Those who know me well, know that I do not buy a lot of toys for my children. The ones that I do buy are usually deliberate and well considered purchases. Sure, we have a few plastic toys and some random little bits and pieces a good friend of mine calls “giblets”, but for the most part our toys are made of natural materials, are simple, and are open ended for imaginative play. (This, coupled with limited television viewing and no microwave has led my older brother to refer to our house as “Amish Country”).
For the most part I try to save toy purchases for special occasions - birthdays, Christmas, Easter. Since I have a mild aversion to toys that light up, make (battery assisted) noise and “do” things (as in "what does it do" as opposed to "what can I do with it?"), I am left with very few actual, physical stores where the kind of toys I value can be found. Let’s face it, real toy stores (which I will define as places wherein you cannot pick up cat litter, bras and/or hunting rifles with your toy purchase) are sadly a dying breed. Therefore, I plan ahead (okay way ahead, because the truth is I love toys) and I shop online. My point is I consider myself to be a very mindful, selective purchaser of toys. Do I sound smug about my simple, uncluttered Waldorf-inspired playroom full of carefully selected toys? Well, here is what it looked like yesterday -
Keep in mind this angle does not catch the actual toy shelves. As I looked around at the toy carnage in front of me I thought to myself, “Where did all this stuff come from anyway? Do they need this much stuff? Would they miss it if it were gone, or at least pared down?” Before I answer those questions let me veer off a bit and flash back to a time when I decided to donate some of my then two and a half year old’s toys to The Salvation Army. One item was a stuffed octopus. She barely ever paid attention to this thing, I promise you. Well, a few months passed and one day she asked me if I knew where her octopus was. At first, I feigned ignorance. “Hmm, I’m not sure,” I would say (don’t judge me, it was sort of true). After she asked me about it every day for a week, I finally relented and told her the whole truth. I had given it away. Well let me tell you, she still brings it up three years later. My husband has joked that he can imagine her giving a speech as the high school valedictorian and saying, “If only my octopus were here with me to share this moment.”
Back to present - I surveyed this mess of toys, grabbed some bags and began to collect toys that I thought might not be immediately missed. How many pieces of play food do they need? How many different outfits for dolls? How many wooden animals? I filled three bags with toys. Three bags of superfluous toys from our simple (so I thought), uncluttered (uh-huh), Waldorf inspired playroom. I put them upstairs, on hold, waiting to see if anything would be missed (I felt this toy purgatory was a necessary precaution so as not to repeat the “octopus incident”). Once I had cleared out the clutter, I rearranged the remaining toys to add some interest (ever notice how moving a toy from one location to another often makes it interesting again?) and to make the omissions less obvious, and voila - I held my breath waiting for the alarmed cries of children who have been robbed. Guess what? The children didn’t even seem to notice. They played contentedly in their newly simplified space, and there was far less to clean up! How long should I keep the toys in Purgatory? I think this time around I will let my daughters know that the toys are being given away, and let them each reclaim one toy from the bunch before they go. I think its important for them to take part in the spirit of sharing our good fortune (or stuffed octopuses) with others.
In the spirit of “less is more” I invite you to pare down your child(ren)’s “Toy Mount Everest.” Let us know how it turns out. Here’s a gem for you if you are wondering what to keep (all in good fun!):