your kids is the polar opposite of scarring them for life :)

    Reply
    • Casey September 14,

      My mom was like that too! She made the imprint on me that the stuff was the memories, now I’m just starting to realized how to stop this, and make it ok to get rid of things. My kids are benefiting already from this, not as much as her girls but lifes a work in progress right?

      Reply
  • Alicia September 13,

    So I found your blog via a pin for the black beans and coconut rice, which was an amazing side for our tilapia tacos by the way. Your first post on this matter kept catching my eye and I thought, “I need to remember that post, I’d love to do that with all of the toys in our house…” I just got around to reading it and I’m totally inspired. I have a 6 week old daughter and a 3 1/2 year old daughter and all day long my oldest says, “I’m bored, what can I do????” I go through the list of all of the things she can do and after it’s all said and done, she ends up drawing, playing play dough, playing Legos, playing in her kitchen or playing with random objects pretending they’re something else. This post has totally inspired me to have a chat with my hubby and see what he thinks about doing a great big downsize. I’m so over the clutter and her being bored. I love the idea of rotating toys so they have fresh use to them. Thanks so much for the encouragement. I’m definitely a follower of your blog now!

    Reply
  • Jen September 14,

    We recently moved and when we did we got rid of lots of toys, which was great. But now my boys earn allowance and they want to buy all the junky toys at Walgreens and cvs. They have earned the money and I want them to learn to make smart choices, but we are filling the house up with junk. The toys break and fall apart so they know that they are not good toys, but the can’t resist buying something.

    Reply
    • Casey September 14,

      My girly is like this, she’ll get money then want to use it right away, I’ve found its mostly because she dosnt have goals, when we started asking her if she wanted this cheap breakable toy or that really nice doll in the other store she’d generally say the doll and would use her money. Now I’m not saying this always works or that it didnt take a long time and a lot of teaching but it could be beneficial to give it a shot.

      Reply
      • Anonymous September 14,

        That is a really good idea. Thanks for responding!

        Reply
    • Anonymous October 12,

      I agree with the idea of setting a goal. I read an article that said money spending habits are formed by age 7. 7!!! So when my son asked for the “transformer collection” I quickly let him know I thought it was excessive and 2 things had to happen: 1. Save your allowance and buy it yourself and 2. Your existing toys have got to kids without any before you get the transformers. He immediately picked out some toys for the donate pile and he’s got $150 saved. Yes, my 5 year old saved $150 (lol). When I ask him how much he plans to save before buying the transformers, he gives a purposely unreasonable answer. I’m hoping its because the lesson hit home and he’s realizing that perhaps he should splurge months worth of saving on a few toys and then stay with no money. We are currently getting ready for the Christmas purge and adding to the donate pile. So far, that’s 2 toy purges, $150 saved, and no new purchases. Oh! And when he asked for the cheap cvs toys, I always graciously offer to take him back home so that he can get his money and offer to take him back to buy it. The answer is always no, that’s not what the money is for. Sometimes he cries because I don’t budge; but he gets over it 100% of the time. :)

      Reply
      • allowances? October 21,

        I am just confused on why kids gets allowances? I don’t have any children, but I never got an allowance as a child. If I wanted to get a toy (which I played outside most days with my three sisters and neighborhood kids) I would have to get all my chores and hw done and not get in trouble. I understand that teaching them how to handle money is important, but isn’t that what a first job is for? I would love responses!

        Reply
        • Sara December 27,

          First jobs don’t come until much later than kids need to understand money. I got an allowance as a child, but believe me, it was minimal. I think the most I ever got was $10/week, and that was after probably five years of allowances. We also had to save 10% of every allowance, and tithe 10%, as well as keep a ledger showing where every penny went. I was doing that at 6 years old! I didn’t have my first “real” job until I was 14.

          Reply
        • Carolyn December 29,

          These days it’s pretty hard to get a ‘real’ job before 18. Even 16 yrs old – pretty much the only thing my youngest bro can do is sweep up – can’t even do full janitor stuff at his climbing gym for a discount cause there’re “dangerous chemicals” in toilet bowl cleaner. My dad is a remodeller/painter and technically my bro isn’t allowed to help him in pretty much ANY way. No ladders, no paint, no drills, etc. And this isn’t even a union state. His only income is from mowing a few yards.
          I received a minimal allowance as a kid. I never got more than $1 /week. My parents bought the things necessary. Food. Shoes. Pants (once we got taller than our hand-me-downers). Etc. Wants were negotiated, or saved up for. I had to save half of the fee to go to summer camp. Babysitting $, lawn mowing $, dandelion picking $ (yeah, my mom paid 1 penny per dandelion and after a couple years had an almost dandelion-free yard with no pestisides!). My parents viewed household chores as jobs. My dad got paid for doing his job. So I got paid for doing my jobs. They never tied grades to allowance, tho.

          In order to graduate from highschool at my parents’ house, you have to be able to paint a room; from choosing the color, to prep’ing, to painting, to clean up. We also know how to spackle, sand, saw, drill, light a fire and cook over it, most of us (6 in all, 4 boys) know how to crochet and/or knit and basic sewing, cooking (some of us are well rounded and some prefer one aspect – I like baking better than cooking, unless there is fire involved; bro #2 is an award winning dutch-oven cook as well as being beloved by his church and co-workers for goodies/potluck).

          It was only as an older teen that I realized that we lived at or below the ‘poverty’ line. I NEVER felt ‘poor’. Instead of going to Disney like one of my friends (an only child) we went camping as a family. And I have GREAT memories. My sibs and I read books, played imagination games (space games while carrying wood from the woodpiles to the house, etc), worked on hobbies. For a period of time every month or so the four of us -2 kids per room – would swap bedrooms on cleaning day (looking back as an adult, I’m not sure how my mom played along!) We wouldn’t swap bedframes (tho we did rearrange them) but we did keep our own mattresses – one bro was a bed-wetter and no one wanted his mattress. So we learned to transfer more-or-less-quickly drawers full of clothes, toys, books, etc. A logic/engineering communication/problem-solving/teamwork puzzle on so many different levels. And yes, we had minimal toys. I still remember as a 4 yr old when my mom cleared out my bro’s and my stuffed animal collection – I think we got to keep 2 each. All the rest went into the attic and then they rotated. We complained, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t scarred! :-)

          We lived in town, but I felt like I had a ‘country’ upbringing in a lot of ways.

          I now live overseas – I travel with one or two suitcases for a year at a time. One suitcase for clothes that I can’t get overseas – long undies, a pair of jeans, a couple shirts, warm boots, wool socks – and then the second case was for a few Christmas things, a few presents/cards (no mailing address for a year at a time), some health and beauty products like a year’s worth of contact lens solution, vitamins, 200 movie/tv show discs in binders, favorite tea, etc. I then buy the rest of the things I need when I arrive at my new home, and when I leave, I’ll take a few small things for souvenirs for family/friends/self and leave the rest behind. It does seem wasteful at times to set up house several times. “Haven’t I ALREADY bought a _____ ??!” But really I can’t ship ALL THE THINGS around the world and back again. I know that being raised with a ‘less-is-more’ attitude makes my current life some much more angst free. Thanks, Mom!

          Ladies, keep up the good work as you strive to raise happy, healthy, productive, well-rounded kids!!!

          Reply
        • Stacey March 10,

          I have rwo children (6 and 8). My husband and I do not give allowance. We do, however, allow them to work for commission. They have a 4-5 chores that they have to keep up with for the week. On Friday evening we ask them about their jobs (along with keeping track of their success, struggles). If they have accomplished their job all week they are given their pay checks. Usually it’s $1 a job (about $4 a week). We help them split their earnings into tithing, saving, and spending. They have opportunities to earn more with extra jobs.
          Children need to be taught from an early age to manage their money. First jobs are good for re-enforcment of the concepts but training should start early.

          Reply
  • Cristina September 14,

    I agreed with your first post and I agree with this one even more. I think these answers you have provided will probably help some people understand why this is a good think for the kids, and not a punishment as some pelople would think!

    Reply
  • anonymous September 14,

    I am always fighting a constant battle to reduce clutter. I wish I could live more simply, with fewer toys all over the floor everywhere, but my problem is the holidays. For the entire spam of my sons life we have only given him a few needed items for holiday s, like clothes and school supplies. The problem is an extended family member. I get boxes full of stuff shipped to my doorstep for my child. At Christmas, hundreds of dollars of toys are given. I truly appreciate that they are so generous, and trying to show their affection. I just wish they would listen to what we actually need. I have tried setting up a college fund that they could add to, they never have. I have been reduced to trying to sell much of the stuff or give it away. I wish there was a better way.

    Reply
    • Anonymous October 22,

      This happened with my oldest son (now 21.). My ex and I were on a very tight budget throughout his preschool days, so we were very selective about what toys we bought. Not so the grandparents! It got to the point where he had nearly every age-appropriate toy on the market (duplos/Lego sets, cars, little tykes, plays skool….). It was almost impossible for us to get him anything he did not already have! One grandparent started ordering from specialty catalogues so her gifts would be more special & unique; the other countered by buying things far too advanced (like Star Trek collector watches, a REAL model train set, even a television!) telling us we could just ‘keep them back’ for him until he was older. Excuse me?? His room was stuffed as it was, and when a child opens. Gift, he wants to play with it now! This went on for years and eventually became a power struggle on all fronts. If we said no not only about gifts!- the grandparents attempted to pull rank and trump us. If we attempted to purge, they threw guilt at us and our son…. Or told him how cruel and unfair it was that we were taking his things away…. even though he would not clean the hoarder’s paradise he called a room! My advice: take control of that attitude of excess NOW and deal with it head-on! It also helps to instill a *giving* spirit and an attitude of gratitude in the kiddos as they give their stuff to churches, daycare centers, or less fortunate children. Good luck!

      Reply
      • Anonymous February 15,

        My husband’s late wife’s family is like that with “their” granddaughter (my daughter), we fixed it very simply by opening the presents before she did, showing her the inappropriate ones, then sending those back to them, and including a note with it saying, “Thank you for the thought, but this item really isn’t appropriate and (child) has asked that we send it back so that you can find a better home for this.” Amazingly enough, within 3 years, they call before every gift giving occasion and ask us what to send. They know full well, anything that isn’t appropriate will be sent back, and that within 6 months most things end up donated at the child’s request. We’re no longer getting whole pick up loads of gifts when her birthday rolls around, we’re not getting items that in our small town environment just aren’t socially acceptable, and we’re not getting things we’ve told them she isn’t allowed. It’s made it much easier to get her what she actually needs and leaves room for other people to buy her gifts as well.

        Reply
  • Carol S. September 14,

    This article reminded me of a friend of mine whose (then 9 year old son) once made the mistake of saying “Is this it?” after opening his Christmas presents. My friend, his Mom, vowed never to give him another Christmas present again. And she didn’t. Instead,, she and some of her friends used their Christmas money to start helping the needy in their area. The last time I spoke to her (years ago) they had raised enough money to have a big Christmas dinner (with gifts for these chiodren) for over 200 people and their families. Her son grew up to be a very fine young man with a strong conviction to serve Christ. It’s not the presents, expensive lessons, nice cars, trips to Disney , or any of theses extras that really matter in the long run. Keeping eternity in front of them. That’s what matters.

    Reply
    • Lindsay B November 11,

      I did the Peace Corps in Guatemala and spent a Christmas with a wonderful family (4 grandparents, 7 of their children plus spouses, and a small army of rugrats). It completely changed my perspective of Christmas and the American excess. They had 9 evenings of family activities leading up to Christmas, each night had a theme. The kids had a special activity related to the theme. One night the theme was grandparents; the current grandparents told stories of their grandparents, the kids made drawings of their grandparents, and I was able to tell them about my grandparents. The last night (Christmas Eve), the children were asked to bring a small toy. One of the uncles explained the importance of being grateful for the family, for the food, for the roof over their heads (“even though we don’t have a lot, there are still people out there with less”). For the children’s activity, the uncle talked with them about the kids who lived in the local garbage dump (homeless permanent garbage pickers). He asked them to wrap their presents that they had brought, and he told them he would bring all their gifts to those children. I was totally crying, the kids were engrossed in their mission to help others!

