Another major purge: Tackling the toys!

A while back I wrote about how Less is More.  That journey never ends.  Some how the belongings multiply, items enter the house through a variety of ways and we get overwhelmed with clutter.

I have discovered that the more I take out of the house, the less I really need to live a full and happy life.  Material objects seem to clutter our home, time and minds.  I'm tired of cleaning up messes all day.  Then stuffing it all back in to already packed storage spaces.  What if we only kept that which was useful, and brought us joy?

We always have a donation box on the go.  This last time I cleaned the house I thoroughly went through every draw, cupboard and item in the room.  Some rooms went much faster than others.  Either way the results looked very organized and refreshing.

Some guidelines I follow:
Have we used this recently?
Do we need so many multiples of items?
Do we love it?
Is it useful?

If one of us is not sure on an item we usually wait until next time I go through the rooms, or decide if we could sell it and use that money for something else we really need.

Our Biggest Problem:
My biggest challenge has been the boys' items!  Imagine if you will a messy boy bedroom.  They each have a bookcase for personal items, toys, books etc.  The shelves were so bursting full and larger items were all over the floor so that you couldn't even get to the bookcases.  They also have the only closet for the whole house in their room (it holds some adult clothes, toys and junk).  I couldn't stand it!!  They boys also couldn't get to or even use their things.  Sorry no before photo, I just couldn't deal with it all.  Daddy and I had great discussion because we didn't want to invade their personal space and take away items that belonged to the boys.  We really wanted to involve them in the process, help them to take ownership and love their room.  We also homeschool so I was torn between providing a rich environment to explore and learn from, and having too much out to clutter up the space.

The Solution:
First we talked to the boys about how we felt.  Asked for their thoughts and presented some ideas of what we could do.  We actually have a really cool antique stairs that I'd like to use again as a display shelf.  We talked to the boys about putting it in their bedroom or the playroom.  We all decided to make a fort/loft in the playroom with the stairs and go through all the toys so that everything could find a home.  TJ then wanted a fort of his own, a special private space.  When I asked him to draw up his idea I happily realized it was doable.

Next step was to remove everything from their bookcases and under the bed.  I asked each boy to only put their absolute favourite, must have items back into the selves.  The rest we'd sort out later.

TJ's new personal fort in his room.
TJ had wanted to put some material between his bunk bed and the wall to create a fort in the space in front of his bookcase.  I love being crafty and was all set to do some fun sewing.  First I brought out our old puppet theatre to see how the idea would look.  Turns out the puppet theatre is a perfect fit!!  TJ loves his private space and carefully selected items on his shelves to compliment the new fort.

This next step was more dramatic.  I took all the left overs from their bedroom along with almost all the toys from all over the house and spread them out on the playroom floor.  I did not include the Lego or Playmobil (which they weren't going to give up), a few wooden toys that we had already put up for toy rotation, and the books which we had paired down a lot for now.  I placed like items together and invited the boys in to see how much they had.  Keep in mind this was already after a playroom purge weeks earlier.
Most of the boys' toys spread out in one spot
Most of the boys' toys in one place to sort through
 The boys were both a little shocked with how much stuff they had and didn't realize it!  We took our time over two days to take out anything that was their absolute favourite.  I reminded the boys that nothing would get thrown away or donated unless they said so.  TJ and I took a few photos of some cardboard robots he had made and then tossed them.

Left-over items to deal with
 Looks like vehicles, boardgames and personal items were favourites.  I boxed up everything else and put them in bins in my bedroom (we have no storage space in our house or I'd have used the basement).  If the boys ask for an item then I'll get it out.  I'll leave the bins there for a while and then ask the boys what we should do with all the unclaimed items.

Lastly I put the items they did want to keep neatly away.  A few things went back into the bedroom. Most went into the playroom and a few into the family room.  We haven't gotten to building the fort in the playroom yet, but now we have a plan.

The Results:
Amazing!  Both rooms are peaceful, organized and tidy.  They can find items on all the shelves and have empty space to fill as time goes on.  They also learned a lot about keeping what we love/use and letting go of the rest.

MJ's bookcase
 MJ's bookcase mostly has random clock and electrical parts for building things with, a few small toys and drawings he wanted to keep.  His tool box is under the bed.

TJ's bookcase
TJ's bookcase has items to play house, some smaller stuffies, and his books.  He loves his new private space too.

I found that after we removed a lot the boys re-discovered some old favourites and played happily with them for hours.  They have set up elaborate Playmobil farms again and added to those.  They are also in love with the handmade dolls I made them a few years ago that never were played with. Overall they are happier with less and are making some wise decisions about bringing more into the home.

Doll made for the boys Christmas 2012
Doll made for the boys Christmas 2012

BUT WAIT!!!  You have a bunch of birthdays coming up!!  What about gifts and things from that??

Well we do purge right before birthday and Christmas to make room for new items.  We have in the past asked for no gifts or a donation to charity instead of gifts.  Some family members prefer to donate towards the boys' RESP, or check out our lists of items we actually want/need.  Other preferable ideas are gift certificates to events, museums, parks, movies, magazines, or consumables like art supplies.  We are always grateful, thankful and blessed by any gift we receive.  The boys play with every item a lot.  They have hours of fun exploring and playing.
Minimizing our items is not a task we take lightly.  It does require a lot of thought but in our small busy home we have decided to keep the stressful clutter down and live with joy!

I can't wait to show you the playroom once it is all finished!!  Share with me... do you purge?  Want to know more about minimizing clutter? Share your successes stories!

This post is linked to:
Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-up
Twinkle Tuesday
Hip Homeschool Hop
Pintastic Pinning Party