Keeping the toy chaos at bay

I dreaded the toy situation before I ever became a mama. I knew from years of nannying that toys could easily (and often!) get out of control, taking up living rooms, playrooms, bedrooms and basements. We don't have a playroom, or a basement, and it's important to me to have a home that reflects my personal style and feels like mine, instead of a daycare center. How on earth was I going to achieve this?!

I will say, it hasn't been easy. It takes near-constant and mindful editing of our toys, hard conversations with well-meaning friends and family members and being super intentional about the toys we add to our collection.

But, it's totally worth it. Our toy situation is, in my eyes, pretty minimal. Xavier plays with ALL of his toys. They are toys that allow open-ended play, space for his imagination to run wild. Hardly any of them beep or flash or make incessant noise. Very few of them require batteries. Most of them are pretty to look at. I'm actually pretty proud of our toy situation, and wanted to share it with you since I know so many mamas are overwhelmed with toys!

Xavier and Zelie share a bedroom, and it's right off the living room. The vast majority of their toys are stored in their room. I know that totally wouldn't work for some kids, but it's working well for us, right now. Xavier is still in a crib, so it's not like he can get up and play with all his toys when he should be napping or sleeping. We spend the bulk of our day playing in their room and the living room, so it's a perfect set-up. Here's the main toy storage area in their room (with an empty gallery wall above because I haven't gotten around to filling it since moving their room around!)

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The storage units are from Target, super similar to the KALLAX unit from IKEA. I get asked all the time about the differently sized shelves - those are just shelf inserts that Target sells separately. I originally didn't get them, but quickly realized that it would make the unit way more functional to have a few smaller-sized shelves.

All the baskets and bins are collected from various places...thrifted, IKEA, Target, At Home. I really love the eclectic look of mismatched but coordinating, but you could totally make it super uniform and get all matching bins/baskets, too!

Also, is the fact that garbage truck is backwards bothering anyone else?! I obviously took these on the fly when everything was miraculously in its place without bothering to "style." Real life, folks.

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We also have a few toys in our living room, mostly bigger items that don't fit in the kids' room and also books. Our dresser/shelf unit holds a big basket of legos, a big basket of puzzles, and a few toys for Zelie.

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We have a big basket of board books, a basket for all our library books, and the bottom shelf of one of the cabinets holds all of our picture books. Xavier loves to "be cozy" on the couch to read, so having all the books easily accessible in the living room works great.

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WHAT TOYS TO BUY/KEEP?

Like I mentioned, I love open-ended toys that encourage imaginative play. We have a Montessori-esque approach to toys as far as that goes. Xavier has a LOT of trucks/cars/construction machines, because that's what he's into and he plays with them for hours (in 10-minute blocks of time, of course!) I love all the ones from Melissa + Doug, and the Green Toys brand have held up really well, too. We have a wooden train set. Lots of instruments - I am all for encouraging music and we have a dance party with instruments pretty much daily. Legos, wooden blocks, toy animals. We also have a few vintage items from Matt's childhood, like that Fisher Price record player and an original Disney Poppin Pals (which Zelie is OBSESSED with!) A wooden tool set, some cardboard stacking blocks. Of course, we have some things I wouldn't normally choose or keep, but that Xavier loves, like a police car that lights up and makes noise, a super annoying racecar my aunt got him, an electronic drill, and a few other random items. I'm learning that I don't need to control every last thing and that the season of loud + annoying toys is a short one, all things considered.

We do have a few items that stay in the closet unless we're using them, like Xavier's balance bike, a walker wagon, and a cool ramp race that I found secondhand. I also have a couple sensory bins, and an "activity box" full of random things like solo cups (great for making "castles!), pipe cleaners (for "fences" for his animals!), paper towel tubes for rolling balls through, etc. And we have the usual art supplies, stickers, a bin of play-doh, yada yada.

HOW TO MAINTAIN TOY MINIMALISM

I'm committed to only keeping things that fit within my current system. If a basket is overflowing, we don't need to add anything else. Xavier needs no more trucks or cars or anything like that. We also don't buy toys on a whim. So far, the kids have gotten new toys for Christmas and their birthdays. Instead of Easter baskets, they're getting a beautiful wooden rainbow (so perfect for Easter, right?) and a gorgeous wooden barn (springtime and all that jazz). And then they won't get anything new until birthdays or Christmas.

I will admit, sometimes I second guess my quest for minimalism, especially when it comes to my kids. Am I depriving them? Are they missing out? But when I really sit back and watch how Xavier's imagination runs wild, how he's able to turn anything into something for play, how long he will play independently, I know that it's totally worth it. Kids are great at playing - so often we just need to get our ideas and our clutter out of their way!

P.S. if you're curious about minimalism + kids, you might also like this post about keeping kids clothes minimal.