Friday, March 14, 2008

Tackling the Toys

The next victims in my decluttering rampage were the kids' toys. I don't really have a sense for how our toy collection compares to that of similar families but I felt like things were getting out of control. I last organized and purged toys before Christmas and there are things that have been sitting on a shelf out of the kids' reach ever since. They haven't been missed.

It's hard to purge toys. I always wonder if I'm unfairly inflicting my own sense of aesthetic on my poor, deprived children. Certainly I want my children to have occupation and plenty of fodder for the imagination. I also want to beware of getting rid of something useful or valuable just because it isn't a hit with my current children. A few years ago I almost got rid of a set of four, large squishy blocks. They are different colors and covered with baby-stimulating decorations. Joseph was never interested in them. But along came Margaret who could actually sit up on her own at about the age you would like blocks such as these. She did love them. I'm glad I kept those. I'm debating now about our Brio trains. Margaret is a typical girl and isn't all that interested in "things that go." Joseph loves trains but can't work with tracks because he can't maneuver around them without knocking them over. These are nice trains but should I really hang on to them for a possible future boy? I'm having the same issue with our lovely wooden blocks. The kids like things that stick together.

I began the process by making a list of all the toys we own. It's not a very scientific list. Some toys were lumped into one category, "stuffed animals," while other items were listed singly, "plastic shovel." The list contained 58 items. Yikes. That's way more than necessary for two small children in a tiny apartment who mostly spend their time looking at books, squishing playdough, and banging mixing bowls. I marked things for elimination giving priority to well-made, wooden toys that maximized creativity and then consulted with Eric. I was able to empty Joseph's room just before naptime and sort things with Margaret's help. So far, no one has noticed any difference other than different organization.

In the end we eliminated twenty items from our list including many things that were made up of lots of small parts (big contributors to clutter!). The Brio trains stayed but the blocks are on probation. Purging toys also allowed me--no surprise here--to make some nice organizational changes. The pictures in this post show all of our toys with the exception of two puzzles, a magna-doodle, and some bath toys. Those items are stored in different places for particular reasons. Also not pictured is a wooden xylophone. The xylophone is pretty nice instrument that we would love for Joseph to use but we want it out of reach for Margaret. We can now put the xylophone on a shelf in Joseph's room where he can see it and ask for it but Margaret can't reach it. We still have a lot of stuffed animals but they no longer overflow the doll cradle. This cradle is something I want to keep for our girls and holding stuffed animals is actually a good way to hang on to it for now. Otherwise the toys all fit in or on these lovely IKEA end tables (which are quite popular, apparently, as their price recently doubled). Eric had been using one of these for dissertation purposes and now that the dissertation is done (!!!!!!!) I snatched it back for toy storage. We are finally going to get rid of the ugly end table that was in our living room. The IKEA table is probably not as high-quality but it looks nice, it's more functional, and it opens up the living room by a few inches. And this gained us an extra bookshelf. No complaints there!

I may have finally run out of things to declutter but we'll see. I feel a lot lighter but my possessions may begin to drive me crazy again in a few months.

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