      Reply
  • Yolanda R September 14,

    It’s amazing what you have done. I have worked with the ages of Preschool/Kindergarten for ten years. I have seen the slow progression of kids who were full of imagination to kids that don’t know how to play. We have to teach them how to play with simple toys like Lincoln Logs or Legos. They don’t know how to make a simple ball or snake with homemade play dough. They can’t hold a pencil or a crayon. When my oldest son was born almost 15 years ago, I had NO parenting skills. I was young and I think babysat twice in my life. I didn’t understand those parenting magazines either. They made no sense to me. What I did know was that I liked to play as a kid. I didn’t have a lot of stuff so I used my imagination. I played with Play-dough with my son because I remember how much fun it was. Every time I bought some fancy toy, he had more fun playing with the box.
    I am no where near perfect when it comes to parenting, but I am happy that when my kids went to preschool for socialization (I struggled in that area), they knew how to hold a pencil, they had the attention span to listen to a story that the teacher read, they were content coloring and drawing, they knew how to create something out of Legos…they knew how to be kids.
    I am sadly the sad demise of kids that don’t know how to do any of those things. The kids that sit in front of a TV or play video games all day. I have teenagers now- and yes they play video games with the best of them- but when it’s time to turn off electronics, they can occupy themselves and not drive me crazy. :-)
    You are doing great! I wish more parents invested time in their children. God bless you! I am still learning…

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup September 15,

      Thanks Yolanda!

      Reply
  • Carolynne September 14,

    Children need love and attention more than a piece of plastic. I have experienced the scenerio above with my niece. As my sister is cronically unwell in hospital, she lives with my parents. She receives gifts from her dad, my parents, me and my partner and all the other family to the point where one xmas you seriously could not see the floor for the mountain of toys she got. Her response was to look at the gift for a few secs then rip into the next gift.
    We always try to take her out for ‘experiences’ instead of buying her something else. As my niece like many children I’m sure is a lovely girl, but is being moulded by an ‘I want and I will get’ culture. I also think this type of ‘keeping up with the jones’ way of spoiling children (sometimes, I’m not saying all parents are like that) can be very negative. I’ve witnessed other children being picked on in the playground because they don’t have the latest iphone….were talking 6 yr olds here. Six years old…shocking.

    You are dead right when you say your children still have a rich life as apposed to others in the 3rd world. I only hope I will be able to do a similar exercise when we have children ourselves.

    Reply
  • Ricki @ The Questionable Homesteader September 14,

    I loved your original post the first time I read it and I really love the one year update. Personally I think it is great. And I bet one of the side benefits is that you as a family are much closer.

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup September 15,

      Yes I think that is definitely a benefit!

      Reply
  • kathryne Wilkerson September 14,

    Hey! I discovered your blog in the last few months and have thoroughly enjoyed it! ( especially being a homeschool mom myself) I had already been through my sons toys and discovered that there were so many electronic toys that weren’t needed and he didn’t play with, so we purged toys, packed stuff up, and then sorted them. My son now has 7 small bins of toys that fit in his closet. He is only allowed to have 1 bin per day of the week. The only toys that are in his toy box are the few that were too large to fit in his bins. That way all the toys he has are played with and are appreciated the next time he opens that bin. I got the idea from my Aunt, she had done it with her boys and it seemed to work really well. I have taken some flack and odd looks from family members but it made me feel so much better to read your post about taking them all away. I now know I did the right thing and will continue to do so. Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup September 15,

      1 bin a day is a great idea!

      Reply
  • Jen September 14,

    I found your articles on taking your kids toys away on Pinterest and I felt compelled to comment! I am a nanny, teacher, and planning for my own children and couldn’t wait to call my mom and tell her about your articles I read! I am constantly battling toys with the children i work with and it is exhausting to say the least. after making my mother read your articles and discussing what a great idea i thought it was it turns out my mother had done the same thing when I was a child…. And I never even realized it! For the most part I am well adjusted and definitely didn’t suffer any damage, I didn’t even realized what my mothers plan was! Thanks for the interesting read :)

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup September 15,

      You’re welcome Jen! So glad to hear that you weren’t permanently scarred. ;-)

      Reply
      • Marcee ... ILLINOIS September 19,

        Hello Ruth. New reader as of today. Ohmy. Your blog is great. I’ve so enjoyed reading many posts over the past hour.

        Yes, I agree with Jen here. For some reason our few toys would disappear in a snap. Mom would take them away for awhile obviously. As kids, we did not have a lot of toys. I cannot even remember our mom even buying us stuffed animals. Nothing like that. We did have a few dolls. Grammie bought us a kitchen set. Our other grandma always gave me paper and crayons to draw. No toys though. On other level, I definitely remember playing with (many!) empty food cartons! You name it, I had it. Mom would give them to me most because I loved them all. To me each was so colorful and just fun to play with. Lining my “playfood” against the walls in our long hallway was my favorite thing to do!

        Thank you for all the wonderful advice Ruth!

        Reply
  • Anonymous September 15,

    I have been doing this for years and it works. Anything in excess cab be bad. We purge every six months and my daughter now decides what she can part with and keeps only what is truly important to her. We donate most things or sell then at a garage sell. She keeps the money she makes in her piggy bank. Love it.

    Reply
  • Cristina Festa September 16,

    I have been feeling like doing a similar thing in my home. After last Christmas I felt disturbed by the excess. My children received so many gifts, it was overwhelming and disturbing. This year I’ve already mentioned to a few family members that I only want them to get 1 or 2 gifts and I’d prefer cash for their college fund. I can tell my close family this but obviously it’s a little awkward to ask for cash from everyone. Last year I put away half the toys and brought them out one by one at a later time. Their cousins who are older rip open toy after toy and say “what else”. I don’t want that to happen to my kids. We have lost the true meaning of Christmas. We also have alot of toys in general at home. I havent’ been sure how to get rid of them, at least some of them so that they can concentrate on playing with a few higher quality toys. Thanks for sharing, I may take a lesson on your story and implement what you’ve done.

    Reply
  • Allison September 16,

    I am SO at this point right now! My 2 oldest boys, 9 and 6, don’t play with ‘toys’ they have now at all. They’re more interested in XBox, Ipod, etc. Our 3 year old plays with a few things, but really just leaves a big-ol mess that Mama has to clean up. He gives me the “I can’t do it” reply…yes, I know…I’m the Mama, I need to make him and I do it’s just so overwhelming because of all the junk!!!!
    Our house is also small and cluttered. I’ve taken steps this year to rid ourselves of a lot of my stuff (books, papers, etc.) and the toys are next. I don’t know why I’m so attached to them. I think it’s the thought of “Nana or GG bought that and it’s so cute” or “That really cost a lot of money, even if half of the pieces are missing”…at least I realize it now and can come to terms with giving the stuff away. I want to use this as a good teaching moment for my boys. Thanks for sharing…

    Reply
  • Yvonne September 17,

    Thank you for sharing this. I have taken away some of my kids toys, but I have been thinking about taking away more. I have 3 kids that share one bedroom. And it is easy for it to get messy. I am always picking up there toys. When I tell them to they don’t. It is tried to keep picking up toys. Do you keep books in there room? If so how many?

    Reply
  • Emilie September 18,

    I really would love to do this! Our issue comes in due to the fact that we have a blended family. My two step-daughters (8 & 4) spend the majority of their time with their mother, and then we have our two girls (2 & 7 months). My unfortunately the older girls’ mom’s house is VERY much about the stuff! They are obsessed with toys and tv, and their mom is the type that tries to “buy their love”. This is how they have been raised their whole lives, and how it will continue to be at her house. My husband is afraid that, this being the case, if we took away their toys (even to cut the amount in half) they would not even want to be at our house with us, since they’re constantly having the materialistic attitude and way of life reinforced. We have seen some of this cropping up with the 4 year old already, sadly. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions as to how to do this with a blended family in a situation such as ours?

    Reply
    • Anonymous December 26,

      I’m reading this blog for the first time, and when I saw your comment, I felt compelled to reply. I am raising a blended family as well and have dealt with the same exact situation. My two oldest are from my husbands first marriage. Their mom constantly tried to buy them and their feelings. My husband and I have two children together and I have one from my first marriage. That’s a total of five kids (4 girls & 1 boy) which equates to a HUGE amount of “stuff”! Our finances won’t allow us to buy them all the latest gadgets and toys so we chose a more simple lifestyle due to necessity. Both my husband and I grew up having mostly what we wanted (within reason) so it was a fairly new concept for us to do without.

      We found that we enjoyed the more simple life. The younger kids didn’t seem to notice since they didn’t really have anything to compare to. But we truly worried about the two oldest. We chose to make their visits normal. We didn’t do anything special, or plan anything exciting…I can hear some of you gasp but just hear me out… Our “normal” includes actually spending time with our kids…not spending time with us in one room with them playing in a different room. We play games together, watch family friendly movies together, bake or cook together, take long sight seeing drives, picnics and swimming in the river near our house, wrestling matches in the living room (amazing that a 3 year old can pin dad every time lol) …notice our whole concept reinforces “togetherness”.

      The two oldest kids that we worried so much about decided on their own that they wanted to live with us full time about 3 years ago. They liked that we made time for them. They enjoyed not having to spend every spare minute cleaning up messes or spend hours hunting for something in the piles of junk. Their previous consumeristic attitude was because no one had ever shown them that there was a differnt way to have fun. They didn’t know any better. (They were ten and nine at the time).

      I think that by reinforcing the idea that it’s better to do things together, rather than have things, you will be able to preserve the lifestyle you want, without trying to compete with the mother. Kids are very smart and figure thing out quickly. They know the difference between when they’re being bought and when they’re being loved.

      Reply
  • Christi September 18,

    I found your blog after a search for frugal blogs. This post was just what I needed to read to give me a push to further thin the herd of toys. Just after one day of a major reduction some donated some put away for rotation – I see a huge difference in how my 3 children are playing together and alone. It is wonderful. Plus the house feels so much better. I even thinks down the books too.

    Thanks so much. Your blog has really helped me in other ways. My prayer life and we are taking the 31 day no spend challenge. God Bless.

    Reply
  • megan September 18,

    Coming from the adult version of myself who grew up homeschooled with a mother who took everything away the same way you did to your children, I am incredibly concerned about your children. Now I am not saying that it will not be beneficial I can only speak of the damage that this type of parenting caused to me. I feel that before advising other parents to do this you should definitely have tried speaking to adults who grew up in this type of environment. At almost 30 I have been able to lead a productive life and raise 2 wonderful children who both know that just because we go somewhere does not mean they get something. If you instill the proper values in your children from the getgo there is no need for this drastic form of parenting. And to those who think I am saying this to be judgemental, I am not. By all means, raise your children how you like, just please consult a certified early education and development specialist before doing so. There are plenty of alternative options that we can recommend! And yes, I became a child development and behavior specialist because of how I was raised.

    Reply
    • Crystal October 25,

      Megan,
      Do you feel that as a parent, we need to CONSULT a child development & behavioral specialist in order to raise our children? What (beside the piece of PAPER you received for college) makes you feel you know better? I’m raising 4 kids and DO NOT have a degree, but have learned from trial and error! We have given plenty of toys and we have taken away plenty of toys. We ask the kids which ones to give to the church and which ones to keep and they are PERFECTLY fine with their decision. I was raised by a single mother who worked two jobs to provide for me. I had a lot of toys. I also had to watch my toys go to other kids because my mom sold them in garage sales to make ends meet. She still had to file bankruptcy, we lost our house and had to move in with my grandmother. But you know what? I didn’t grow up DAMAGED, I grew up knowing the value of items and knowing the LOVE of my family! Do you consult your fellow “specialist ” when it comes to the correct way to brush your child’s teeth or the correct way to bathe them. I have raised my kids the WAY I WANT TO, and you know what?? My oldest was Historian in her high school class and is attending college for Business Management. What we as parents would say about your “damage this type of parenting caused you” is that you must have been a spoiled brat!! That is what is wrong with society today , it is , people like you,who think you know better because you have a degree, that doesn’t make you any different from the rest of parents. What is taught in a classroom is a lot different then going through it in real life. I don’t think Ruth was by any means “giving advice”, she was just writing on HER blog, which she has the right to do. Because it is hers!!!!

      Reply
    • FL Mom January 7,

      Thanks for the perspective in your comment. It’s vague though. What do you mean when you say “damage” and “this type of parenting”? The blog owner seems to be closely monitoring her kids for adverse reactions, and so far, none have surfaced according to this one-year update.

