Teenie’s Stuff: Before & After

One year ago, back when I set out on this whole mission to reduce waste and live more simply, I was out at a playdate when a friend and I were catching up about the goals I’d set for the year. We got on the subject of how teenie might play into the whole thing when she told me about a blog she’d been following, Simple Families, that practiced minimalism with their kid’s toys…right down to the books. I’d been wanting to cut down on a lot of teenie’s stuff, feeling its presence throughout our house despite how seemingly organized everything was but after our talk I was even more determined to pare things down. Later that day, since it was on my mind, I became curious as to HOW much stuff she actually had. It’s not like we bought her a lot, we didn’t give her anything at Christmas or for her first birthday. Basically most of what she had was stuff that’d been given to her, some stuff from my childhood and a few things I’d picked up along the way. That day I went home and pulled every toy from every box, closet, nook and cranny throughout the house. The end result was insane…

As you can tell she had A LOT of stuff. It’s not like we weren’t appreciative of all the stuff that was given to her or that many of these things weren’t beneficial, but it was far too much for one little year and a half year old who could just as easily be entertained by pots and pans. So we started cutting…

…and nearly a year later this is how things have started to shape up.

On her toy shelf she has one bin of small miscellaneous toys (things like cars, trains, wallets, mini stuffed animals, a baby doll, some little sea creatures, etc) and another filled with wooden blocks. Trying to cover the rest of the bases we have: a shape sorter, wooden puzzle, alphabet tray, ball wacker (my super technical term for it), tool box, some musical toys, a wagon, a push and go ambulance, and several stuffed creatures – a few leftover from my childhood (thanks to my sweet mom). One stuffed creature reads stories and one is a puppet, the rest are either the one’s I’ve handed down to her or are her favorites which is why they aren’t even in the picture because she carries them around with her often. The top bins are used for clothing storage.

On the other side of the room we have a box for books and one for balls. She loooves books and she loves balls. Most of the balls were ones we had before she was even born but have become her favorite playthings. The little cloth doll was given to her by family for Christmas and is to help teach her how to do basic functions associated with dressing like zippers, buttons, and tying shoes. And of course there is that awesome secondhand table with a step-stool turned sitting stool because its just a little too unstable to stand on.

In her closet she has a couple more involved puzzles that we’ll pull out to work on with her as well as things like additional books, stackable boxes, number cards & art supplies as well as her outdoor play stuff (tunnels, sit-in wagon, tricycle, etc). A lot of the things with multiple pieces hang out in there because I figure the more stuff with lots of small pieces there is out, the more likely it is to all scatter across the room or worse, the house.

In the kitchen – a very small and simple metal “cooking set” she got for Christmas from family.

Now that her space is better in check, things feel sooo much less cluttered and I’m totally happy with the transformation. I’ve been trying to teach her to play with one thing at a time and then put it back when she’s done. Up to now she’s been good about helping clean up and I’ve started to notice times where she’ll put things away before moving on to something else.

All the things that remain are things she plays with and loves. I tried to pay attention to what she played with most when making cuts while also eliminating the things that light up and make noise.  So not only does she love everything but her Mom, who spends the majority of time with her, does too. We cut down on the number of books feeling like they could always be borrowed from the library but there does continue to be plenty. Many of her favorite board books were kept as well as the ones that I thought would be good to have if we ever have any more children down the road.  Speaking of holding on to older stuff, most of the toys she has grown out of have been donated, with the exception of a few that were kept in storage to potentially be used again with any future babies. As for her clothes, there was a time when I held on to everything she grew out of in case we ever had another girl. But to hold onto all of it “just in case,” when my friend from the beginning of this story has a daughter who could wear them now seemed silly. So I’ve been handing off a lot to her, only holding onto my favorites.

Up to this point I pretty much removed things as I saw fit when she wasn’t looking but now I think she’s old enough to start learning the concept of donating and choosing what’s most important her. The other day she was playing with a Nerf football at my parent’s house and ended up bringing it home. We already had one so she didn’t need a second but it was smaller and easier for her to manipulate. There was a moment when we got home where she was trying to hold both in her hands. I explained that she needed to decide which one she wanted or liked more because there wasn’t a need for her to have two when someone else could use the other ball. She wound up choosing the newer one, handing over the other one which was put into a pile in another room to be donated. Hopefully starting this process now will make it easier in years to come.

When I look back at that first photo I’ll admit it makes me a little sad to think about some of the things we let go. Only because each of those things were something nice that people had given, a kindness, a desire to fill my little girl’s heart with joy and a joy that filled their heart by having given it. Or maybe it has a story behind it…or was from my own childhood. That’s the difficult thing about stuff. It can have so much sentimental attachment, especially when it comes from those who we love most or triggers our nostalgia. But I tried to treat the decluttering process as pragmatic as possible, simply passing things along that she did not play with or didn’t suit our home’s interests in hopes it would go on to be loved by someone else. The fact of the matter is I will never know if any of it will ever be loved again. I know that much of it will eventually end up in a landfill, maybe down the road or it may have already happened soon after being donated (I cringe at this thought) because maybe it wasn’t judged as being in good enough shape by the eyes of the person receiving the donation. I tried to be very selective where I donated her things, choosing places I saw the best chance of them being resold, because that’s all I wanted. These belongings to stay in circulation. For someone to love them. Because they were special but we can’t hold on to every single thing that is given or holds some sort of sentimental connection or we may never get rid of anything. Then we’re living in a sea of clutter with all that sentimental stuff weighing us down. The whole problem with stuff is that while sometimes its grand and sometimes is necessary, too much stuff is suffocating. I want to live a life with less excess and clutter and to do this we have to HAVE LESS. My hope is we can keep stuff in check before it even comes into the house. Unfortunately this may mean donating things early in the game before there is a chance of them becoming worn and potentially less likely to be used.  I’ve already done this by setting aside certain things that can be re-gifted to friend’s with children or during the holiday season to kids who are less fortunate.

We’re finally on the track that I want to be on at this point. A track that is much more simplified and provides an environment for calm and imagination rather than chaos and overstimulation. While I don’t know if we’re yet to any level to call ourselves legit minimalists, that’s certainly the approach taken this past year as we tried to pare down on all the extras within our home.  Stay tuned as I’ll be sharing the changes made throughout the remainder of our living space over the coming weeks!

xo, Erica

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