Taming of the Toys

If you stopped by today in our neck of the woods, you'd see that our little log home is snuggled inside a towering cathedral of trees. The summer is quiet here. As you arrive, you may need to step over a baseball bat or two on the front walk - I told them twice. But if you come on into our living room, you may not realize there are six children who live here at all because often there are not toys in sight. Minimalism is more than style here. It is an ardent choice even in the area of toys. This, however, was not always the case.

I confess I was totally at fault for the toy explosion at our house. Not too many years ago, I could not safely walk through our home. The endless plastic junk from gifts, yard sales, freebies, and Christmas seemed to breed each night into a bigger monster. I resented it. I was angry. I yelled. And then, I got tired. Exhausted, down to the core of my being, and I decided to change. The toy monster had to be tamed for our family to move forward. So, I got rid of almost every toy. Not overnight, but deliberately over time. Throughout that journey, I had to come to terms with my own past, pain in my childhood, old, powerful loneliness that had held my heart captive to fear. Once I truly saw the problem was me, not my children, I could start over. The absolute best thing I got rid of in the area of toys was my insecurity as a parent.

I had to get rid of the fear that I wasn't a good mom. You see, I believed all of the lies that I had been told. Now, it seems silly, but let's just be real, markers are not necessary for a good childhood (yes, I might have been told that). Neither are Legos. Both are banned from our house to this day. I'm a happy momma and my kids are having a magical, wonderful, imperfect childhood. I do allow sticks, rocks, leaves, tons of wildflowers, and a feral toad that showed up one winter in a house plant - all are welcome to come visit. I love all things nature-play, zero-waste, imagination-rich-related for children's activities. I will no longer allow other people's gifts to determine my life or the life of my family. I know the complete and total misery of allowing other people to determine what I allow in my front door! Those days are done. I am responsible to God for the kind of home that I create. And while that may sound strong, I know in our mother's hearts, we all know it to be true. Mothers are always the ones who feel pain when the child falls. It's science. We can't help it. We are, therefore, the guardians of our homes. Not the media, not the grandparents, though we love them dearly, not the children, though we give them realms of authority as they grow. It was my watch to keep at the doorways of our home.

When my house was a wreck and the toys out of control, I realized my role to protect the peace of household was to say "no." No more freebies at the bank. No more stickers in the grocery line. No more migraine-makers plastic junk from relatives who thought it was funny. It's not. That simple concept, that I am the guardian of what comes into my home, created for me the freedom to truly change the entire tone of the life we lived. 

Instead of putting toys away endlessly, my boys now play with about 6 little airplanes and a few misc frogs and a tractor for most everyday. I can fit all the toys into my cupped hands. I have school activities in 3 organized baskets, math- u-see blocks, wooden blocks, and a Noah's ark wooden set. In the basement, I have 2 tables. One is Clayland with polymer clay which I loved as a kid. The other is covered with a board game called Axis and Allies on the
WWII strategy side of life. My boys wake up early to re-live each strategic move. Daily items of the children include 50 cent Composition notebooks and library books. I have a tub of costumes for the little boys and a small tub of stuff animals. That's pretty much it.
Each child has a "school box" but it's just their special items that they want to keep. Sentimental string. Maps from the zoo. Rocks, pine cones, seashells, and
swimming goggles are current favorites. My daughter kept some doll things for a future baby sister, but her main items are books and notebooks. She wants to
be a writer. Yes, I'm thrilled.  

Does this simplicity stop the fights over toys? NO! Human hearts have always struggled with sharing. A limited number of items cannot solve the issues of the soul. It does, however, CREATE the room and time to address the true heart issues.

The point being that toys are going to look different for each family, each season. Minimalism must be unique. Human beings are unique. Having a simple toy strategy, intentionally curating the home for the season and age of each member, provides the framework to truly address the character work so necessary for a secure and magical childhood. 

In that light, I teach these important concepts to my children. 

1.Keep only your favorites

2.At the end of the day, put it away - How could I yell at my kids to put stuff away? The toys  a) had no home

b)there was too much anyway it was overwhelming to us both and

c) it was plastic junk that wasn't giving them the knowledge I wanted about the beauty of our natural world.

3.Zero waste toys are best - who knew that avocado seeds are fantastic balls? So are wool dryer balls that I made with a woolen mitten I accidentally shrunk and covered
with wool yarn. Recycling items create endless fun, as do cloth napkins made into super hero capes. 

If you want a magical, secure childhood for your kids, you already have all that you need inside of you. I realized that my kids didn't need toys, what they truly
needed was me! To tell them stories, explain gravity, laugh at their jokes, look deep in their eyes and tell them "I always wanted a child just like you!"

If you were here today, you'd see the wild, crazy antics of the high-intensity kids I love. You'd see they floated the wooden Noah's ark for hours in the tub, only flooding the house twice. They did build a fort in the living room with cushions, but mostly they read on the couch and fought over boy-things I don't understand. Then, one cries when wounded or laughs at a silly joke. It's childhood. It's possible. You can CREATE a magical and secure childhood without being flooded with toys. 

Blessings for your journey,