Toys Everywhere! (And How to Get Rid of Them)


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When my son was born, he was the first grandchild on both sides of the family. Boy, was that child lavished upon! Grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends from church, and friends from out of state showered us with blessings. We were dumbfounded, thankful beyond words, and a little overwhelmed as the adorable outfits and baby gear rolled in. Perhaps more than anything, the amount of toys we received over the next three years was incalculable!

We are so grateful for the generosity of our loved ones. To this day I still think back on how much everyone blessed us, and feel a warm glow inside.

But…eventually, from a practical standpoint, something had to be done about the toys-versus-space ratio!

Time to Declutter the Toy Collection

I remember when my son was around eighteen months old, I walked into his room one day and it looked like a tornado had touched down. I envisioned my son as a teenager, with his room looking just like this, only ten times worse.  On the one hand, I knew that this would be a familiar scene in any family’s home. Still, it bothered me that my son had such an enormous excess of “stuff”–especially since he only used 50 percent of it! It was time to simplify my little boy’s toy collection.

We decided on a simple system for keeping the sea of toys at a reasonable level. We purchased a cube shelf unit, and kept all his small toys in it, except for stuffed animals. It was similar to this one.

When his toy collection increased so that it could not be contained in that shelf, we started sorting and donating. Without fail, every time I sorted through his toys, I was able to get rid of objects that he hadn’t played with in months. Once he got old enough to help me, I would involve him in sorting. He could tell me if he still liked a toy, or if he never played with it anymore. Now, every six months or so, we go through his toys (especially after Christmas and his birthday). Because we’ve done this since before he can remember, he never gives me trouble about giving away some toys. He also likes the idea of “giving them to a little boy or girl who needs them” (which is true, when we donate them to a thrift store!).

If you’re looking to simplify your child’s room and toy collection, here are a few ideas:

  • Get rid of duplicates and broken pieces. At one point, I discovered my son had two sets of the exact same blocks. That was creating a huge sense of visual chaos in his room! Donating one of those sets made all the difference in the world for keeping his room clean. Also, he had several toys that had missing parts or pieces broken off. These I tossed, recycled, or donated as needed.
  • Decide on a certain amount of storage space for toys, and don’t go beyond that. Using the cube unit worked for us, but some other system might strike your fancy–a set of baskets, a bookshelf, or a toy chest. When the toys start to overflow their space…time to donate!
  • For holidays, consider buying other things besides toys. Because we have grandparents and aunties who love to buy toys as presents, we tend to buy books or art supplies for our son around the holidays instead. This cuts way down on how many toys we have around the house.

We don’t operate on a sparse, militarist policy with our son’s toys. However, I found that if I never monitor what goes into his room, it becomes a disaster zone that leaks out into the rest of the house! It’s also good for him to learn that he doesn’t have to get every toy he wants.

What works for you when organizing your kids’ rooms? Do you have any advice or tips to share?

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3 Ways to Give Back

When you simplify your life and focus less on what you own, you start to develop a deep sense of contentment and gratitude. For me, this has been one of the most surprising byproducts of the minimalist lifestyle. When I’m thinking less about how to make that next purchase, I tend to look around and give thanks for what I already have. My family. My friends. My purpose in life. My little home–a place to fill with memories. My needs met.

After you have that sense of gratitude, the next step becomes giving back to others. When I’m not thinking about what I want or what I deserve, I have more room to think about how I can help someone else. It’s a wonderful cycle!

There are so many ways to give back to our communities. Here are just a few.

1. Donate. When you have decluttered your house and designated some donation boxes, the next step is to give those things to someone who needs them. It might be a friend who mentioned needing a new set of maternity clothes, baby clothes, or a needed appliance. If you don’t know of any friends in need, then thrift stores and orphanages are great options.

2. Volunteer. Volunteer work is an opportunity to become part of something bigger than yourself. It’s an incredible thing. When we do something for others, knowing we’ll get nothing in return, it doesn’t just help them. It helps us, too.  There are so many ways to serve in our communities. Here are a few to think about:

  • Soup kitchens
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Become a mentor at an orphanage or children’s home
  • Be a camp counselor at a children’s summer camp
  • Help out at a hospital
  • Visit another country on a missions trip, or other humanitarian group
  • Help out at your local YMCA
  • Work at a veteran’s center

There are so many hurting people, and so much good we can accomplish with our own two hands.

3. Give to Charities. This is perhaps one of the easiest ways to help someone in need. One of my favorite charities is Metropolitan Ministries, a wonderful organization that feeds hungry children and adults in the Tampa Bay metro area. They partner with radio stations and other entities, during the holidays especially, to provide healthy meals for poverty-stricken families. They also help get families back on their feet and prepare them to re-enter the workforce. Being a part of that work is something that makes my heart swell. You can find out more here:

We have so much to be grateful for, and so much to give. When you understand how profoundly you’ve been blessed, it frees you up to help someone else.  This is something that living simply allowed me to understand. What are your favorite ways to give back?