      Reply
  • Steph September 19,

    I read the original post last year and love that you have chosen to give us an update. I will tell you that I see two very well-adjusted girls (oh, I am sure they have their moments of drama!) who will be so much better off! My youngest grandchildren have so much imagination and creativity and I think it is, in part, due to their parents limiting the “stuff”. No, they did not do what you did a year ago, but did set some toys away, then brought them down while others went away. Their parents read to them until they learned to read and both LOVE to read and I love their imagination. I love that they try and problem-solve. They don’t just give up on an idea when they can’t see how it’ll work nor do they look to adults to “fix” a situation. Sure, there are times when they have to have some input and ideas from adults but since they were toddlers I have seen them put their “thinking caps” on. I love it. Both do extremely well in school (one in 7th and the other in 5th) and I really believe it is partly due to not having a lot of distractions. Oh, I should mention that TV, video and computer time was and still is quite limited. For your girls, I see nothing but good as a result of your decision last year. I know you got a lot of grief over it but they are YOUR kids which some people seemed to have forgotten. :)

    Reply
  • Megan Thomson September 19,

    all I can say is thank you! I find this incredibly inspiring. I’m constantly frustrated by the mess my miss 4 creates and now know how much I have enabled her to be like that – time for a change! And time for a change in my stuff too. My world is constantly cluttered and I can’t wait to have a garage sale and get rid of most of it – with any luck thoughts of a sale will inspire our teenagers to do the same! Thanks so much!!!!

    Reply
  • Nichole September 20,

    I remember reading this post last year and loved it. I am very glad to read this update, so thanks! I support you 100%. There is research that suggests (as you say) that too many options (especially for young ones) are detrimental to their cognitive development (amongst other aspects of development). Of course, my family lives a life outside the mainstream so we are already pretty different than others but I see no issues with what you have done. We only allow a few wooden toys ourselves but I am considering putting those away too. Right on!

    Reply
  • Anonymous September 23,

    yesterday i was with my one year old baby boy at the beach. Without deciding nothing about toys I noticed at one point that we were playing in between other kids. While observing the kids play, I became aware that all of the kids had toys and were focussed on their toys while seeing my own baby (i forgot to bring a toy), I observed he was enjoying and laughing out loud while throwing himself in the sand, rolling over his belly, splashing his hands in the water, seeing the sea-shelves, touching the sea-weed on the rocks, and by coincidence I understood that it was i good thing i forgot to bring a toy. I will forget it more often. Less toys simply opens up not only kids but also grown ups to -life.. This blog made me be even more aware of which joys I would like to bring to my child. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Jennie September 24,

    Well, we did it. We finished going through and completely cleared out the kids toys last weekend. We kept a few select toys to keep out (their Playmobil and Legos–but only 1 brand of each toy will be out at a time) and we put a few in our attic and the rest took a happy ride to the Salvation Army. They seemed to not care. Over the past few days (most of the toys remained in piles of boxes in the hall for over a week) as we continued to purge their rooms, they happily played for hours with their Playmobil and reading books. So happy for me. :)

    We also incorporated the changeover of clothes for this weekend too which helped us get rid of many more clothes and there are more to go…now I’m getting ready to go through my room and our clothes. It is my desire to have a happy home where kids play with each other and spend more time being creative than cleaning (or fighting). It’s also my heart to spend more time playing with them (and sometimes just reading for myself!) than cleaning. Plus, when we move, there will be less to pack!! This has definitely inspired me to go through our entire house. Thanks again!

    Reply
  • VT Mama September 26,

    Have you read “Simplicity Parenting”? Kim John Payne’s book is invaluable (I have no connection or financial interest- just a fan!)- and a good reference to anyone who is asking “Why would you do this?” Love this blog, just found it today and I’ll be bookmarking!

    Reply
  • Angi September 26,

    I’m supposed to be reading your new book right now, but had to come over see these posts. :-) I think what you’ve done is what we all need to do in our culture of excess – limit the clutter that our children have. I’m not saying that everyone should take away all their children’s toys but we do need to be intentional about what we bring into our home. We’re raising a generation of children who seem to have to be entertained at all times and are very discontent. My children are 19, 17, 15, 13, 11…and 4. I can see that my older children have a level of contentment that most of their peers do not. I think there’s a balance between having enough so that our children don’t feel deprived and having so much our children are overwhelmed and ungrateful. Good job.

    Reply
  • Felice Clark September 26,

    I like in a small house built in the 50′s and our family has no choice, but to live simple because if we collect stuff, clutter is all over the house. We have experienced that less is more and I would have it no other way. There are times when live is awkward and uncomfortable because degrading to less things is not popular in our society. Many families give LOTS of stuff to their kids rather than spend quality time with their kids. People also forget that each family is different and what works for you may not work for another family. So……whoever has been bagging your efforts to instill values of gratefulness can pull the plank out of their eye! We are all trying to navigate this road of parenting and why can’t we embrace all of our efforts to mold our kids in the best way we know how. I hope you continue to find clarity with your girls!! It’s easy to write a bunch of complaints and such behind a computer screen, lol!!

    Reply
  • Julisa September 27,

    Less Toys less mess, I purge about every six months, about 2 weeks ago, 2 Large black garbage bags made there way to good will..1 play room and 1 shared bedroom, Moms alot happier, theyre is alot less mess and ALOT less clutter.. and I ask for NO toys at birthdays anymore!

    Reply
  • Morgandy September 29,

    This is inspiring to me. I have 3 girls of my own and hate the constant toy clean up battle. We have started asking for things like ballet lessons and such for gifts, but the taking away what they have already is a new notion. Thanks for sharing this.

    Reply
  • Valerie September 30,

    I came upon your blog about taking away all your kids toys a few months ago on Pinterest. At first I thought “why on earth would anyone do that?” Then after reading the whole post, it made a lot of sense to me. I was already rotating the boys toys because they had so many and the stuff they had to play with was always a mess. I would always find broken pieces from toys and things thrown everywhere.
    I’d finally had enough, and removed all their toys. I put them in my closet, if I left them in the hallway they would have just pulled them out again. When I did there were quite a few tantrums and screaming and crying but I keep with it. They began to play with each other and didn’t seem to mind the missing toys. They received the Lego back and a few other things later but that’s it.
    I have to sort and get rid of a lot of toys still in the garage. They will definitely not get anymore in their room. I might let them trade something for something else but that’s it. I have also looked at all the toys they get at Christmas and since I don’t want to end up back where I started, I’ve decided to cut back there too.

    Reply
  • Cassie September 30,

    Since your last post, I have gotten rid of a ton of toys. I hate toys with a billion pieces! I have also focused more on experiences for our four children. This has been such a great opportunity to be closer as a family, and focusing on US, instead of toys that won’t last. Despite what others say, this is a wake up call! If this doesn’t turn on a lightbulb for you-them you just don’t get it! Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

    Reply
  • Randall September 30,

    We have a rule in our house. For every new toy we buy, we have to give one toy away. There is just no space for all these toys. I don’t think you are depriving your kids. It actually a good way of teaching them.

    Reply
  • Jennifer October 3,

    Glad I am not the only “mean mom” taking things away. We purged a lot when we moved so that made it a bit easier. My one child still has a ton, but we just took a bag of toys and puzzle to the resale shop. The deal is my daughter gets to keep the money when she gets rid of stuff. She is 10 next week so a party is looming. About 5 years ago some parents started, and I copied them, a no gifts policy at birthday parties. Instead of gifts, you could bring a donation for theSPCA/Humane Society. My daughter, who loves animals, gets to take all the donations to the Humane Society and feel good about helping the animals (and if people donate money then the get a tax deduction). I mean, who need 15 more pieces of junk to trip over.

    Reply
  • Hj October 6,

    I have always been a less is more parent! I have only let a few toys come out at any given time and I have been doing this since the girls were one. We have a little bookshelf with a ton of books. In fact books are out in their bedrooms to have access everywhere they are. We also rotate all their 4 toys (not books) on a weekly basis and when I find toys they havent touched in that rotation i put them in a box. I may donate these ones too. We set up one of our storage rooms with shelving and space to put the overflow of toys and I go in there for the rotation. I love this post and i dont think it has any ill affect on kids but only to give them the idea to use their imaginations much more. Some days they dont even play with their toys and play with each other and put in puppet shows, play mommy and baby etc. great post!!! I do have to add it is so awesome to see how excited they get every Sunday morning to see their “new” old toys out again – it is like Christmas! I will also follow in the footsteps of – something they need, want, something to read etc for Christmas.

    Reply
  • Mrs. Waste Not October 7,

    We actually have the opposite “problem” in our house sometimes. My eldest daughter might save up once in a while for a toy and within a month she is ready to give it away. I think this is a problem only because she has not learned to not waste her money on it in the first place. I try to encourage using legos we have instead of buying a new lego friends set or making her own jewelry instead of buying a rubber band necklace kit, but that part of the lesson has not sunk in yet. It does make is hard at Christmas when someone asks what she wants – she is a child with no toys yet literally wants for nothing. I guess I got lucky with that one, because her little brother is very different!

    Reply
  • Kellie Hinze October 9,

    I love this! My son is turning 1 yr old soon and we are having a party with 50 or so people invited and that’s mostly just family! I would love to set the standard right from the start, “train” them so -to-speak on my preference of gifting experiences or financial support to his future. Do ya’ll have any tips on how not to offend and still get the point across?

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup October 9,

      I think as long as you explain that this is something very important to you, and you are looking out for your son’s best interests, you will be able to get your point across in a polite, and non-condemning way.

      Reply
    • Anonymous February 15,

      Whenever the chance comes up or the subject of kid things come up, comment (negatively) about how this friend or that friend has SOOO much stuff. I also find that making comments about how I don’t let the kids watch this show or that show because it’s inappropriate, or I don’t want them to have this or that because they’re not old enough or responsible enough for that yet, really helps. I’ve also had a box set to one side for the toys that come in and make it known to guests that the toys go in the box to go to the local women’s shelter. If someone refuses to put the gift in there until after “The poor baby” opens it, I let the child open it, look the adult in the face and then say, “Okay, they’ve opened it, now YOU get to tell them why that goes in the donation box.” (I make sure I do that last in front of the other adults.) By the time my kids are about 6, when someone gives them a toy, it’s greeted with eye-rolls and handing it back to the adult that gave it to them. My MIL asked my 11 year old why she rolls her eyes at getting toys and her response was perfect, “Because you know I don’t like toys, and Mama gets mad at me when she has to repeat herself too many times, but you’re WAY worse.”

      Reply
  • Denay Ryan October 11,

    This sums up everything I’ve been considering for a while now. My husband isn’t in the same boat though. He had very little growing up, because he had four siblings, and barely enough food to go around. He wants to give his kids everything now. I, on the other hand, was an only child. My parents, aunts, uncles, and family friends would give me mountains of gifts. My parents never taught me how to write thank-you notes, how to clean up after myself, or any other life skills for that matter. My father cooked, cleaned, and cared for the home while being self-employed. My mother was a school teacher and devoted her every waking moment to her job. When she came home, my father would find some excuse to “go to the store”, and not come home ’til the wee hours of morning, usually smelling like a brewery. I guess they tried to make up for their absences with gifts. Needless to say, I was always unhappy, because for one, I didn’t want my father to drink all of the time, and two, I felt like my mom cared more about other children than me. So, I’ve tried to make up for their mistakes by spending lots of time with my own children. I put myself through all kinds of trouble beginning in my tween years. I want my children to feel like they have someone to talk to. I couldn’t tell my parents anything, because they loved vocalizing their opinions and trying to make me eat their ideals. My opinion never mattered. So, upon reading your article, I have decided I should get rid of the clutter in my children’s rooms. Especially most of the toys which require batteries! I guess I’ll be having a garage sale and donating the leftovers to Goodwill. Besides, I prefer to cherish experiences and not be overwhelmed by materialism.

    Reply
  • Sandra from It's Tidy Time October 14,

    Simplifying your life in all of those ways must just feel fabulous. Only you can know what is best for your family and the guidelines you’re sticking to seem “good ol’ days-American” and I think it’s wonderful. Prayers are going out to you and your family.

    Got your book on Kindle too-thank you!

    Reply
  • Nancy October 15,

    Children are not capable of making decisions like this for themselves. As their parents, we have to do it. It’s our job. I just wish this type of decision would be made before they are born!! Children are not selfish and greedy unless they are conditioned to be that way. If parents would be less self centered, and parent their thier children instead of using them as a way to compete with others, or as accessories or props, the world would be a better place.

