Yesterday morning I came across the Good Morning America post: This Mom Threw Out Her Kids’ Toys and Got Her Life Back written by Genevieve Shaw Brown (27-Sep-16) shared by Organizing Moms Forum member Nicole Hanson. The article features the story of Allie Casazza, The Purposeful Housewife, who has transformed the life of her family and is dedicated to living minimally.
The reactions on the original post and in the forum to the article are not surprising – it evokes a different emotion from each reader because they are relating the story to their personal experience and/or belief system. As Nicole put it when she posted in the forum, “This maybe the kick in the pants I needed to organize the kids crap toys!” The message from my perspective was to do just that – give the those who are experiencing the overwhelming feeling of being overtaken by their kids stuff inspiration and motivation to do something about it, rather than just complain or live with the negative stress it’s causing. You can control how you deal with your situation in any way that is right for you and your family.
This Mom Threw Out Her Kids’ Toys and Got Her Life Back article and reader reactions to it gave me opportunity to take pause and reflect on experiences in both my professional organizing practice and my family life when it comes to parents managing kids stuff. I appreciate others sharing their stories so we can take from them to validate what we are doing or more importantly, seek opportunities to take something from their story and consider how it can contribute positive change our own.
Situational disorganization finds its way into our homes through the various stages in our lives – like becoming a parent and having kids who capture our hearts and those of our family and friends causing them to be spoiled with stuff and often creates what may feel like an insurmountable situation. How we choose to manage this phase in our lives however is what gives us the feeling of achievement or failure. It can also create the foundation and model for how the family will deal with all their stuff as the kids get older. Many parents are overwhelmed in their homes because the toys overtake many of the core living spaces. Those spaces have lost their purpose and the physical clutter inhibits their ability to feel calm and in control…ever step on a small building block or marble or trip over a toy mountain? I’m sure you understand why ‘love’ isn’t what flows when that happens!
Throwing out all your kids’ toys may truly be liberating as it was described in Allie Casazza’s experience in the article, with her choice to edit all the toys and choosing minimalist lifestyle which has proven to have a positive outcome for their family. This approach may not be the desired solution for all parents… but it demonstrates the results of taking action. Doing something creates change – how you do it results in what changes.
A transition to minimalism or any other desired lifestyle requires you define your expectations of the outcome. It is important to proceed with an open mind, objectivity and sensitivity. It can be a challenging process especially when a family is impacted. By acting on impulse to just toss all the toys out may give the temporary feeling of accomplishment and clarity, however, it may quickly turn into additional stress resulting from guilt and negative reactions from the kids and other family members who were attached to certain items that parents weren’t attached to. This can often lead to increased conflict and parents (and others) buying new toys as a replacements to compensate for their actions and emotional reactions, thus initiating the cycle over again.
When our girls were toddlers and our small home was starting to get smaller and smaller by the day. My husband and I reached a point of what was once tolerable being unbearable and decided to implement a rule that for each new stuffed animal, doll, toy, game, puzzle or book that came in, we had to part with one item. As my girls grew older, we included them in the decision making and they had an option to keep their favorites and set aside to sell (yard sales) or donate the rest. Over time we continued to save the keepers they enjoyed (and some that I really loved for their memory boxes) and donated some of the items they had cherished but felt they had outgrown in hopes that other kids would love them as much as they did! The items they weren’t as attached to, they were also happy to donate or sell and the broken stuff we disposed of. We also started assessing and purging before birthdays and Christmas to make room for gifts they would likely receive.
When the girls were school age, we started doing the same for clothing where they decided whether to donate what they had outgrown or didn’t like and recycle what was well worn, stained or damaged before we went shopping. That one rule several years before helped us establish a foundation for regular purges to take place in our home especially as our needs, wants, seasons and situations change. In our experience, it doesn’t matter how often you request best wishes or donations in lieu of gifts to celebrate birthdays, holidays and special events, our circle of family and friends enjoy giving something that is tangible or feel they can’t show up empty handed. We decided we couldn’t change what others did, so we changed our attitude about what we would do to manage what we had when new came in.
As a professional organizer working with individuals and families, I promote finding unique solutions that create balance and harmony within your home. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing for everyone. What is a problem for you isn’t necessarily a problem for others, but recognizing when there is a need for change and taking action can help maintain order and balance over time. Like any lifestyle change such as improving diet and exercise, the process is most sustainable and successful when priorities are identified and specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely goals are established and tasks are assigned, planned out, you are made accountable and you achieve them. That is SMART.
There are positive benefits to implementing custom organizing solutions that work for your current situation which might include throwing it all out or keeping what you have and creating routine tasks to place or return items in specific areas, editing of items on a regular basis and to communicate with each other when some are feeling they negatively affected. This allows each of the family members to contribute, make decisions and be accountable for their own possessions and spaces to suit their needs as their life journey progresses. Each individual can create and experience their own unique method to manage, maintain and enjoy their items and their space within the home.
It is possible to create harmony, order, peace and ease in your life, home or business no matter your circumstance. Whether you live alone, with a partner, roomates or with kids. If you are a parent, how many kids you have and whether they are babies, toddlers, tweens, teens or adults, you can do this! The choice for change in your space is yours to make, and you don’t have to do it alone! Having an accountability partner adds objectivity to the process and can help defuse emotions caused by uncertainty.
For those of you ready to do something about your problematic toy mountains, collections, memorabilia, clothes, shoes, tools, linens, toiletries and make up, sewing and craft supplies, pet accessories, sports equipment, laundry and food – go for it! It simply starts with taking action! Not sure how to get started? Take action by contacting a local professional organizer!
SMART Organizing offers services in Dufferin County and surrounding areas including: Amaranth, Brampton, Caledon, East Garafraxa, Erin, Grand Valley, Hillsburgh, Melancthon, Mono, Mulmur, Orangeville and Shelburne.