Thursday, May 26, 2016

Whole House Purge: Kid Stuff

Oh kid stuff.  Kids can mean a lot of stuff but the whole "kid got a new present but just wants to play with the box" thing is also very, very true.  I don't think a young kid can resist a big box and Luke will try to fit in just about every one we get in the mail.  But the other stuff, they stuff you buy, it can be so easy to quickly fill your house with stuff for them.  Very easy.  We have to do regular purges to keep it at bay.

I wrote a post when Luke was about 6 months old about the baby gear we had and used.  We still own and used it all until Luke grew out of most of it.  I stand by everything I said there.  And while it is easy to also get too much of that big stuff, it's all the little stuff that can make a huge difference too.  Any parents who has had their living room strewn with all their kid's belongings knows what I'm talking about (that happened just yesterday here).  So we purge.  Limit what we buy Luke.  And purge some more.  And somehow, keep his stuff from overtaking our house. 

When I was thinking about this post I was looking around our main living area (what I can see from my computer desk) and thinking about how pretty much all his toys are in there, mostly tucked away in baskets. (Mostly fitting in baskets and also mostly being in baskets, between Luke getting everything out).  But then I remembered he has some stuffed animals in his room.  And all of his non-board books.  And his Star Wars "guys" (Galactic Heroes).  And his real tools in the basement.  And bath toys in the tub.  And various sand toys/bubbles/larger balls in the backyard.  And his Cozy Coupe on the porch.  And his jet ski on the porch.  And more outside stuff in the garage.  And his bike.  And...I think that about covers it.  Almost every room of the house has some of his stuff.  And while it'd be nice to have a dedicated play room, it's also really nice not to because it helps us limit what we have for him and also keeps the family closer together physically.  And I'm convinced neater.

This is a little different than the other posts in this series because how this stuff is stored will be so different for everyone.  So different.  And how we do things now is a little different than when I took these pictures awhile ago.  Things are constantly shifting as Luke grows and his interests change.  We've had a lot of people be really generous with gifts and we've bought things for him ourselves that have slowly made their way to the garage sale pile.  We just can't keep everything, for space and sanity (mostly mine).

1) Regular Purges - especially after Birthdays and Christmas
After every single birthday and Christmas since Luke was born, Matt and I do a toy purge.  Every thing we keep, for the most part, has to fit in some of our designated kid space.  That pretty much means one of 6 baskets in our front room - 2 under the coffee table and 4 on the bookshelf (all seen above).  Things are sorted: a basket each for (1) books, (2) cars, (3) blocks, (4) balls, and then (5) larger and (6) smaller toys.  We added an additional basket for Duplos.  If he has too many cars that they all can't fit in the car basket?  Some have to go.  It's just how it is. 

We go through every old and new toy and decide if we should keep it.  This sounds like a process but it's really not too bad since we do it at least twice a year, usually more.  Things to consider:

Does Luke regularly play with it?
Does he have another very similar or exact item?
Do WE like it? (Some toys are just annoying, mainly noise making ones, if it's going to compromise my sanity, it's gone.)

It's amazing how many we can knock out with just those questions.

Luke was finally old enough to help after his recent 3rd birthday and was actually pretty good about saying which toys he wanted to keep and which to give to other kids.  I was surprised!  I think he's gotten so used to watching us do this over the last few years and we talk about the "garage sale pile" almost daily so it's not strange at all for him to see us get rid of things.

2) Limit what we keep and buy
We are small Star Wars fans around here.  If you haven't noticed, there is a TON of Star Wars merchandise.  It would be really easy to get sucked down that rabbit hole.  We decided, for now, we're only letting Luke "collect" two things: Galactic Heroes and Legos (really the Legos are Matt's but we already have a big Star Wars set for Luke when he's older).  No other Star Wars toys (I guess we have books too but I don't count those).  Doesn't matter what kind of deal we can get on anything else, we don't buy it.

The same holds for other types of toys.  We have Duplos (and Legos, when he's older) and don't need any other building toy.  We don't need every type of every toy.  Our house would get overwhelmed very, very quickly.

3) Limit storage space
There are many benefits to having a small house - cheap(er) to buy, less to furnish, less to clean.  And the size is a very good limiter on stuff.  Very good, in almost every room of our house.  Since we keep most of Luke's toys (with obvious exceptions) in our main living room, and I refuse to have them take over our house, we can't keep much simply because of space.  If we don't have a good spot to store something, we can't keep or buy it.  End of discussion.  This obviously did not stop us from buying him a Cozy Coupe.  Or making his jet ski.  Or probably a bunch of other exceptions but it has still helped us narrow down what we have.  Our house isn't taken over by toys because we just don't have the space (or space and sanity) for it.

4) Limit the budget
I've gotten a lot stricter on staying on budget for everything and that includes gifts.  We don't have an extravagant gift budget for anyone and especially Luke.  He is super easy to shop for, probably our easiest, and if we didn't stick with a budget, we'd blow a lot of money, pretty quickly.  I've had some new Galactic Heroes stashed away for months, waiting for some gift giving opportunity that we haven't already hit the budget on (and already have his adoption presents...for July).  If we didn't budget, and stick with it, we could all too easily buy him more things he doesn't need.  I'd rather keep it low and give him fewer special things.

That pretty much sums it up on toys.  Basically, we limit ourselves on space, budget, and kind.  And we enforce it regularly.  Everything that comes into the house is subject to the same rules.  Nothing is a given "keep" (besides maybe Legos). 

As for his clothes, it's pretty much the same.  I limit what I buy him in the first place (I've long aimed for 10 shirts per season/size which is now too many with constant sheet changing and washing).  I don't keep everything.  I've gone through his outgrown boxes many times and always find a few more things to get rid of.  He had so much baby clothes that I only need to keep the items we liked best (which was still plenty) and the rest is in the garage sale pile. 

So the take away:
1) Limit yourselves, the more ways the better.
2) Get your kids involved in what they are willing to part with (with parental overrule)
3) A place for everything and everything in it's place

I realize we have it pretty easy with just one, young-ish kid.  He still doesn't have super strong opinions on his toys.  We largely control every aspect of his life.  But this is what works for us now, in this stage.  And I'm going to enjoy the small benefits of that while we can! 

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