    Reply
  • NA October 15,

    you can ask grandparents’ to start a savings account in there Name, or a piggy Bank and they get to put there money in, then they can go to the bank and deposit., it shows them the value of a dollar plus they can spend on items that help in there education.

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  • Simone October 16,

    WOW! I have done this and opperate a very similar toy rotation system to you. My friends and family think i’m hard on my kids and my in-laws are horrified BUT its works for us and works for my children. I had no idea i was part of some “movement” until a stumbled upon your article and well…its nice to know i’m not alone ;).

    Reply
  • Stephanie Stant October 22,

    Kudos to you for doing what you felt was right for YOUR family and not worrying about what others think.

    I really think that’s part of the issue – so many people are way too worried about what others will think: what they will think about them as parents, what they will think about them as people (thus the need to keep buying more stuff to feel better about themselves and impressothers), what they will think about them as members of “the tribe.”

    My husband and I sold our home and cars and gave away or donated all our worldly possessions to spend time traveling the world and it resulted in changes in relationships, and loss of relationships, with some of our family members and friends.

    We were shocked! What did it matter to them?

    Then, when we tried to give away the items to many of the same people, the behavior we witnessed by some was hugely disappointing.

    We just wanted to feel freer, less weighed down by our stuff. You’d have thought we gave away their stuff!

    Kids don’t come with instruction manuals – we each have to figure it out as we go along. And, we need to do what WE feel is best for OUR kids, for OUR families. It takes courage to do so, and courage to fend off the know-it-alls who want to tell us how to raise our kids and live our lives.

    Again, kudos for doing what’s right for you.

    Steph

    Reply
  • Kit October 22,

    We have done similar with our four boys (ranging in age currently from 9-3). I found that the less toys they have at any given time, then the less bickering and mess making goes on. We now have a rotation of toy sets as well; if the lincoln logs come in then the legos go out, etc. It has helped quite a bit (though even with minimal toys they STILL manage to trash their rooms!)

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  • Bridget October 22,

    I’m really considering doing this!!! My 2 girls have way too many toys. They even have toys that I had when I was a child. I’m so tired of fighting with them to keep their rooms cleaned, they don’t put things away b/c there’s just so much to take care of, they have no respect for their things or others (mainly my stuff)!!!! My only hurdle will be where to store the toys!!! We don’t have an attic that we can use, the basement gets damp and moldy. We have 2 small closets (one of which I already use to put toys in to rotate) and the other has their clothes in it. I know we’ll need to get rid of stuff and that it will be easier to store less stuff, but I just don’t know where to store it yet!! lol!!! Going to have my husband read these articles and praying that this will work. Would love for my kids to use their imaginations more, be creative, read books, crafts….like the Waltons!! :) Their house was always clean, the kids did their chores, they had a few things they played with or were special and life was simpler!!!!!! I can dream right??

    Reply
  • Megan November 2,

    I love this! My son is 2 and we have always tried for a small number of open ended toys. (I think we are mostly, though not 100%, successful.)
    I do have to say that one answer you give just makes me sad. Once again someone is telling me what I already knew. This process never ends! Arghh! Stuff never stops coming, we just stop being slave to it. While I know it is worth the effort I sometimes wish we didn’t have to be so vigilant and that society would get just on board. lol.

    Reply
  • Justine November 4,

    So refreshing to read! I am a mother of a 17 month old son and I already think he has too much.
    He would rather play with wooden spoons and whisks, pots and pans and whatever he finds than play with his beautiful toys. Your post has given me the strength to purge his toys! Yay for wooden spoons and crayons!

    Reply
  • Katie November 5,

    That was just your poor teaching of value from the start of their lives. It’s the same to say that slaves will be more productive workers if you take away their freedom. What does this teach your children? You are at fault because you weren’t consistently coaching their over-valuing worldly positions and then just took it all away to “solve the problem”. Childrens’ personalities are almost completely shaped by age 5 and their resentment may come back stronger and worse than you can imagine when they are old enough to speak for themselves. I don’t see how so many people are blinded by these words of a controlling woman who convinced her husband this was a great idea and then wrote a blog about it to gain support to be reassured that it was in fact a fantastic, effective parenting decision.

    Reply
    • chel December 3,

      I agree. It seems it’s all about her cannot her daughters. She never explained anything to them or asked them how they felt. Just let them figure it out for theirselves. Well since they’re quiet then she won. They probably did not ask for anymore toys because they thought they were in trouble. I feel very sad for them. This is not the way to do something like this.

      Reply
  • Anita November 5,

    I have done this as well and need to do it again. I usually pack things up and wait to see if they are missing anything that way I can retrieve the missed item if needed before donating. We have also used the story of St Martin (Martinmas is coming up soon) to prepare for whole house purges and relate St. Martin giving his cloak away to our finding things to give away to those in need.

    Reply
  • Anita November 5,

    I tried to edit my last post to add: There is a really good book called Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne in which he walks through the whole process in a gentle way that can work for even the most sentimental children;)

    Reply
  • Kristen November 6,

    I love this. I’ve been debating doing this for years, but I feel a bit overwhelmed by where/how to start. Any tips? Also, do you have any advice for dealing with kids that are against it? We recently donated a few toys to our church, and my kids had meltdowns. They are great about cleaning up and actually playing with what we have, but it is just way too much!

    Reply
  • Anonymous November 6,

    I don’t see how rotating toys is “getting rid of them.” Getting rid of toys means they are gone! We were so poor when my son, now 18, was younger that he was limited to $1 matchbox cars which I still have-every one of them. He was given more expensive toys as he got older such as Gameboy. He was artistic and loved drawing, guitar, and making movies. We didn’t buy him a computer nor tv but somehow he scored both from yard sales at neighbors’ homes )on other blocks, we did not know them) and for free!! He tinkered with a few, learned how they function, etc. while he was in high school I had his youngest sister, who is 4, making for 3 sisters! So, even though we were much better off by then, it was spread around at holiday time. I don’t buy gifts for my kids-ever-so Christmas I double down and at their birthday I buy a toy or two or three, depending on how much money I have. What happened worn my son, well…although he never asked or begged for a toy, clothes, or item, and that included during high school where having “cool stuff” is so important to them, he came into quite a bit of money upon graduation. He then went out and spent it ALL on “toys” he thought so important such as an expensive camera, new computer, etc. I believe that no matter a child’s response or how you demonstrate family time importance over “stuff” and never make a “thing” out of having less than other kids; even when you see them enjoying the natural world around them and being creative and exploring and observing what appears to be a “carefree” attitude regarding the lack of stuff; even if you espouse saving money (which I did, at the time pointing it all toward college and what he would need there) and so forth……people, not parents, have to deal with their own innate selfish desires. If its not equipment it’s stuff of another sort-cooking items, stuff for the car, travel gear, camping stuff, the list goes on. To say that these children are learning any lessons here is absurd. You won’t know until they grow. Teach them anything about anything (greatfullness, kindness, charity, hard work) and they still can turn out greedy,unthankful, lazy. My son, and daughters, are wonderful people, and wanting things whatever they are is not a character flaw, but honestly the outcome is a mystery. It’s no great success until they mature completely and they can quantify their beliefs.

    Reply
  • Kandi November 8,

    Hi Ruth,
    It seems like each time I’m browsing around the good ‘ol internet or pinterest – I keep finding my way back to your blog. I have enjoyed all that I have read so far! Thank you for sharing so candidly!

    I have had a similar experience with the kids toys, and similar responses – we don’t have to clean up as much, etc. Another thing that we have implemented that I feel like has been really beneficial is that there is a specific storage area in each kid’s room for toys, and once that bin is full then they must decide what they really play with and what gets donated or sold – both the kids LOVE this! They tell me they don’t play with something and want to get rid of it. My older daughter also has a scrapbook, a box, and a folder for special work and keepsakes, and she enjoys choosing which things get tossed and which are special enough to keep. Recognizing that there is only “x” amount of space helps them to make choices about what is important.

    This came, for me, from the experience of my parents having to sell the home we grew up in. That home had an attic that alone was as large as our current house. In about a month, I was required to go through boxes and boxes of memories, some I never even knew about but were suddenly sentimental because I knew I’d never have another, as well as furniture, etc, all with a limited place with my own family to store it. It was a very painful process, but motivated me to consider that holding on to so many things for sentimental value is often a form of idolatry or fear. When we trust that God brings things in and out of our lives in season, meeting all our needs, we don’t feel the need to cling to so much “stuff”, but rather focus on a few important items and cherish the things that really matter – PEOPLE!

    Thanks again for your post and blog! I appreciate the encouragement!

    ~Kandi

    Reply
  • Mel November 9,

    I’m a new reader and am feeling so encouraged by your original post and your update. (THANK YOU for the update; it’s so helpful to see the long-term results, consequences, etc.)

    I’m Aunt to 11 Munchkins – 9 in one family, 2 in the other – who gets to spend a lot of time with the littles. Although I’m considered the most organized/least cluttered in the family, I still feel like I have way too much stuff, including the toys kept here for my weekly night with the Munchkins (aka Sissy Night). A couple of months ago, I began scrutinizing what we do on Sissy Night because it felt “off”. Turns out, we were basically saying hello, eating supper and watching a movie, and making a big mess with the toys, then they would go home and I would spend an hour or so cleaning before falling into bed. NOT what I had in mind. The first change was no more TV. Now we talk while eating supper – starting with sharing a good thing that happened during the week. We also spend about 30 minutes reading aloud. I wasn’t sure how that would go over since their ages range from 18 months to 14 years, but they LOVE it. We skipped a couple of weeks because we were attending other events those evenings, and most of them asked if I’d brought the book and when we’d start reading again. Even in the middle of a neighborhood Halloween party! I’m delighted. :)

    After reading your two posts, I’m feeling more confident that the urge to purge the toys is legit. So long giant messes!

    Reply
  • EricS November 15,

    Many parents don’t realize how resilient and observant their children are. You may not notice and it may not seem like it, but they are listening and seeing EVERYTHING. One of the incredible things about children (all of us have been there), is that they are highly adaptable. Some easier to coax than others, but they all adjust when put in certain situations. I know a lot of parents who spoil their children, because they are afraid they will get mad at them, or won’t love them anymore. That’s not a true love of a parent. We’ll disappointment our children from time to time, and usually for their best interest. But they will always get over it. When one door closes, another opens. And we can control what that other door is. As Ruth said, let experience and knowledge be their gift. But a toy here and there is always appreciated. ;-)

    Reply
  • Laurie November 17,

    Thank you for being courageous enough to post this and stand by it! As we approach Christmas, I have to put up blinders in a sense so I don’t get overly discouraged by all the “gimme gimme more” chaos! It’s encouraging to know there are families out there like yours, focusing on what really matters. I don’t have kids yet, but if/when I do, I hope I can start raising them this way from the beginning. I currently have a 2 1/2 year old nephew who already has more toys than any one child needs. So I have committed to give him books or charitable gifts from now on, even if I don’t win any “cool aunt” awards. I spent time in Haiti a couple years ago and you don’t come back from that without a different perspective. I stayed at an orphanage where kids have next to nothing. But those children were safe, sheltered, fed, clothed, educated, and loved. Compared to many children in Haiti, they were rich. And they were some of the most joyful kids I’ve ever met. It was a humbling experience for me. Stuff does not equal happiness!

    Reply
  • Maria November 20,

    LESS IS MORE! I think you said it right when you said our children are overwhelmed with stuff! Having less helps them use their creativity more. Whenever “gunny bag” takes toys away at our house, they don’t even know what went missing! And everyone’s happier to not be cleaning up a huge pile all the time. We just moved and downsized and it has been a great blessing.

    Reply
  • Anna November 23,

    I just want to say I totally agree… less is more. I have two kids a 5 and 2 year old. This past summer I purged their toys and since then I noticed they have been fine with it. In fact they hardly have any toys. They love playing make believe. They love their dress up clothes and make up games with those. Since I have gotten rid of the majority of their toys they have been happier. My cousin who had her first child a month ago visited and was shocked with how little toys my kids have. Her 1 month old has more toys than my kids and he can’t even use them yet. More things does mean you are happier. My kids love playing outside and using their imaginations and I’m fine with that.

