Hello world! It’s been QUITE awhile since I’ve posted, and I’m so happy to be at it again. It’s just been crazy around here, and I feel like maybe I’m kinda-sorta recovered from the holidays and sickness and finally back into the swing of things. I’m not gonna lie, we’ve had some rough days! Liza Jill is going through this lovely 3-year old stage of defiance and daily meltdowns, which is a lot of fun (ha!). My husband is knee-deep in dissertation writing, he’s got a BIG deadline coming up very soon, so he is working super hard on that. These things combined mean I’m pretty exhausted most of the time, but I know it will be worth it in the end.
All of these “life” things we have going on, lead me into the topic of this blog post. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking and praying the past few months, and I’d like to share a bit of my heart with you.
Every year, in the weeks leading up to the holidays I clean out my kids toy closet because I know they are going to get a mountain of stuff for Christmas; if I don’t make room they won’t have anywhere to put their new things. This year was no different. I’d been feeling a little convicted about the amount of stuff we have around here before beginning my yearly clean-out, but once I started going through the toy closet I was even more convinced we need to make some drastic changes!
I have started to feel suffocated by stuff. Clothes, toys, household items – overall we just have wayyy too much! Our house is medium sized, I wouldn’t call it small, but it is definitely not large. We have more than enough space, yet it seems every corner is full! So, here are the steps we are taking to less:
- Purging: we are trashing, donating or selling all the “extra.” I’m on a mission to get rid of any clothes that don’t fit, toys that make noise/require batteries, and stuff we don’t use. I’ve taken boxes to our local charity thrift-store, handed down items to friends, and trashed so much broken and useless junk it’s embarrassing. I’ve sold a few things online, and am participating in a friend’s yard sale in a few weeks.
- Only acquiring toys that are quality, educational, and/or made of natural materials: I’m all about some wooden or natural toys that inspire open-ended play! I have gotten rid of much of our plastic toys, with a few exceptions – we still love legos, zoobs, and our castle set. But, the plastic toys I’m keeping are the ones that my kids actually play with and have stood the test of time. If it’s been sitting in the toy closet collecting dust, it’s out!
- Getting Outside: Part of not missing all the “things” is watching how we spend out time. This includes making sure we are enjoying nature instead of our possessions. Luckily, it’s been crazy warm this winter and we’ve easily been able to play outdoors most days. I’ve found when the children are able to play outside for at least an hour everyday it seriously helps with everyone’s mood. Sometimes we go to a park or nature trail, other times we just play in the back yard. Either way, the fresh air does us good!
- We’ve quit TV: Okay, okay…I guess I should say we’ve “drastically reduced screen time.” The kids still occasionally watch a show or movie, but not everyday, and I try to make sure it’s something educational or really well-done. We love magic school bus, storybots, and how-its-made. Our family is pretty into super heroes (especially Batman), so we allow Batman or Justice League, but it’s something we enjoy as a family. I also love to read a book to the kids and then watch the movie – Turner’s favorite right now is The Spiderwick Chronicles. Since TV isn’t my go-to anymore, the kids have mostly stopped asking for it! They used to watch a little bit in the morning, and it’s like they’ve forgotten all about it.
- READ: We’ve always read a lot together, but I’ve tried to kick it up a notch! I’ve started doing a little circle-time (or triangle-time, since there’s only three of us) in the mornings. We do our days of the week wheel, catechism, memory verse, pledge, and then we read a few stories together. I sometimes try to fit the stories into a theme, sometimes not. I had all of these winter books lined up about snow and snowmen, and it’s been 70+ degrees this January, ha! In addition to this time in the mornings, we’ve been devouring some chapter books. This month we have read The Kingdom of Wrenly books 1-6, it’s a super fun fantasy series for little children. There are mermaids and trolls and wizards, which my kids love, but it is very light hearted and age appropriate; I plan to continue our reading through these. We read the first Boxcar Children book, Turner liked it, Liza Jill tolerated it. She’s just not quite ready for something as advanced. As mentioned above, T has been enjoying Spiderwick as well.
- Getting Creative: We are spending more time on Art in our homeschool. We’ve been painting with watercolors, modeling with beeswax, and drawing a lot more.
It’s a process for sure. I’ve got closets and drawers and shelves to clean out. I’ve got toys to get rid of, and a wish list of items that I want to be the “staples” in our school and toy closet – I know that makes it sound like I’m replacing stuff with more stuff, but I see more value in a library of books, and a few really nice play things than a whole room of junk. I’m being really selective about what we get rid of and what we acquire, if that makes sense. Below are some photos of how we are implementing these changes.
There’s sister enjoying some wet-on-wet watercolor painting. We have been painting with two primary colors at a time, so no matter how the kids swirl it around, they turn out pretty and they are learning how different colors are made. I tell them a little story about “Tippy Brush” while they paint for them to learn how to properly handle art supplies. It has been a lot of fun! On the right is a pic of some peppermint play-doh that my sister in law made for Christmas, we have played with it a lot! I tape some freezer paper to the table, and let them enjoy it. While they play, the whole house smells like peppermint goodness! I’ve been amazed at how much they have loved the peppermint smell.
This beautiful baby cradle was made by my hubby’s dad, and both of my babies slept in it when they were tiny! It is a precious family possession, and now it sits in LJ’s room for all of her “babies.” This thing used to be crammed full with stuffed toys and dolls, and she hardly played with any of them. I got rid of all but what you see – the brown bunny rabbit her Uncle made with her at build-a-bear for her second birthday, the two grey rabbits are favorites she’s picked up along the way, the puppy dog was the first stuffed toy her dad and I ever gave her, there’s Clifford the big red dog, two cloth dolls – a sweet baby from London that Jared’s aunt gave her one Christmas, and Raggedy Ann, the little green octopus I made out of some scrap fabric, and then two plastic babies she has loved and played with for a long time. As soon as she walked in and saw this she was so excited! She’s been playing with them so much! It’s amazing how much they play when there are fewer choices.
The children are playing with blocks a lot now, which is so wonderful! I’ve also got a basket full of sheer scarfs and fabric, and it’s become something they play with a ton too! We’ve made tents, and baby blankets, and hats!
We’ve enjoyed lots of outside time, and made a little fairy garden one day.
Adding wooden/natural toys to your home doesn’t have to be expensive. I picked up the wooden clock for $4 at Goodwill! I ordered the little Waldorf-style dolls on Amazon, they were a little pricey, but Turner LOVES them! I got them to be “story buddies” for the kids during circle time, but T has played with them non-stop. I think he was excited to have a doll-type toy that isn’t super girly. He’s named them Super Red and Super Blue, and they’ve gone on lots of adventures already!
They did this all on their own – I’m not even joking!
Liza Jill was invited to the sweetest princess tea-party birthday a couple weeks ago, and all the girls were sent home with these precious ceramic tea sets. We have had so many tea parties! The tea set was one of the things, in addition to the toys in the cradle, that made the cut when we cleaned out her room.
So, there you have it! This quest is long from over, as the battle against excess is a long journey. I’m feeling better already with the few changes we’ve made and can’t wait to see what happens from here. What about you? Have you ever felt like material possessions were taking over your life? How did you handle it? I’d love to hear your ideas and tips! Thanks for reading : )