By Pam Moore
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 unique 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. As it turned out, we did not need more space, more labels, or more baskets. My kids certainly did not need more “friendly reminders” to pick up toys. What we needed was less.
1| It’s Simple
Before The Great Purge, I had this excellent 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 could not 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. However, 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.
2| It’s Energizing
Once I got the urge to purge, I could not 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 did not love but was saving for just in case, socks without mates, half a dozen books I had meant to read, a stack of expired coupons, and jewelry I had forgotten I owned. Without the burden of extra stuff in my house, I literally felt lighter.
3| It’s an Opportunity for Learning
My three-year-old learned that it is important to share. I learned she’s happy to share if I give her a 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 is 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 do not 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 give-away bag.
4| 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 do not 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 had purged sooner.