My Simple Living Series shares tips for simplifying, categories of *stuff* with ideas for decluttering, and/or advice about living more intentionally. In this post, I’m sharing my personal list of essential kid stuff.
I have decluttered many times since we had children, especially as we have moved three times (once to a new country)… but the process is never-ending. Gifts, party favours, free stuff handed out at events, hand-me-downs, the stuff just keeps coming!
So how much stuff is really necessary to give kids enough to play with and explore their interests, without overwhelming them with heaps of belongings to take care of or stuffing their rooms with dozens of storage containers?
After evaluating the types of kid stuff I value the most (and my kids seem to enjoy the most), I have broken it all down into four categories and I try to have a few options for the kids in each area:
Stuff to learn – books, educational tools, science kits etc
Stuff to create – Lego, blocks, beads, art supplies etc
Stuff to imagine – small toys like vehicles, figurines, dolls, animals, dress up clothes etc
Stuff to encourage “people skills” – board games, cards, puzzles etc
Kids don’t need everything, and of course they will learn these skills with nothing whatsoever. My husband always likes to remind me if the kids don’t have toys, they will play with the sticks and rocks outside. Because of the culture we live in however I think it is nice to be able to encourage learning, creativity, playing with others, and imagination by providing a few materials in each of these key areas. Many items will overlap between categories as well.
In the picture above you can see the bulk of the stuff in my 6 year old’s room. He also has a small set of drawers for clothes, a bed where he keeps his stuffed animals, and a desk which has a some art supplies and activity books on it, too… but this is the rest. This unit contains, from bottom shelves to top:
- Basket of school uniforms
- Games and puzzles
- Action figures, animals, matchbox cars etc
- Rock collection
- Tinker Toys
- Marble run
- Letter writing kit
- Educational materials
- A few craft kits (flower presser, hama beads)
- Box of Lego instructions for the kits we have, if he ever wants to use them
- Boo Boo Basket
- Quiet Time Basket
All this stuff is actually not necessary, I will readily admit. My four year old has the same style of shelf but half the size (only two rows), and it contains the same amount of books plus other sets of toys. The kids pretty much share all the toys and books between them except a few special belongings. When you look at it all together, it actually is a lot of stuff.
But this amount of kid stuff has been a good balance for our family at this stage in our journey. None of it is broken, not age appropriate, or totally unused. When I asked on Facebook if this looked like a reasonable amount of stuff for an early school-aged child though I was surprised that many mothers expressed that their kids has way more stuff, like even twice or three times the amount. Stuffed in closets, under the bed, in the lounge, or in the garage. Several said how they hated all the stuff and wished they could get rid of it.
Why do we buy so much stuff and keep so much stuff if we hate it? Does it make us or our kids happy?
I know the struggle of decluttering – it takes time and effort, no doubt! But if I did not regularly go through our stuff and ask the kids to give away what they do not play with any more, we would be absolutely overwhelmed with clutter! By having more stuff crammed in the shelves, the kids are not entertained more. In fact, there is more mess to make and more mess to clean up… which just stresses everyone out! So, for me, it is just not worth keeping all the extra stuff…. even though it does take a bit of work to keep the clutter under control.
When we travel next year and the kids have only a small fraction of what they have now to play with, I know they will be just fine. In fact, I am looking forward to it. I love to see the creative games they come up with when they are challenged to use whatever they have on hand!
If you feel like you need to declutter, you may enjoy my post 50 Days to Simplify Your Home which has a printable checklist to work your way through your house.
And if you are worried about giving your “kid stuff” away and the kids not having anything to do, just check out this amazing list of homemade toys from creative mamas around the internet. There are plenty of ways to re-use what we have around us to make things, without buying cheap toys that will break or expensive toys that will gather dust on the shelf. Kids love making stuff anyway, so they get to make and play – what’s better than that? If it still works when the kids are “over it”, just pass it on! Or if it breaks or gets used beyond repair, no big deal. That’s the joy of easy homemade toys.
Here is the list:
Playing with toys is not the only thing kids can do, either. It might be fun for them to get busy working on an act of kindness!
How much *stuff *do your kids have? What is the key to finding the balance?
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