    Reply
  • Amanda Jensen November 25,

    I want to start by commending you and your husband for taking this step; I think it is wonderful! As a mother of three children; 5, 4 and 2 year old, I know exactly what you are talking about. Last year for Christmas my husband and I decided that we would were going to begin buying vacations for our children instead of toys. It has evolved into birthdays as well, now our children get to have a special date with mom and dad for their birthday; sporting events, zoo, park, whatever they want to do we will try to make possible. It has been very difficult to get my husband and I’s parents to get on board with giving “experiences” instead of toys for gifts. Hopefully we will begin to see a change soon. Our children love to dress up and use their imaginations, I think I may pack up all their toys and leave out their dress up clothes and see how a week goes! Thank you again for this amazing post!

    Amanda Jensen

    Reply
  • erika vann November 26,

    I just purged my daughters room and have two large garbage bags of toys that are being donate. I kept very little with the exception of her build a bears. Which has a special. Shelf. These are something she loves and is s special treat when she does exceptionally well on something like the first time she got all a’s on her report card. I have been trying to declutter this past year after having to empty both my grandmother’s. And inlaws homes after they passed away. It was a very stressful time for me and I don’t want my family to have to go through that stress of trying to figure out what do do with all that stuff. Letting go of your loved ones treasures is very stressful. Trying to go through 80 years of accumulated gifts from kids and special friends that passed away was hard. I decided that I didn’t have room for all that stuff so. I took pictures and put memory. Cards with them of who gave her these things and why they were special to her. Then gave some things back to who gave them to her kept a few things then sold or donated the rest.

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  • Jennings December 2,

    Eleven years ago we stopped giving our kids gifts for Christmas (except stockings) and started giving them a trip – my husband and I talked about our childhood Christmases, and we both remembered what we got one year. But we remembered all our family trips. We also asked our family to limit gifts to 3 per child (which was a big downsizing for my mom and grandmother) and no toys. Rather, we asked them to give books, art supplies, sports equipment and the like. The kids have loved it, and “the Christmas trip” is a huge thing in the family – they start asking around May what we’re doing. A lot of people have told me they loved the idea of the years, but no one has ever done it for fear of the kids reactions. My suggestion is to plan the first trip before you tell them, and then stick with it. It doesn’t have to be expensive – we’ve done cruises, but we’ve also gone to visit family. But it needs to be a fun family time so they want to do it again.

    Reply
  • Katie December 2,

    Taking cues from a friend, and talking to my daughter beforehand, we included a special note in her birthday invitations this year. It stated that , in lieu of gifts, she would like them to choose a gift to be donated to the local Children’s Home. Her birthday is late November, so this is a perfect time to make donations before Christmas. One child did bring a gift to donate, and one for my daughter, which was fine, but I was so impressed that my daughter didn’t seem bummed or upset to see the large box of toys that weren’t for her. Haven’t had a chance to deliver them yet, but I’m hoping she can see the place and experience giving those gifts herself. And of course not having all those gifts stay in my already cluttered house is definitely a bonus.

    Reply
  • Katy Waldrop December 5,

    I’ve really enjoyed these two posts. I was a packrat that married a clutter hater, and I am so thankful for changing over to his side! ;) I grew up in a completely messy house. There was literally always about a 2 foot mound in the middle of my bedroom- and that lasted until college! But the best childhood memories for me were not playing with whatever stuff may have been in that pile, but was playing in the woods with my brother and our friends. No clutter there! Just leaves! I’ve discovered later in life that having my own clutter laying around just makes me angry and no fun to be around. We purge our kids stuff on a regular basis and they do just fine. We keep a “toy store” in our garage and when they want a different toy, they know that have to take one out of the house to exchange it. It saddens me though, that my hubby has spent so much time on keeping the “toy store” organized, that it sometimes leaves him time for little else on an off day. I’d rather just get rid of it all and see what wonderful things could happen!

    Reply
    • Anonymous December 28,

      Love the idea of calling it a “toy store”.

      Reply
  • Elizabeth Velderman December 6,

    I love this! We really need to do this in our house. Not the best time of year to think about it – right before Christmas presents start flowing in and all. My problems is that we have 5 kids, 11 to 8 months. So there are baby, toddler, preschool and big kid toys – for both genders – all around. I try to limit it to legos, dollhouse, etc, but I swear these toys are like bunnies, always multiplying! And books, oh my! We are a family that loves to read, which I am thankful for, but finding spots for birth – adult books makes me feel like a librarian sometimes.

    Reply
  • Jodi from Tickle & Hide December 19,

    I’m so glad I found your blog! I’m a bit of a fabric-aholic myself and so this year challenged myself to a whole year without buying fabric. It’s helped me use what I already have, and be thankful for it. I still have so much left! So I’m also hoping for more simple shopping habits when I buy again next year.
    I’ve been toying with the idea for about a month now of trying to do the same with my kids, and struggling with feelings of guilt. Going on my own ‘fabric fast’ was just about me and my self control. But this would be asking our family (who sound a bit like your sister) and kids to get on board. I hate the amount of stuff we pile up EVERY visit from family. I hate that my kids ask their grandparents “Do you have any presents?” before they say hello or ask how they are. I feel like I didn’t choose this!
    Your posts have given me courage to do this as the adult of the house, rather than asking my kids if they would like to (though I will involve them in the discussion). And it’s given me courage to blog about it and discuss it with my extended family. Thank you!

    Reply
  • helpme December 25,

    I am stuck with the loads of presents and consumerism heavily against my will and am on the verge of suicide. I can’t change it and everyone things I am a horrible prick. Man I am tired of it.

    Reply
  • Pamela December 27,

    I applaud your commitment to your children and your choices! I so wish I had done something similar with my children when they were little. Another blog I follow has the four gift rule for Christmas – something they need, something they want, something to read, and somewhere to go. They change it up some for the birthdays and substitute a “forever gift” – something they will have forever and take with them once they leave home – I love that!

    My husband and I have had multiple discussions over the years about how much some children have and don’t quite appreciate it. I am a teacher and see the enormous amount of gifts my students receive from their parents and just shake my head because most of them don’t appreciate the gift at all – it is a social thing to see who has what and how much it cost.

    So kuddos to you! Living with less is not all that bad and helps you appreciate what you do have!

    Reply
  • Anna December 28,

    LOVE your site! I know you have gotten a lot of negative comments on this topic, but I admire you. It’s not you took away the food, or cut of the electricity LOL It’s just toys. I think it’s great. I stripped down my 16 yr olds room down to the watch on his arm and made him earn it all back after I found out he was watching tv in the middle of the night and watching you tube at school instead of doing his assignments. He learned that lesson well. I have threatened to trim down my 9yr old daughter’s toys, but can’t make myself stick to it. You inspire me!!

    Reply
  • Ashley December 28,

    I’m a little late to comment. I stumbled across your original post a few months ago and am just discovering this one now!

    I think what you’re doing is incredibly inspiring. I grew up in a house with next to nothing and am too trying to compensate for it with my own children. I do, however, limit toys but it still feels like too much. And if I get rid of too much my children will resent me.

    This isn’t true. We live in a world filled with the need for things, and I am done with it. It’s just after Christmas and time to start a new year of thinking and doing. So thank you, thank you so much for posting these. You have given me the ultimate push to finally change my family’s way of thinking, and for that I am extremely grateful.

    Reply
  • Miriam G December 28,

    Hi!
    I live all the way in Israel, but found your post on a friend’s facebook wall.
    The idea of minimizing your daughters’ toys is inspiring! I am also in favor of trying to purchase as few things as possible, whether the reason be not knowing where the things come from and what happens in the process of it being made (human labor abuse\harm to the environment\people\animals), not wanting to contribute to the masses of garbage thrown away all the time, or simply saving money and just living in a simpler way, not letting modern media get it’s way with trying to convince people they need things they don’t.
    Hearing a real-life story of how this way of living actually changed your lives and made you guys spend more quality time together and be able to focus on specific things instead of having a million distractions, makes me believe even more that it is possible, even when you have kids.
    Does not sound at ALL like “you are depriving your children” (like you said people commented). The opposite! You are enriching their childhood!
    -Miriam

    Reply
  • Deme @ House For Five December 29,

    I’m reading this late as well, but it’s so timely being right after Christmas. Last year I felt a strong conviction about all the STUFF we had accumulated (both us and the kids) and how there was a constant feeling of needing more. I started with my closet and over a couple months was finally able to really purge and go down to a 30-piece wardrobe. Giving away the 4 garbage bags full of excess in my closet was so freeing and it opened my eyes to other areas of our lives where we had been clinging to material things. My childrens’ reaction to gifts/toys/new things has been an increasing concern and reading your experience is so assuring. Especially the part about having your spouse on board. I don’t think my husband is as ready as I am to get rid of all the toys but a trial period and rotating out toys after a good purge is a good place for us to start. I’m sorry to hear of all the negative feedback you’ve received and appreciate you being willing to take it in order to encourage someone else!

    Reply
  • Alexis E. December 29,

    I applaud you! I’ve personally battled the stuff until I was going crazy. We did a 50% reduction, and I continue to purge. I’m getting ready to eliminate a bunch more since we just had the holidays. One things we asked for instead of toys were books and board games. Also, music is big in our house! I find I enjoy my children more when I’m not constantly having to nag them to clean up. They probably enjoy me more as well.

    Reply
  • Laura @ The Salty Kitchen December 30,

    I just read this, and I’m so glad I did. I am about to go on a serious kids’ toy purge, and your article really hit home with me. My happiest moments while watching the kids play is not when they are putting Legos together (Legos – the bane of my existence), playing video games, or watching a new movie. It’s honestly when they are playing together, pretending with wrapping paper rolls, or putting slinkies on their wrists as space-age walkie-talkies. You have inspired me! Thanks so much, and have a great New Year.

    Reply
  • tracy December 31,

    I read your posts and had a little bit of a sad reaction. It would be like someone else taking away all your things. Kid’s toys, books, and play things help them learn and grow, toys have been a part of childhood for literally hundreds of years. I just took my youngest to the toy store, she picked a stable of 4 horses for her birthday. We made a cake, she helped wrap it, her grandparents came over and brought presents, her sister got her a few things. These are the things she will use to play and learn this year. I think everyone should get a few things they want. I know I like my material things, there is nothing bad or evil about possessions. I am typing on a laptop, I enjoyed a tv show, I will read a book. All things. All leisure time, a post industrial gift for the masses. I am frankly happy not to be farming 12 hours a day with my little kids laboring alongside me, from sun up to sun down. I enjoy having time to learn, create, play. So do kids. Why is there a need to make kids pay the cost for adults feeling of excess and waste? I would imagine your kids are the only ones in the neighborhood with only one toy out to play with. I live under the poverty line, trust me, all the poor kids have more to play with than your beautiful girls. Why not let them have some games, books, play doh, stuffed toys, etc, along with a $100 doll that doesn’t do much? Having toys will teach them what they are interested in, sharing and playing with each other, learning boundaries and creativity, and having their wish for something they desire be heard and answered in learning the love language of gifts and material things? Just because you have a love language of time doesn’t mean one of your girls might not really need and be validated by the gift of a toy they desire and would cherish, as a token of your love and support of their personal interests and hobbies.

    Reply
    • FL Mom January 7,

      The headline on the original post was more dramatic than what actually happened. I didn’t get the impression that this family got rid of all the toys & objects from the kids’ room. After the initial shock & awe, it seemed more like “let’s start with a clean slate and decide what we really want in here.” They discarded broken or outgrown items and then put the frequently used items on a rotation. The parents also don’t seem to be in a “never give anything to you ever again” or “you’re not permitted to have anything ever again” mode. I’m guessing that whenever the kids do ask for something, they talk about the thing and what it’ll be good for and then decide to get it or not. I doubt that they’re just automatically “no no no.”

      Reply
  • KeLeigh Versiga December 31,

    My mother did this with me as a child… I was always doing art projects and would leave my room a mess when I’d leave for my dad’s. Apparently her and my step dad reached their breaking point one day and I came home to everything besides my clothes and sheets packed into boxes. I eventually got it all back and by the time I did I was completely OCD and couldn’t stand my room being dirty or disorganised. To this day I still hang my clothes by color and even the shirts to my underwear in my dresser and ROYGBIB (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Black) Lol

    Reply
    • KeLeigh Versiga December 31,

      And with that said, if I ever see my children getting out of hand I will do the same. My four year old step son knows he’s allowed to play with one toy at a time and has to put that one up to grab a different one. Teaches discipline and teaches him to keep his room tidy. When he gets in trouble his toy goes into the “toy time out” box and stays there until I believe he’s earned it back. It’s made a drastic change in his over all attitude.

