Losing my shit and my quest for minimalism

I lost my shit with my kids this morning.

This isn’t that rare.  I lose my shit several times a week, usually after my sons make one too many attempts at goading me.

This morning, I was busily trying to get everything and everyone ready to get Finley out of the door for preschool.  We’re late each and every time.  Our lateness for preschool is like a humourless running joke that serves to raise my stress levels exponentially each Tuesday and Thursday morning.

Whilst getting ready, I noticed that the kids had made an ‘obstacle course’ (that was Finley’s actual name for it) at the top of the stairs.  It was made of some pieces of wood Ian has left upstairs for some shelving, a large cardboard tube and some other toys.

They were playing brilliantly with it all, much to my relief.  Until I made an appearance.  I wasn’t trying to get involved in their game, I was just walking past with a handful of everything.

It was then that I heard one of the noises that instantly riles me.  The sound of toys being flung down the stairs and hitting the front door with a clatter-bang.

I whipped around to see if anyone was looking guilty, or if it was an honest mistake.

My kids have a fondness for playing at the top of the stairs, or sometimes just the entire staircase, using it to slide down at speed.  It is as horrendous as it sounds.

I turned to see Finley looking straight at me with a grin on his face.  He’d done it deliberately.  And now that he had my attention, he flung something else down the stairs whilst watching me – face fixed with a grin.  This was the shit-losing moment.

The moment involved me whipping up every toy that was on the stairs, at the bottom of the stairs, and any toy that was not in the right place, and chucking them in the kids’ bedroom, whist getting a bit shouty.

I then banished both of the kids to the bedroom, whilst carelessly dismantling their ‘obstacle course’ from the top of the stairs.

After a shower and some calming down (sort of), I escorted Finley to preschool (he was begging for preschool at this point).

Once I returned, I made the decision to carry out something I’ve been threatening to do for a while.  Get rid of the toys.

I’ve noticed that the toys do not bring any real entertainment or value to the kids’ lives, let alone ours.  They seem to flit from one thing to the next, without much thought or concentration.  Once they’ve finished, they begin to chuck the toys around, or fight over them.

This is not happy times.  This is not a good way to play.

They play slightly better when I sit down and engage with the toys with them.  But it isn’t realistic for me to sit with the kids all day long to play.  I have stuff to do.  Dinner to cook.  Washing up to do.  I sometimes need to pee.

They also need to learn to play independently, which I’m doubtful they can do whilst inundated with so much stuff.

I brewed a strong coffee and set about sorting and bagging things up.  I’ve set aside a good amount of it for the charity shop.  Some of it is now in the loft, and if it is never requested again, it will be removed from the house altogether.

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This toy is a keeper. A good role-play facilitator when they play ‘cafes’.

I’ve left a skeleton (not literally) of their toys in their room.  If the remaining toys continue to be chucked about and fought over, they will also be gone.

I feel that the chaos of so many objects is proving to be detrimental to their mental health and stifling their development.

When Ian and I went on our honeymoon to a remote village in a tiny Greek island, we had a major media detox.  We had a TV with no reception.  No DVD player.  No phone reception.  All that was present was a collection of books in the villa, and a pack of playing cards that we purchased whilst out there.

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Doing more of this is always good for the mind.

We spent our days talking, playing cards together, reading and visiting places.

We felt amazing.  It was simple and it did us the world of good.

I think my kids need this simplicity.  They need to embrace their creativity, not a collection of plastic.

As well as possibly damaging their mental health, I think that the un-manageable mess of toys is also driving me slightly insane.  The kids tidy to a certain extent, but it is largely me that does it.  I’d rather be a more pleasant mother in a minimalistic house with less housework to do and more time to be with them, than in a messy house full of stuff that gets thoughtlessly tossed around.

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Finley’s exercise book with custom reading tasks.

So I’m interested to see how life will be sans the toys.  I’ve recently begun an exercise book with Finley.  I’ve been using it as a reading tool for him, creating custom stories with words he’s learnt how to read.  I illustrate the stories myself.  He loves to sit and watch me do it, and then do the exercises I’ve composed.

Fraser enjoys being around us when we’re working through Fin’s book.

We have a good collection of arts and crafts materials.  We’re going to create more.  Draw more.  Stick more.  Creative mess I can deal with.

We’re going to listen to more music.  We’re going to cook together and clean together.

I hope that I’m doing the right thing for us.  I can’t imagine that life is going to be better with all of the toys back at large.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

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7 thoughts on “Losing my shit and my quest for minimalism

  1. Well done honey. A big bold move, and one that most of us should do. We’ve had three huge clear outs in the last six months and still have too much bloody stuff! Love your little story, what a fab idea you clever lady. We can learn a lot from you xxx

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  2. Oh you fab girl what a great initiative. It’s funny, I’ve always felt so guilty at the ‘lack’ of toys I think my kids have (even though I’m so not ‘keeping up with Joneses’ or ‘buy the latest toy’ type of mum as I am paranoid about raising spoilt brats). Then one of my sisters who lives in an amazing house far ‘fancier’ than ours and whose kids have a veritable Alton Towers for a garden, into which a lot of love has gone to create, recently said that my kids have a lot of toys. Anyway, I’ve culled and culled to the point where now everything they have is contained on one unit per child in each kid’s room. Yet…they play with the furniture and household items half the time! But throwing it all out is something I just couldn’t do as I had so few toys growing up. I admire your move because toys = terrible mess indeed and if they’re throwing them around the place…I agree…tough measures are needed. x

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  3. I often do this! Well I say often, maybe two three times a year. It feels amazing and things seem calm for a while then chaos ensues again. Keep fighting the good fight!

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  4. OMG Fiona this is me! Only I haven’t quite banished all the toys. I have put lots in the loft. The mass of toys has certainly caused me to go slightly insane. Mainly as they aren’t looked after (and I see how much they cost) and the mess they caused. The boys have a few favourites they play with and that’s it. Yet each boys bedroom is jammed with toys as is the conservatory. It is total madness. Since my first cull last week it has been so much better. Everything has a place. Little man asked for one toy once and that is it. They just don’t need them. I would rather a tub of lego and a craft box and that’s it. Would love an update on how it goes for you

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  5. I whole-heartedly agree with you that most toys do not do not foster creativity. Most children have two or three special toys and as you say the rest get chucked around or played with for a very very short time. Good luck with your minimalist adventure!

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  6. I loved this post, lovely! My kids are the same with toys (bar the tea sets) and I regulrly declutter. When we had a loft, I’d rotate the wretched toys, but since extending, I’ve had to get rid of stuff and it felt good!

    Lovely little story (illustrated as well, supermum!) you put together for your little man. xx

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  7. It’s a great idea. One of the things most guaranteed to rile me with our kids is when they step in the front door and immediately ask, “Can we play on the Playstation/computer/iPad/watch TV?” and pout when we tell them that, no, they need to eat their tea and do their chores and homework first. It’s not just that they ask, it’s that they ask and pout and then ask again incessantly as if our answer is going to suddenly change. So when we do have those afternoons where they’re happy to just paint or play with Lego or do something positively low-tech for a couple of hours, it’s a blessed relief and a pleasure. I just wish I could remember that when they’re busy winding me up and begging for the iPad …

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