Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Minimalism and Toys + a possible BIG move

I'm sure you have been hearing about it everywhere: minimalism. It is the newest fashion, it seems, to live with less. Where before the American life was all about bigger and more, now life is about having less.

I am not a naturally tidy person. I genuinely wish I was, as my life as a homemaker would be about 500x easier, but I have to struggle every day against my tendency to ignore clutter. I have become quite good at getting rid of things that are no longer needed or loved, and the idea of minimalism intrigues me.

I have even adopted some minimalist tendencies, purging excess everywhere I can. I spent an hour the other day (a very precious hour, as all 3 children were sleeping) going through my clothes and purged a good number of items that either don't fit or don't get worn.
But I find that some people take minimalism to an extreme that I just am not ever going to go to. You see, I enjoy a beautiful home. I enjoy decoration, paintings on the wall, decorations on the shelves, etc. I feel like those things are what make a house feel homey. Some people, including several people I know, prefer to take minimalism to the point of bare walls, little to no decor, etc. To each his own in that, but it is just not my thing.

Another area of minimalism that intrigues me, but which some people take to an extreme is when it comes to toys for children. Don't get me wrong, children don't NEED toys. And I think the grand majority of children have way too many toys, to the point that it surrounds them with chaos.

But I feel there is a good compromise to be had. I recently read a blog about keeping house and the woman said that her children only own 1 toy: some blocks. That's it. I was a little blown away by that, but I quickly understood how she was able to own a blog about keeping a house tidy, as my house would be SO much easier to keep clean without toys in it! I couldn't help but admire her ability to keep the kid clutter to a (serious) minimum, but at the same time I wondered if my children would end up with backlash hoarding tendencies when they grew up if I followed her example.

I guess I'm just not an extremist in most things. I try very hard to eat healthily and organic, but I am actually drinking a Mcdonald's milkshake as I type this (hangs head in shame). I am all about a tidy home, but not to the point of allowing it to take up all of my time with my family. I love the idea of minimalism, but not to the point of it become an idol in my life.

So yeah, I am paring down my belongings, because I really don't want to be surrounded by excess things I don't need or enjoy. Not to mention that having less means it takes less time to clean. I want to have less toys in our home, but ones which my children love and encourage them to learn and thrive. But I'm not going to be extreme in those things.

Last week we had an incident with Victoria where she refused to clean up her toys. She is required to clean up her toy area, which is our dining room off the kitchen, before bed every night. But she decided that day that she was going to refuse to clean up. After addressing her disobedience, I made it clear that her refusal to clean up her toys meant she would lose them.

So, my husband and I took 20 minutes and emptied her toy room. We moved all the toys into our basement, and honestly, Victoria didn't seem to care all that much. I figured she would care a whole lot more in the morning when she realized all of her toys were gone.

But the next morning, she still didn't seem to care all that much. She told me matter-of-factly at breakfast that she lost all of her toys because she didn't clean up.

I decided that she would get her toys back one by one as she asked for them, and her keeping them was under the condition she clean them up after using them. So here we are 8 days later, and this is what our toy room looks like:
A play house and the furniture for it (in one of the bins), a doctor set, blocks, dress-up trunk, and a cupcake game. She seems perfectly happy with these few toys right now. I think I have decided to keep the number of toys in the room at this amount, and I will rotate it every 2 weeks. So next week I will put all of these toys away and bring out the same number of other toys. Then I will probably get rid of everything else.

The major issue we deal with when it comes to toys is that our large extended family is always showering our kids with them! They receive toys for birthdays, Christmas, and pretty much every other opportunity they see our children (all of our family lives out of state). It is very sweet, because I know they are trying to show love to our kids since they don't get to see them very often, but how many toys does a kid need?!

So I've just told them that I am working on paring down our toys, and even told them about taking the toys away and slowly reintroducing. This will hopefully lead to less excess. I've also started asking people for non-toy items for the kids when they want to buy a gift: a pretty new hooded towel and bubble bath, a pair of shoes, a pass to our local kid's center, or any other fun experience. These are all things I've been mentioning as options other than toys.

But again, I am not going to be extreme about it. If my daughter gets a new toy, I am happy to let her play with it, but the condition is that she clean up after herself. I've noticed that she is much better at cleaning up after herself now that she has fewer toys. It's almost like having more toys was overwhelming to her.

This whole topic has gone to a new level recently. (Prepare for massive topic shift)

My husband came home from work a few weeks ago and asked me how I would feel about a big move. He was asked by his boss if he would be open to doing a 3 year stint in Japan. My husband said he is interested, and now we are awaiting the official word about whether we will be going or not.

This would be a pretty extreme move, obviously. It would entail selling our home, our cars, and a lot of our stuff, as well as storing everything we'd want to keep. It will be a big move, but it would be an awesome opportunity, both professionally and personally.

I have lived abroad before, for a year each in Finland and Brazil, and for 2 years in Turkey, so I am familiar with the difficulties in adjusting to a new culture and learning a new language. This would definitely have some more challenges as we will be going as a family, but I actually think that will make some things easier. Children are great catalysts for meeting people and getting involved in a community. But there would be some challenges as I would be alone all day with 3 small children in a foreign country while my husband is at work all day.

We will know for sure probably within the next month or so, but we do know that as of right now my husband is the only one in the running for the position. So right now we are just praying for God's will in this.

In the meantime, I am in this weird limbo place where I am almost afraid to buy anything, as we could be doing some extreme purging and downsizing quite soon. So I am using the possibility of Japan as an excuse to reevaluate our belongings. If I don't love or use something enough to either store it for 3 years or take it with me to Japan, then I don't really think I should keep it. So I've been keeping boxes in nearly every room to put items in that we won't be keeping. It has been a great exercise in minimalism for sure!

What are your thoughts on the whole minimalism topic? Do you tend to be more of a minimalist or a collector, or do you fall somewhere in the middle like me? 

Do any of you have experience living in or visiting Japan?


  1. I like hearing your thoughts . . . a balance view. I'm more in between (trying; I think I was more naturally a hoarder, an overpacker but it was stressing me out). I needed help with stuff (I am/was a shopholic), but I like crafts and reading and pretty things and variety. Too much stuff is stress-inducing and too little is boredom-inducing.

    I don't have my own home or children yet, but I'm always filing away advice for future note. Some parents have a toy rotation schedule and some suggest buying experiences instead of things for gifts.

  2. Love your thoughts! I think I'm still trying to find where I fit in. I love the idea and the practicality, but I also love options (I.e. I always WAY overpack!) and books...When it comes to toys I've definitely found that less is more! The fewer toys we have out, the better my son plays and the easier it is to clean up! I've been roatating his toys since he was maybe 8 months and it works great for us. We've also really run into the challenge of very generous family members who mean well, but quickly go overboard. We've talked a lot about really encouraging experience giving (I.e. Date nights or museum passes or classes) vs toys...but it's hard. I also think people can quickly go overboard and make minimalism an idol. Have you seen the documentary Minimalist? Interesting watch.

    Praying for you during this in limbo stage! Sounds like it could be an interesting and challenging adventure!

  3. That sounds so exciting! I'd love to spend some time in Japan. I am also trying to keep the amount of toys baby has at a minimum, but it's hard with everyone buying them things! He's really only interested in a few things anyway.

  4. Hi there! You haven't posted an update! Are you going to Japan?


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