      Reply
  • Lorzel January 2,

    I applaud your longing to raise your precious ones in a world that is simpler…I also have struggled on many occasion with what is TOO much and and how do we get one another as a family to focus more on what God whats us to find value, purpose in…However I have also learned as a mommy who’s children are now grown in their 20 somethings..Your children actually will grow up to long at times for what they did not have and get and they will choose to do life much differently than their childhood memories gave them, sometimes the very things we long to teach our children actually do quite the opposite…..(In the same way you and your husband are longing for simplicity, which is different than what you knew)…As you noticed your daughter longing for what she could not have in the Dino toy… Life is like this really, it’s not perfect and as mommy’s and daddy’s we just do the best we can with what we know…What I found so much more value in in this life with my kids was all the serving we did with them. the giving away together for others..We did not take their toys or personal items, clothing, shoes away as much rather had them choose from them all what we might give to other families, Mexico trips, garage sale drives for tornado victims, etc. Having them participate in the process of giving seemed to excite them into thinking outward…They make me so very proud and all my poor mommy decisions made along the bumpy way of parenthood seem quite distant really in comparison to how my kids teach me some of the most valuable lessons by how they live so much better in their choices today…Blessings in all our attempt to know God greater, deeper, richer, fuller…and long for His grace and Mercy to guide our steps..

    Reply
    • Erin January 8,

      Lorzel – I love your comment! My dad is a minister and so we grew up helping at different churches, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, etc. But I have many more ideas for ways to serve and give from your comment that I would like to incorporate in to our family as our children get a little older! I have been in conflict over the stuff issue for awhile – the pros and cons of having toys and not having toys, and what is enough, but not too much. Seeing your comment has given me a little peace about our children having these things, but encouraging them to spend time serving and giving as well.

      Reply
  • Kristin January 2,

    I absolutely love this post! I don’t have children yet, but I do shop for my boyfriends 2 nephews & we are always very focused when we buy them gifts. When they were babies/toddler age it was always some kind of educational or musical gift & now that they are school age we usually buy them a piece of clothing or other item they need & a book.
    I was an only child, but my parents were never too well off. I honestly loved my childhood & appreciated everything I had. When I wasn’t outside playing I kept busy with bookshelf full of books, board games, legos, some barbie stuff, a light brite & an easy bake oven (all of which I still have & everything is in great condition ready for my future kid(s)). When I was older I did get a TV in my room & they bought me a sega genesis which I knew was a really big present . I never had any problems being stuck to the TV playing my video games or watching TV & still got plenty of other use from my toys. As an adult looking back on my childhood I say “oh I remember I never got that new cool electronic thing,” but my younger self was actually content with what I had. I’m always working on being thankful for what I have & only purchasing items with a use, not something that will sit idle for months before I remember I even bought it.

    Reply
  • Sheelah January 5,

    I applaud you on your decisions. My husband and I travelled across Africa for a year in a vehicle – completely self-sufficient. Everything we needed or wanted was confined to the car. We reduced and reduced and reduced as we went along – less is more. We were so happy to be clutter free! Now we are committed to maintaining simplicity in our lives as we re-integrate to living in a city again. You don’t need “Stuff” to make you happy. Being happy comes from inside. We also prefer to spend our money on experiences …

    Reply
  • Amanda January 5,

    So glad I came across your posts! I decided last year not to buy the kids anything but essentials (even for birthdays) and I stuck to it. Everyone has different parenting styles!

    Reply
  • Carrie Taylor January 7,

    What a great idea! I have scaled back tons on my own kids toys and my oldest, who is extremely possessive, has calmed down tremendously with the decrease in toys. I cannot give up everything of theirs while they are looking or else there will be meltdowns and screaming, but we have made an agreement that works for our family and that is what you did, and I believe what you did was the best thing for your kids. My kids know now that if something breaks or doesn’t get used it goes out the door. Old toys go to kids who don’t have toys, and they are now okay with it. So keep going for the thing that works for your family, that is why you are their mom and not everyone else in the world. You are doing great! With this my husband and I decided to take the money my parents give us for Christmas for our kids and set up savings accounts for them. They love to save money and pay for their own things at the movie theater because of this.

    Reply
  • Erin January 8,

    After getting over my initial shock that taking away all the kids toys is even an option…I am now in the pondering phase of whether or not this is a good decision for our family. We have three children. Our oldest daughter will be four years old next week. Our middle daughter is autistic and will be three years old in February. And our son is our youngest at just six weeks old. With our middle daughter, so much of the occupational therapy with her autism therapists is focused on playing with toys, flashcards, etc. At this point, she doesn’t appear to use her imagination much, if at all, and she is still almost completely non-verbal. We have gotten so many different toys, puzzles, games, etc that are geared specifically towards autistic children, and she is making good strides as we do scheduled play together with her and her sister. I don’t know if we would be able to effectively teach her the cognitive skills and social skills that she is lacking without toys/objects. Do you have any advice on a form of this method for a household with a special needs child? And how to explain it to her if we only had one toy to play with at a time?

    Reply
  • Kristen January 9,

    It’s a great idea, should be applauded. I do the same, on a smaller scale, with my 2 children. Would like to do more. Believe the children play better and are not as overwhelmed when have less available. Encourages imagination, sharing and more conversation. When the children are tripping over toys because they have so many, then there is no doubt that too many have accumulated. I have a hard time purging books but feel would have the same positive effect. We have access to a wonderful public library so would never be without extra/different books when needed. I have an adult who is close with me, was raised with an abundance of everything,.. Toys, books, jackets, clothing, shoes. This person now is never satisfied with what they have. Always wants something newer, bigger, nicer, more expensive. Never is content. I believe that teaching children to be happy with what they have is VERY important in helping them to achieve future hapiness. Of course, hard work and goals are important too, just don’t think they should have constant WANTS or get their happiness from a new purchase.

    Reply
  • Amanda January 11,

    Seriously – good for you! Truly inspirational. To heck with all these nay-sayers. PARENTING DONE RIGHT! Nevermind leaving a better earth for our children – we need better CHILDREN for our EARTH. In our society today – it is so refreshing to see SOMEONE finally buck the trend! Kids need more experiences, not MORE THINGS. My son received snowboots, a sled and a bike (that’s it – just those things) for Christmas, because he needs to be outside where little boys belong (obviously not in a snowstorm, but you get my meaning!), getting dirty, ripping his jeans, and coming home with toads in his pockets. He is the happiest four-year-old and I’m constantly asked how he is so happy all of the time! My two-year-old niece received a LeapPad Ultra + 75 other toys for Christmas from her parents, and is the most misbehaved little girl there ever was. There is a difference. Thank you for sharing. God Bless.

    Reply
  • CJ January 12,

    Very interesting…what about ipads etc?

    Reply
  • Chelsea January 14,

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post. I read this and portions of the original post to my 8 yr old son and 5 yr old daughter and they were encouraged to do the same. We already rotate out toys for how small our space is. We are in the process of waiting for fund raising to come through so that camp we work for can build the “director’s house”. What a change it will be to go from such a small space as we are in now to a 1900+ sq ft house with a basement and separate bedrooms for the kids and a school room for our home-schooling. Both of my kids were excited to have less to pick up. I had already taken note of the toys they tended to play with most (Did you know that HALO Megabloks and My Little Ponies mix well together?) and we decided on what to put away for later. MY daughter had received two American Girl style dolls for Christmas with a TON of clothes and accessories between myself, my mother in law, my mother, and my aunt. It was almost overwhelming. So she played with the dolls but rarely changed their outfits or pulled out any accessories because there was just too much to keep track of. She was thrilled to put most of the clothing away keeping a few favorites out and just a teapot and two cups for the dolls. The box of clutter is safely stashed away for when she is older and more organized to play with all the other things. My son was happy to put away matchbox cars and other accessories that went along with this since he has been playing with the few small lego vehicles he received for Christmas. It is always refreshing when I declutter an area and you were the inspiration for getting my kids on board with it too. Thank you so very much for your posts and know you are not alone in the search for declutter as you tend to shop more and find bargains that are hard to pass up. It is a lesson I am learning too. Too often I think if I don’t get that bargain now then when am I ever likely to see it again? But I know better than to spend that money irresponsibly too. It is a war in my head. So I am learning to be more patient. I think this is something that God is never done teaching me. I am always learning. And thank goodness He never gives up on us! Thank you again! (Our camp is http://www.phoc.org if you would like to see what we do)

    Reply
  • emily January 18,

    I have considered your post often since reading the original as my girls have grown. I love how committed you are to teaching your girls gratitude and encouraging their creativity. It is hard work! These posts help me see that we aren’t totally crazy because there are other people who think and act like us!

    Reply
  • Anonymous January 21,

    I LOVE THIS IDEA! Good for you. I have three very far apart in age children, 19 , 15 and almost 7. 7 year old is so discontent and he t has a room full of toys that he seldom plays with. Even stuff from Christmas is already sitting disconsolately by the wayside. I think we will pray about trying this. Love the less consumerism mindset and more focusing on the experience. I think his biggest deficit though is the lack of siblings his age. And we’re not having anymore:)

    Reply
  • Amanda January 24,

    This past Christmas, my mom asked me what she could get for the kiddos. I told her that all the littles wanted was a family membership to the children’s science museum that is 20 miles from our house. In a month I will be getting memberships to the zoo, the local theme park and several other attractions in the area. My children loved this idea!! I only got them two things each for Christmas, and spent a total of $20 each. I am saving the rest of what I usually spend for all of the awesome memberships that will give us a full year of fun that will never get old or broken or lost.

    Reply
    • Jenn January 25,

      Amanda,

      What an inspired idea! Annual memberships for the children in places like the zoo, planetarium, museums, and cultural centers is such a wonderful way to let family members get children something they will get to value all year without adding to the pile. Thank you so much for sharing!

      Reply
  • Amanda January 24,

    Hi Ruth,
    I just want to say thank you! Thank you for posting this so much! I have been on the fence for a LONG time about taking my kids toys…well at least most of them. My husband says to take them all away and only give a few things. I find it hard because I am home all day with them and I’m worried about what will happen lol…sounds kind of ridiculous, but just my worry. However, last week for the umpteenth time of asking my kids to help pick up their toys and not doing it, i took them away. The next day they got a small box of toys to play with, and you know what…they pick up their toys now. Thank you for sharing how you feel about it and your success with it. For the people who are concerned that kids will be scarred by not having toys, I will say I have been scarred by having to much as a kid. I had soooo many toys it was not funny. Now I hate stuff! I cannot handle when there is too much, and I border on being claustrophobic. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it is all because I had too much stuff when I was a kid, however I feel it contributed to it. I strive to keep my house simple and clean, and having less stuff helps to achieve that. So thank you thank you thank you!

    Reply
  • Jenn January 25,

    Like so many others, I found your original post and the followup on Pinterest. I am preparing to adopt my first child in the next year and these are the kinds of lessons I’m hoping to implement from the beginning. Thank you for taking the time to talk about why you made the decision you did and what the effects have been. The process of preparing to bring a child into the house, no matter the method, is daunting. You’ve given me some excellent insight and I value that.

    Reply
  • Lauren January 25,

    I love what you did and I have been talking to do the same thing…. even my husband said we should box up their toys… they never play with them anyway! My question is movies and TV. What do you do? We have no TV, but we have movies, short movies. We are very very very strict as to what they can watch. What do you guys do about that?
    Blessings and I’m sorry if people were judgmental… but it’s not about anyone else. <3

    Reply
  • Melissa January 26,

    Ruth, I just stumbled upon your website yesterday and have been reading since…. I’m hooked. Reading more of your blog was the first thing I wanted to do this morning with my cup of coffee! All I have to say is AMEN SISTER! You have written and shared everything I have wanted to do, but didn’t know how to start or too scared to follow through! I love your passion as well as follow through and look forward to adopting your simplifying techniques! Thank you for sharing your life experiences, ideas, and expertise. Your blog has entered my life at the perfect moment, and I look forward to continue reading. Love that you took the toys, support it, and agree/feel that consumerism and clutter definitely overwhelm both parents and children…..in the end causing stress and or anxiety. Less is more!! What a great lesson to teach our children self control, to self entertain, contentment, and to explore their imaginations!