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About The Simple Lifestyle

The philosophy behind The Simple Lifestyle has been in the works for a lifetime. As a teen and college student, I struggled with two sides of myself. On the one hand, I understood that I didn’t need to live in a large house, or have a lot of extravagant things, to have a happy life. I had experienced both good times and bad times growing up. I found that my most treasured experiences involved simple memories with my family–not fancy presents, not exciting visits to theme parks or expensive places. Instead, my favorite childhood moments centered around loved ones. My family playing games together, laughing about something inconsequential, or watching a movie together in the basement…these were the best memories for me. This is the life I wanted to give my own children someday. A simple, meaningful life.

On the other hand, I struggled with impulse buying, purchasing too many clothes and knick knacks, and generally losing myself in retail therapy. “Things” made me happy–or so I thought. But after several years of making money and losing it again, I realized I was no better off than if I’d never bought all those possessions.

I decided to turn things around for our family. By this time, I was married with a toddler. As a family, we decided to pursue a different mindset than the “more-more-more” values we saw around us. I stumbled upon the concept of minimalism, and realized I could make it my own. After a lot of research, comparison, and thought, I developed my sense of laid-back minimalism. This is the mindset I bring to my life today.

We don’t always follow these new values. We do sometimes buy things that we don’t need. But we have found deeper meaning and contentment in our family and home by rejecting materialism as a philosophy. Our goal is to have a simple, rich, deep home life–with close relationships as the focal point. I am excited to share what we’ve tried, and hear how it works for you.

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Three Reasons to Declutter

What Is It For?

Decluttering is an essential part of simplifying your life. In its simplest form, decluttering just means getting rid of the things around your house that you don’t need or use anymore. Whether it is paperwork to be recycled, toys to be donated, or some other area of your home you’d like to tidy up, this process will be liberating for you.

Here are some indications that it might be time to declutter:

  • You child’s toys don’t all fit in their room or in a storage closet anymore
  • You feel stressed walking into a room in your house, because there is just too much stuff everywhere
  • You don’t have a place for all your papers, knick knacks, or other belongings
  • You don’t enjoy spending time in your home because it feels too crowded

How to Begin

If you have never decluttered your home before, the best way to attack it is to handle one room at a time. Depending on your time constraints and schedule, you might choose to clean out one room a week, or one room a month. If you have a small home or an apartment, you might be able to knock out the whole thing in a weekend. It depends on your living space and how much you want to do at once.

To start, grab two garbage bags–one for trash, one for recycling–and several cardboard boxes. Take them with you into the room you’re going to clean out. Work in sections of the room. Here is an example of how to clean separate sections of a bedroom.

  • Closet: sort through your clothes, and see what doesn’t fit (or is never worn anymore). Determine a reasonable amount of clothes to donate, and put in a box
  • Desk: sort through and toss/recycle old papers
  • Dresser: repeat clothes sorting. Donate socks with no mate, etc.
  • Bookshelves/nightstands: determine which books, magazines, or other belongings you use on a regular basis, or might truly use in the future. Any others, put in a box for donation

You can go through this same process with every room in your house. Sometimes it can be difficult to part with your possessions, especially if you tend to save most everything. But you will discover three incredible results after you’ve decluttered:

  • 1. Your house looks wonderful!
  • 2. You will spend much less time cleaning and organizing, because there is less stuff.
  • 3. You feel liberated as you walk through your house, and observe the extra space you’ve created.

These 3 reasons make your effort worth it!

Decluttering can be a daunting task, but if you bite off one piece at a time, it’s very doable. The results will leave you wondering why you didn’t do it a long time ago! If you have comments or questions, please join the discussion!


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What Is Minimalism?

Minimalism is a rapidly growing movement in many parts of the world. But many are not sure how to define it, or what it involves. So what exactly is minimalism?

What It Can Be

There are different interpretations of minimalism. For some people, an authentic minimalist lifestyle needs to be very, very sparse. Examples of this would be:

  • Owning no more than 100 possessions
  • Doing without certain amenities, such as a car
  • Seeking to live with as few belongings, foods, etc. as possible

While this abrupt departure from first world norms is appealing to some people, it may seem too intense for others.

What It Is to Me

Minimalism in my life manifests itself in a different way. I would label my lifestyle as laid-back minimalism.  My main focus is to turn away from a materialistic, consumer-driven life. The goal is to focus less on getting more “stuff,” and instead build a life that prioritizes family, friends, experiences, and helping others. Some examples of our family’s brand of minimalism would be:

  • Driving the same car until it wears out (instead of upgrading to a new one based on preference or status)
  • Buying and living in a smaller house than most
  • Only purchasing as many clothes as we need
  • Teaching our son to be content with the toys he already has (instead of buying new ones every few months)
  • Celebrating holidays in a simple, heartfelt way–with one or two gifts per person

We have found that when our focus shifts from away from “things,” we have more energy to make memories with loved ones. We have more time to explore new hobbies. We have more motivation to develop our spiritual side, understand our purpose, and hep others.

This is what minimalism means to me. It can be difficult to begin, but once you find your rhythm, it can be the most rewarding change you make in your life.

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