Moving and Minimalism – Part 2: Toys

Although (as we discovered in Part 1) I am not a decor minimalist, as we have moved into our new home I have embraced a completely different aspect of minimalism: keeping my kid’s stuff boxed up because she does not miss it.

This kid is the only grandchild on both sides, and we have very generous neighbors and friends who often give her toys as well (many from Goodwill, yay!), and despite my regular trips back to the Goodwill she has more playthings than she knows what to do with. After we boxed them all up to move, she asked about some items that were put away, but overall she seemed content with the few things we’d kept out.

Once we got to Boston I decided to ride that train and piled unopened boxes of toys (and books – oh, the books!) in her closet. Grandma brought down a box of dinosaur toys, the church left a dozen little animals all around the house for her to find, and we had play-doh and markers for the coloring book pages my sister drew for her. (Yes, both the church and my sister are amazing. I think The Sister should sell custom coloring book pages, yes?)

The kiddo was perfectly content with that initial load for the first week or so, and we have slowly, slowly added things, either by opening an occasional box or by letting her use her birthday money at the thrift store. (8 dollars goes a long way shopping secondhand!) We also found kid-sized hockey sticks at the thrift store and my husband, who played when he was a kid, has had a blast teaching her backhands in the backyard using a ball the church gave us.

With fewer things around, she seems to play longer and more creatively with what she does have, and there’s a lot less to clean up/keep track of. I simultaneously can and can’t believe that it hasn’t occurred to her to wonder where former obsessions like her pop-it beads and code-a-pillar are. I’m hoping to drag out the toy reveal as long as possible, maybe with a rotation where we pack one toy away as we bring out others.

The books, too, are still boxed up apart from the one we initially opened. In the meantime, by George, we have discovered the library! We never took her in Atlanta because she was in daycare (so no need for the daytime programs libraries offer) and the full-size adult bookcase in her room was so full it had books we had never read. But while the kiddo’s at home for the foreseeable future, we tried out the kid-friendly mini-branch in our town, and it’s amazing – you can check out toys while you’re there (great fun without adding to our toy collection at home) AND there’s a kids’ resale shop that benefits the library. You know that’s the first place I went! In the next few weeks I’ll share what I found there to keep her warm during cold Boston winters.

Like lots of parents, I wrestle with how to keep her toys/books at a manageable level – and how to effectively involve her in the process so she learns to do it herself. She’s an enthusiastic kid and once she’s spied something that’s been tucked away, she’ll want to play with it (even if she ends up abandoning it twenty minutes later). Luckily, she’s great at playing with things in the store without needing to take them home; but asking her whether she wants to donate something rarely gets a “yes.” She’ll also randomly ask about X toy she hasn’t played with in weeks, which makes it hard to donate things on the sly – a technique that is starting to feel disingenuous now that she’s a preschooler and old enough to realize what’s happening.

Given all that, moving and keeping everything in boxes is an unexpected boon. I’m planning on having a conversation with her about how much better it can feel to live with less stuff, and as it starts to sink in, maybe she’ll pull the trigger on a few of those donations herself.


What have you done re: keeping things in boxes after a move? Dealing with your kids’ stuff in a respectful but practical way?

5 thoughts on “Moving and Minimalism – Part 2: Toys

  1. One year my daughter helped go through her stuff to get rid of her “baby toys.” Multiple years we got rid of the “silly or broken” toys to make room for Christmas presents. Hmm, that second tactic kinda pushes the greed thing, but she made it to adulthood okay without ever having a too-stuffed room. Anyway, good luck!

    1. “Silly” and “broken” are great words to help a child evaluate whether it’s time to pass on (or ditch) a toy – I’m going to try that! It acknowledges that the kid can outgrow toys and that’s okay.
      I think the same thing applies to Xmas presents – just like as adults we might be ready for something new or have “outgrown” a hobby, and it’s a great excuse to go through and trade out the old toys to make room for the new. We had this conversation last Christmas and for her birthday and the concept didn’t really stick…but I think we’ll try again this year, emphasizing “making room” within limited storage space.
      Thanks for commenting, Priscilla!

  2. I rotate my kids’ toys. My son has a several kids of million-piece toys (legos, dominoes, erector set, little army guys, etc). I only allow him to keep one type out at a time. When he wants a new type out, we pack up the current one.

    1. We’re facing this right now – dinosaurs, Noah’s ark with all the animals (those came out just yesterday), magnatiles, and duplos. She’s reluctant to put them away because she wants to come back to the set up she had. Our solution for the interim is to make sure everything is in a basket/bin apart from whatever she’s currently playing with… and to talk about how much nicer it feels to have a room with a cleared floor she can play in!
      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Do you have a buy nothing group in your area? My kiddo really likes sorting outgrown toys into groups to gift, choosing recipients, etc. Makes it much easier for her to let go of things — even joyful — and I love seeing her generosity.

    But, my kid is quite a bit older than yours. And I would not call her a minimalist! She definitely has a lot of the sort of ticky tacky crap that kids seem to accumulate once parents are no longer in control of what enters the house. Oh well. It’s a process.

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