    Reply
  • Esther January 28,

    hi! Thanks for this. You are inspiring. I have two kids, and am about to go through all their toys and organize/ toss stuff, so it’s interesting that I found this blog right before I started that project. A few years back their was toys ALL over my house so I got a garbage bag and put in all the toys that were on the floor, I then put it in the closet and found it again right before Christmas, it was interesting to me that none of those toys were missed. I do love watching my kids play with toys because they use them to make up stories and it’s adorable. I however am fairly tight with them and only allow them one toy at a time, and then that has to be cleaned up before they get out another, I’ve also tried to get rid of any toy that doesn’t belong in a big set, (like random ones from quarter machines) and I don’t keep any toys in their room, they usually have to ask me. This has reduced the stress soooo much. I do need to go through it all again as we’re starting to get cluttered again. So like you said it’s an ongoing thing. My kids are soooo creative, and I’m amazed how much they can play and what they come up with to do when they aren’t playing with toys. I love to watch them, they’re sooo smart.

    I think you’re first post would be interesting to try, to just take it all away… hmmm…. I don’t know if I’m that brave. I can see how if thise was done with anger, or blaming, or if you put a BIG negative spin on it that it could do some damage emotionally, (like if you said over and over YOU LOST ALL your toys, and you’re never getting any back ha ha ha, I’m so SICK of cleaning up after you, you lazzy bum, ext ext.) but from your post you sound like you are putting a very strong focus on the positive, and that by doing so you are using this to show you’re kids what’s really important. Which is great! Way to take a potentially stressful situation and turn it into something positive that you’re kids can learn from. I have to make sure to do that when I organize their toys. :) I love the thought that it’s your life and if you don’t like something about it, change it, and make it a situation you can enjoy.

    Reply
  • danielle February 4,

    I really like this idea. We have restricted access to toys when things are not taken care of but after another day of finding the closet a complete mess and stuff everywhere I have made the closet off limits. They still have a porch full of legos and I am still working out what all should go in the closet but I know my boys have more toys than they can enjoy. They get overwhelmed with the pick up. The wanting of every new toy does bother me. Your idea is very tempting. Thank you for sharing. I think you did a beautiful thing.

    Reply
  • Tracey Cardwell Roberts February 9,

    I saw a friend’s post on Facebook and have just read through all of your posts about taking the toys away. Bravo! We (my kids, me, my husband) always feel like we are drowning in stuff. It is so hard to keep it clean and organized. I read your words and could imagine how good it would feel to live in that simplified/pared down environment. Thank you!! I am inspired!!!

    Reply
  • Dianne February 9,

    Incredible!! We too are on a simplify-life “diet” and it’s not easy, but wonderful!! Freeing!! Amazing how much stuff you and your kids can do WITHOUT! My boys know the clear difference between wants and needs. They are much more thankful and appreciative of the little things that mean the most in life, and for that I am very proud. Wish more people got on board with this and realized how important “Less is more!”

    Reply
  • Emma T February 14,

    My husband would love to do this. Every so often he’ll go on a mammoth clear out…usually of my things. He never believes I’ve cleared out our son’s toys when he’s finished with them, but then will continue to buy more tractors for him to play with.

    I’m not sure we could go this extreme, but it’s definitely something to think about for us as a household in general.

    Reply
  • Mignon February 15,

    From my heart thank you for this great idea. It is inspiring and encourages me to try it out myself as my husband and I also often feel that our family is drowning in stuff. So thank you for sharing your experiences after this brave decision! Mimi

    Reply
  • Rhiannon February 15,

    I am a mother of two young children (ages 4 1/2 years and 8 months). I am not blessed with the privilege of being a stay at home mom. I would love to be, but our finances does not allow for it right now.

    I work as a teacher. I get up at 6:30 am to be at work by 7:30 am. I work till 3:30-4 pm and then collect the kids and come home. I walk in the door only to be reminded that my work day has not ended.

    The clutter to remove and the things that need cleaned often steal me from what little time I have in the evenings to be with my children and husband. If I ignore the cleaning to be with my family the house is not just untidy but a complete disaster. If I clean I lose time with my family.

    I go to bed every night exhausted and wondering if there is a better way to do things.

    Then I read your blog! My husband has often threatened to throw away my daughter’s toys. This idea has appalled me in the past, but as I read your blog things popped up in my mind.

    My daughter is the queen of commercials. She knows every jingle, there isn’t a toy she hasn’t asked for after seeing it’s commercial. And while she doesn’t get everything she asks for, this excessive want worries me.

    I try to clean out her closet and room (she has no toys in her room besides stuffed animals, and then she has books). Her toys are in the basement and she rarely plays with them, because she’d rather be with her family than in her play room.

    Your blog makes me wonder what I can get rid of that she’ll never miss and begin to instill in her imagination, creativity, contentment, a wonder and awe for the world around her, and if I can get it started with her will it be easy to continue it as her brother gets older?

    I’m sure it wouldn’t take much to get my husband on board, but this will mean purging our things along with hers.

    Thank you for you post, it lets me know if I go through with this I won’t be deprive my child but enriching her life.

    Reply
    • Frances May 6,

      How about starting with getting rid of the commercials?

      Reply
  • Lisa Rusczyk @ 50 Things to Know Books February 16,

    Thanks for this post. I am still working on this and I am glad I am not the only one.

    Reply
  • Sarah February 19,

    I enjoyed your original article and was glad to come across your follow up post. My struggle right now is with our 13 year old daughter. She has TONS of clothes, most of which have been hand me downs. It is a constant (and unsuccessful) battle to have her keep her clothes put away. About a year ago I had her start doing her own laundry thinking it would help with the try it on and throw it in the dirty clothes problem….sadly it has NOT helped. Anyway, I have made the decision to clear her room out (toys, clothes, etc.) to the bare minimum in hopes of making it easier for her to get organized and stay organized. I’m just wondering what your thoughts on are how much clothing I should keep in her room (how many shirts, pants, etc.) Any input would be greatly appreicated.

    Blessings from Greensburg, IN
    Sarah Eckert

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup February 24,

      I would suggest starting off with a weeks worth of clothes in your daughter’s closet and then you can both work out a plan on guidelines for increasing this number.

      Reply
  • Annette Bowdrey February 20,

    I am a mum of 3 (12, 8 and nearly 4) in Leicestershire in the UK. I am also a childminder with my husband as my assistant. We work from home every day from 7.30-6.30 Mon-Fri looking after children from 8 months to 11 years at the moment. As childminders we are finding we are having to keep hold of toys which our own children have grown out of to accommodate the other children in our care. I am desperate to seriously reduce the toys we have but am finding it a constant battle to know what to keep and what to get rid of. The children are not all good at keeping themselves busy, many of the older ones are very dependant on screens like iPads, laptops and TVs to keep them entertained. We limit time on these ‘toys’ more and more as we see they are bad for our children’s development, but children who are used to using these things to keep busy find it nearly impossible to be happy without them, so I guess I am even more afraid to take away toys in case. I find with nothing to keep them busy behaviour gets worse and worse. (This was supposed to be a short response!). Anyway, I have decided to not give up hope of getting rid of half our stuff, I started to have a go last year, but somewhere along the way stopped again). We are extemely short on space for keeping hold of things we don’t want to get rid of just yet, so it’s hard to get around to moving things out of their current place and away from the kids. Thank you for your inspiration!

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  • Meredith February 27,

    I have to say…I read both this post, and the original, and they are both so inspiring! I am working towards decluttering in a big way, and I agree. I think my kids have too many toys and therefore, feel overwhelmed by what to play with. Since I’m re-doing the playroom right now in an effort to move more toys out of the bedrooms, this has inspired me. I like the idea of putting things out of their reach and only getting one thing at a time down, and I think it will bring a lot more free time to my life as well. I spend so many hours picking up after them, and it’s taking away from time I could be spending WITH them. Thanks for the inspiration. Sorry to hear that people were so judgmental, but as a fellow blogger myself, I’ve realized that it’s easy for people to judge when they sit behind a screen, and I admire anyone else that is willing to share things they’ve learned with the world regardless of the backlash that may come. That takes courage. :) Going to follow your blog now, because I want to learn more about your story seeing as I only popped over here for this one post.

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  • Jess March 5,

    I’m a few years away from having kids myself (not even married yet, but I’ve heard rumours!) but I know I want a big family. Stumbled across your blog in Pinterest and I love it, really makes me excited to bring little people into the world!
    Always tried to give experiences myself where I can, we got our friend a trip to feed penguins at the zoo once! They always remember that more than some chocolate!

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  • Just Trixie March 6,

    I know this is an older post, but I just want to say that I applaud you and am just a bit green with envy for your accomplishment. My family moved from Colorado to Texas three years ago and it took an entire 53′ moving truck, PLUS two rented UHaul trailers to get all of our stuff here. You might think I have a really large family to justify that but we are THREE. THREE!!! :( Unfortunately, I will not be purging anytime soon either. If moving three states away and having to spent a mini-fortune on moving trucks/trailers didn’t cause my family to want to purge some of the un-necessary from our lives, I can’t imagine anything that will. **sigh** Anyway, I didn’t intend to write a sob-story here. I just wanted to say thanks for sharing, some of use must just live vicariously through folks like you. :) Have a good day.

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    First off I commend you, not only for doing this for your girls but also for staying strong through all of the negative feedback from the original post when you started this adventure. For all of the people who said you should have fixed yourself first because your girls learned the behavior from you. I say, just because I struggle with a problem doesn’t mean I’m going to sit back and watch it manifest in my children so that they can battle the same struggles when they are adults. Your children would grow up and look at you and say mom you struggled with this issue and you passed it on to me and now it’s my battle, instead your children will look at you and say thank you mom for recognizing you struggled with this problem and then saving me from continuing the cycle. Congratulations on a small step of success in the right direction in a world that is speeding in the wrong direction.

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    Tried for years to figure out what to do about all the toys.Thank you so much for posting this on your blog.I try to live minimalistic my self and now I can teach my daughter the same:)

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  • Tina March 14,

    Wow! Thank you, I am a mother of 5. 4 much older children and a 3 year old who is growing up like an only child. And just last night I experienced the disappointment my child had over not getting a toy at the store. My husband try to explain to her (a 3 year old) she can’t get something every time. But all night she just could not let it go. My older children had to share more and we were not as financially stable as we are now, so things were different. I think it’s time to make some changes because I want my baby to love life not stuff. Thank you for a great article and an awesome update.

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  • Monica March 16,

    I haven’t gotten rid of a single toy since my 6 year old was born. She only has a few favorite toys that she plays with and everything else is on the floor. We tangle up about her cleaning her room constantly, and I am tired of stepping on sharp little things every time I walk into her room. I really don’t think she would miss most of those toys – and I get stuck cleaning her room after she gives up. A couple of days later it is a wreck once again. I have threatened many times to get rid of all but her favorites and she just shrugs. I have been wanting to do a trial run of this idea for the past year, but it is quite overwhelming – I can just imagine how she feels when she goes in there! I think I am finally going to take the plunge this week because I think it bothers her just as much when she has to try to find a place for all of the stuff she no longer plays with.

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  • C March 24,

    I’m new to your website, discovered it through a grocery blog on Pinterest.
    I have 4 children and do agree that too much stuff can be overwhelming and add to their greediness. My children have great imaginations and I would say that is because of their limited screen time and the kinds of toys that they do have (Lego, dress-up, dolls).

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  • Sara March 26,

    Hi I just read your blog because a friend posted it on facebook. I am a nanny for two 2 year olds, a four year old and a 7 year old. they are from two different families so that has made things very interesting trying to blend two very different styles of parenting plus my own beliefs. One family, while they have a lot of things, keeps the house very neat and tidy and i’m there two days a week. While the other family has a ton of things and does not keep there house clean at all!!! Like the house is sticky they don’t even have bibs. So I have been very creative in everything that I do when i’m there. I have more then I need in my own life but I also constantly purge to keep my things to a minimal. Oh how I would love to do this at there houses!!! But I have come up with a similar technique to yours and I only let them play with one or two things at a time. If they want to play with something else they have to pick up what they already have out. And yes the two year olds pick up all the toys by themselves. We do make a game out of it and I will tell them things such as who can find the red block and so forth but very rarely do I pick up after them. We also spend a part of every day reading and yes I do let them play a game on my kindle but it is all about spelling and learning there sounds of the alphabet. They absolutely love it and always are asking me if they can spell more words there are usually tears when I tell them that our electronic time is up. But my point is kids need very little to keep them busy and are happier when there are less things to fight over which make for a happier day for me as well. I’m glad you wrote about this and I am going to talk with one family about taking the things they don’t need such as, cloths that are too small or toys they don’t want, and putting them aside so I can teach the kids about giving to others by packing shoe boxes for operation Christmas child. I have wanted to do this but don’t have the money to buy everything to put in them so why not let them send on and pick from there own things to share with others. Thanks again.

