Until recently, I was convinced my life would be better if only we had more space. Until we got a bigger house or remodeled, I thought a special organizing system for our burgeoning collection of toys and books would do the trick. I lived in constant fear of a painful Lego-meets-foot disaster. I felt suffocated by the sea of toys covering every surface of our house.
And then I purged.
Our lives changed for the better, overnight. It turned out, we didn’t need more space, more labels, or more baskets. My kids certainly didn’t need more “friendly reminders” to pick up toys. What we actually needed was less.
- IT’S SIMPLE
Before The Great Purge, I had this awesome idea. I would rotate the toys every few months. I put a huge bin of toys on a shelf with extra diapers and good intentions. But organization is not my forte. Our plants are chronically thirsty and my car typically gets an oil change a thousand miles too late. Not surprisingly, I never got around to rotating the toys. I just couldn’t muster the energy to get the bin down, empty it, and fill it back up with different toys, all under the watchful eye of my opinionated three year old. But collecting the books I was tired of reading and gathering the annoying, battery-operated toys (you know the type) and dropping them in a garbage bag instead of the toy basket? That was easy.
- IT’S ENERGIZING
Once I got the urge to purge, I couldn’t stop. I began to look at everything in my house with a fresh perspective. Instead of asking myself, “Where should I put this?,” I asked myself, “Do I really need it?” If the answer was no, into the bag it went. Along with the kids’ toys and books, I got rid of clothes I didn’t love but was saving for just in case, socks without mates, half a dozen books I’d been meaning to read, a stack of expired coupons, and jewelry I’d forgotten I owned. Without the burden of extra stuff in my house, I literally felt lighter.
- IT’S AN OPPORTUNITY FOR LEARNING
My three year old learned it’s important to share. I learned she’s happy to share, if I give her the chance. Initially, I worried about how she would feel about letting go of her things. I thought about restricting my adventures in purging to after bedtime, but her bedroom is where most of her toys are, so that was not an option. I considered lying, but I feel it’s important to be honest with my kids (although I maintain it’s not hurting anyone if they think my chocolate is a spicy adult vitamin). So I told the truth. I explained to my daughter that she and her baby sister are lucky to have lots of books and toys, but some kids don’t have any, so we need to share. I braced myself for tears and screams. They never came. Instead, my daughter nodded and helped me add toys to the giveaway bag.
- EVERYONE IS HAPPIER
With less stuff, there is less mess. Less mess means I am not perpetually an inch away from tripping over a rogue block or a Frozen doll. While being asked to put her toys away used to elicit tears and cries of “It’s just too much!” from my three year old, now she generally cleans up with minimal pushback. On the nights when the tidying falls to me, I get it done in under five minutes. Meanwhile, my kids don’t seem to miss any of their old toys. If anything, they have more space to create forts out of blankets and end tables.
Having less means less to put away, less to think about, and less chaos. Less time spent dealing with stuff leaves more time for the stuff that matters. I only wish I’d purged sooner.