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Too Many Toys

I did an experiment this summer. Actually, it was a total accident that turned into an experiment. I put away 75 percent of my children’s toys so we could pack them for an upcoming move. Then our move got pushed back a few weeks. Then a few more weeks. As I flipped the calendar to write the new moving date in late August, I thought to myself, “I should get out some of the kids’ toys if we’re going to be here awhile.”

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But I never did. Each time I thought about bringing back a few trucks or coloring books or baby dolls I got distracted and my kids had to make do with a paltry 25 percent of their in-home entertainment.

And here’s the thing that veteran de-clutterers know, but I just learned: My kids didn’t miss a single thing. I left them with about 20 crayons, where they were used to having access to dozens of markers, finger paints, watercolors and colored pencils. I kept waiting for them to ask for their other art supplies, but they never did. Same with the trains and cars and books.

My son turned a spaghetti squash into a fire engine, which entertained him for a solid 20 minutes.

And we never had tons of toys. We live in the middle of the city so my children’s play areas are also known as “the kitchen” or “the living room.” We never had the luxury of a basement or a dedicated playroom, so spatial limitations kept a tight lid on the amount of toys we could have.

Now I am convinced that my compulsion for more, which I justify "because it’s for the kids,” is not actually serving them. They don’t need more. In fact, what they would prefer more than stuff is more space to play with what they already have. I’ve watched their imaginations make do with a packet of Post-It notes and a single sheet of Hello Kitty stickers. My son turned a spaghetti squash into a fire engine, which entertained him for a solid 20 minutes.

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My husband and I have talked about what to do with those boxes of toys when our moving day finally comes. I suspect those toys we thought our kids loved so much may end up as donations to charitable organizations. My husband has helpfully suggested I apply the same “less is more” principle to my own “toys,” and I know he’s right. But it’s hard to let go of the purses and shoes and books that I’ve become attached to. This experiment, however, has made me more willing, and this much closer to adopting a familywide policy of living more simply and having less stuff.

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