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  • Rosalind March 27,

    I don’t know if this will be answered, since the original post was written so long ago, but I’ll try: I LOVE THIS!!! I do a massive toy-purge every birthday and Christmas, and it always leads to boxes and boxes of STUFF that we end up giving away. I love your guidelines for what will stay, and I try to think of that myself (also, another commenter used the quote: “Keep nothing which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” — I love that, too!). My husband and I are totally on board with this, my kids (2 and 3) don’t notice or care, and our apartment is too small to do things any other way, anyway. My question is, in-laws. (It always comes down to them, doesn’t it?) They LOVE buying toys, clothes, books, candy, you name it for our kids, and I know it would really hurt them to be told — No more! Is it more loving to accept all the gifts I know our kids don’t need and then subtly give away the ones we won’t use or to tell them up front our preference? (I wouldn’t normally have a problem with being straight with people, but my in-laws are particularly sensitive and set in their ways, and my parenting has thrown a wrench in the works several times already. I love them, but we certainly don’t see eye-to-eye. Also, I didn’t grow up with grandparents or any extended family close by, so I’m not used to the inundation of stuff that comes with five grand/great-grand-parents living right here!) I know this is very long, but it’s something I’ve had a problem with since our oldest was born, and I can’t quite figure out how to strike a truly loving balance. Thank you!!!

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    • Jennifer G March 31,

      I am having this same issue with my inlaws. They live next door, so they feel they must give gifts for every holiday. My mom lives out of town so she usually just mails money for the major things like Bdays and Christmas. Since Easter is fast approaching, I think I am going ask that my MIL take the money she would spend on an Easter basket for each boy (that she doesn’t need to provide anyway because that is for the PARENTS not the grandparents to do…but I digress), and put it in a safe place to use later in the year to buy them something nice (instead of cheap crap) for Bdays and Christmas. She also always spends around $5 each on greeting cards to go with the gifts, I think I will ask her to put that money toward gifts also, because kids don’t care about greeting cards, and I am not saving potentially hundreds of greeting cards for the next 20 years until the kids are old enough to feel guilty about throwing them away and thus put them in their own storage units.

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  • Norma March 27,

    I applaud you. I’ve always wanted to do just that but fear that it may affect my kids negatively. You have inspired me. I usually threaten to do just what u did but never follow through. I think the key is that u were calm although fed up. Not angry. Great job!!

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  • Jennifer G March 31,

    I love this idea. Right now my 6 yr old son lost most of his toys (all of them to begin with) because he dared me to take them away. He got his Legos back first because they are his favorites, and that kept him occupied and content. He has recently asked for his Army Men, which I keep forgetting to retrieve for him and his Nerf guns. The Nerf stuff was on top of the box, so I was able to get those back for him this past weekend. I have a couple of learning toys in the boxes that I will keep for little brother and a few toys that are my husband’s from his own childhood that will be pulled out and packed away, but I think we will be selling the rest (and quite a few of little brother’s toys too) to a resale shop. I think from now on gifts will be mostly consumables, like art supplies or activities that we can enjoy as a family. Now if I can just get my inlaws to understand that the boys don’t need $5 worth of useless trinkets for every.single.stinking. holiday. I will also be packing up what is left of my own excess toys, but I have been systematically purging my own stuff for a few years. And then we will work on my husband’s stuff…he says he is ready.

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  • Lauren April 3,

    I love this idea. My children share a room and they have accumulated so much stuff that I could probably cover the floor of our entire house and still have more stuff to spare. The problem I think I would have with something like this is that I am remarried and they go to their father’s house every other weekend (and summers), and he feels that he needs to buy their love. Any suggestions on how I can simplify their lives when they have a father that overloads them with expensive toys (Nabi – like a Kindle but for children, Nitendo DS 3D’s, etc.)?

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    • Ruth Soukup April 4,

      If you and your Ex are on speaking terms and you feel comfortable you could share this post with him and then talk about how each of you feel regarding the topic of toys, gifts, etc… If not maybe try to have guidelines at your house and do the best you can. Divorce is hard.
      I wish you the best of luck!
      :)

      Reply
  • Sarah R. April 5,

    I read your blog (both this one and the original) and it struck a cord in me. I had been contemplating doing this for some time before I read your blog, so reading it was the push I needed. Even still, I waited and talked it over with my husband and a good friend before I pulled the trigger. I gave the kids (6 and 4) a 2 day warning and told them why it was happening. They cried, but then when the day came, they eagerly helped to clear out the toys and put them all in the playroom. I reminded them that I wasn’t throwing anything away; we were just going to take a long break from so many things. I left the following things in the rooms for them: books, 1 coloring book and crayons, blank paper, stickers, 1 stuffed animal, and one special thing for each kid (a doll for my daughter and football cards for my son). They also have free access to the board games and books that are in the playroom. My plan is to leave the toys in the playroom for an extended period of time. Then, once the dust settles, I will let them each pick 2-3 toys to put back in their rooms and everything else will go to the Salvation Army.

    Since doing this, my kiddos are doing great. There are no tears or depressed kids. They play imaginitve games, are being creative, playing with each other, and LAUGHING!

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  • christine k April 21,

    I’d like to know how this is going for you another 6+ months later. I just stumbled across your original post (and then followed the link to this one), and I love it. I have the problem of buying way too much for my children. (well, I did when I had a job!), and *I* get stupidly sentimental over silly stuff and they end up with more than they need. I strongly believe you can’t have too many books (Ever), but there has to be a line somewhere! I’d love to get rid of so much of this…

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  • maz bourke April 21,

    Very inspiring! Im in the process of decluttering the house and not buying none essential items.
    We are all feeling a scense of freedom and clearance. Thank you very much for sharing your story and giving hope that its does work

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  • Jan H April 30,

    Hi Ruth, I just stumbled across your blog because of a Trim Healthy Mama link led me to it. I absolutely love this story and I am looking forward to discussing something similar with my hubby. Our kids don’ t keep toys in their rooms. We have a large family room with many toys, but I notice they hardly ever play with them. I feel inspired to make some changes in our home now. I really love the idea of only taking one or two things out at once. And I completely agree with you about being more worried about our stuff obsessed culture over not giving them enough. That has never been a concern. I think I’ll be reading your blog more when I have the time. Thanks so much for sharing this story of simplifying. I love it and we need it too!!! God bless you Sister. :)

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    I realize I’m late to the party here and I’m all for keeping the number of toys manageable, but I’m curious about the business of only allowing one toy — especially one brand of toy, like playmobil or lego — available to the children at a time. My son plays most creatively when he has access to all his active toys. The Lego gets used to support the marble tower. The dinosaurs make tracks in the playdough. The magnatiles make environments for the hexbugs…I couldn’t in a million years think up this stuff for him. We limit his exposure to advertising because I want him to figure out what he wants on his own, not because some marketing agency sold it to him, and I feel the same about his toys: I want him to play the way his mind works, not the way a toy manufacturer packaged their product. What say you to that?

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    What a great idea! I certainly need to try this for all my ‘toys’, and my 4 teenagers can have a go too. It doesn’t take long to become overwhelmed with ‘stuff’! Roll on the weekend… I’ll take it one cupboard at a time!

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  • Sheila May 13,

    I am very impressed with your story of showing ‘less is more’ with your children’s toys. When “stuff” becomes too important in a child’s life or an adults life, we need to stand back, re-evaluate the situation, get our priorities straight and correct it. As parents it’s important to teach our children what are the really valuable and meaningful things in life. No one wants a selfish, self-centered, “it’s all about me” type of child. Have you ever heard a parent complain, “Oh, where did I go wrong….my child is so kind and giving toward others!” : -) Our children first need to see that their parents are not caught up in the trappings of “stuff”. A self-centered parent can not teach a child how to be giving, kind and compassionate toward others if it is not displayed first through mom and dad. I commend you and your husband for acting on this right away and seeing the deeper problem and desiring to correct it out of love for your child instead of saying, “Oh, well…” and a few years later having a teenager out of control with a selfish attitude. I regularly receive compliments in stores, restaurants, etc. on my “well behaved children”. It didn’t just happen that way. It begins with a lot of love, direction and guidance. My children learned at a very young age Ephesians 6:1. “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” My children want to please us and they want to please God. Even when mistakes happen, they know they are still loved just as much and we try again. Our children are our precious gifts, let’s put our very best into them!

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    I applaud your actions! First, it’s your right to do as you see fit. I also think that your children will grow up all the more intelligent from using their imaginations, and grateful for the blessings they have. I only want to caution you abut storing the dolls up in the attic for too long. I grew up in Louisiana, where it’s hot and humid. Some of my dolls were faded and bleached from the extreme heat. Perhaps yours is better insulated than my parents’ was, but still. My beautiful dolls aren’t preserved very well.

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  • At Rivercrest Cottage June 22,

    I have a lot of respect for your determination to avoid the pitfalls of over-junking your kids. My daughters are grown women (40, 36, 34) and all three have been readers all there lives. We went to the library 2 or 3 times per week and they got to check out one book for each year they were (1 for the one year old, 3 for the three year old). Looking back, their lives were filled with books so there wasn’t much time or need for junk. All excelled in school thru college and looking back, I think I owe it all to the library and lack of money for junk. I am working on purging my own stuff. I tend to keep things thinking I can make something out of it! Keep up the good work, you are an inspiration.

    Reply
  • Sarah June 27,

    I am on the side of applauding you :).
    I actually stay pretty decluttered (as compared to many people), yet when I went IN on my kids’ rooms (and mine), I filled 12 trash bags of donation items (and I just cleaned out rooms in the Spring).
    Most of their junk comes from relatives buying it, not my husband and me.

    I put 90% of the toys we kept on the top shelf of their closets. Only once in 3 days has anyone asked for a toy…..and that was Legos (I kept some down, though).

    Anyway….I am very pleased with the result. My kids haven’t noticed, but their rooms are staying tidier since they’re not just throwing junk down on the ground for fun.

    Thank you!!

    Reply
  • Leslie C July 5,

    Love this. Sadly I will say I have done this multiple times at moments of frustration, but ultimately I will say we are on the same path. I wish that I would approach this more as a plan than at points of frustration, but either way I have seen lots of benefits in our life over the years. I have 3 boys, so how things play out looks a little different, but ultimately it has worked out well and I love it!!!!
    I will also address the idea of gift giving (birthdays, Christmas, etc.)… I have found that people are going to give gifts (especially family members). I try to request things that my children actually need and will use. Last year for Christmas I requested backpacks from one aunt and uncle (we homeschool, so they don’t get used a ton, but they are a necessity and a well appreciated gift). Also, children can always use clothing and art supplies so those are always easy and creative.
    My mom has been a bit more difficult. She loves giving educational and practical gifts, so I can always count on good games, a family pass to the local zoo or museum, and matching PJs for the boys; but she can’t seem to resist the random dollar store trinkets as well. I have just learned to let them have them for a while and trash them as soon as they break. She loves the kids and always wants to have SOMETHING for them, and for that I am grateful.
    Sorry to hear that you have gotten so many negative responses. Kids need love, and they need encouragement and it sounds like those are two things that you are doing a great job of.
    I thought I was done, but then thought that I should let you know what my children are doing right now…
    My boys are spending their 2nd afternoon playing with a huge pile of logs. My husband told them that if they wanted to stack the wood (in the racks for the fireplace) that he would pay them. They are making some progress, and hopefully eventually they will get done; but even bigger, they are out there playing around, climbing, building their own creations, and just being boys!!!! I love hearing their giggles and adventures. They have come in umpteen times beckoning me to come see this cool bug or that crazy looking stick!!!! They are creating their own fun instead of telling me how bored they are with what is on tv, or how tired they are of this or that!!!!!

    Reply
  • Alona July 6,

    I love this post!! I’m going to start doing this. I just feel so overwhelmed by all the toys and stuff my girls have. I also have a lot of stuff, so I will be purging that as well! Thanks for the encouragement!! I can’t wait to get started!

    Reply
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