Toys Do Not Equal Happiness

I am a reformed hoarder. As a librarian, I work in an industry of hoarders. My whole system of work is about recruiting items and storing history and information for the general public. But over the years, and many many many weedings later, I have really understood the power of quality over quantity.

So I applied this to my home life and have read a lot of great resources on the topic of minimalist living. More importantly, being a minimalist with children.

Part of being a minimalist is helping your children realize the importance of living without material items making you happy. This is easier said than done. Luckily we don’t have cable so my children do not see many commercials but when we go to other places, advertisements are all over the television. And they look so cool! And fun! And every new toy I see I want to get for them because that will make them happy…and then I snap back into the real world and remember we have a small house, a small budget, and no need for it.

The thing about it is you want to inspire your children to play more. That may sound a little counterproductive if you take their toys away but it really isn’t. You want to keep things that inspire them, make them use their imaginations, and for God sake go outside once in a while. Me personally, when I weeded through my daughter’s room I kept her puzzles, books, play ponies, two baby dolls and clothes, and dress up items. Most of the other toys were donated. That is not to say she doesn’t have plenty of things to play with, even if they aren’t toys.

It can get tempting and I have read blogs where parents NEVER let their kids get toys or items. I think that is a wee bit extreme I am just very selective now of what comes into the house. So, here are some ideas for gifts and items for toddlers and kids that aren’t just toys.

Blankets and Sleeping Bags– My daughter could play with blankets for hours, and some days when we’re stuck inside she does. She plays camping, makes sheet forts, makes dresses, has play picnics, etc etc. Great thing about blankets is I have one space for them, so when she gets too many, I ask her which one she wants to get rid of.

Kitchen Tools- Whenever I update something in the kitchen I ask my daughter if she wants the old one for her play kitchen. So she has real measuring cups, mixing spoons, and a spatula to play with. This eliminates the need for so many toy items that are smaller and usually end up all over the living room.

Memberships– The intangible gifts probably won’t be appreciated right away by the little ones. However, when summer hits and they want to go to the pool at your YMCA or to your local Zoo (if they have a fee) then remind them about their gift they got from you (or grandparent or aunt Millie, whoever).

Gift Cards- another intangible. I think adding pictures of what the gift card is for will help them get excited. Make a handmade card with ice creams on it and a gift card for an ice cream date, or a movie date.

Lessons– Maybe a toddler won’t appreciate piano lessons, but an older child might. Maybe there’s a unique instrument that you have seen out or at the library or in a movie. Maybe your child likes to draw and wants to get better. Maybe they want to be a better swimmer.

Dress Up Clothes– Yes, these can start to get out of hand just like regular clothes or toys if you’re not careful. But the whole point of limiting toys and clutter is to promote your child’s imagination and creativity. I think that is exactly what dress up clothes can do! Just keep it to a few items. If they get something new, they have to get rid of something old.

Art Supplies– these go fast at my house, I don’t know about anywhere else. Markers run out, crayons get snapped in two, paper gets used, coloring books fill up within a few days. So art supplies are always a great way to go.

Bubbles– same as art supplies.

Some other articles I found helpful: 

Great article about living as a minimalist with kids and why to start it in the first place.

This mother has two posts about taking her children’s toys away and I love both of them.

I really found this book insightful on the whole concept of minimizing with a family:


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