Getting rid of toys freed my family—and brought us immense joy

First, I want to be clear that we do still have some toys at our house.

Second, I'm a clutter-collector by nature, so I fight a constant war against piles of papers and collections of coffee cups, so this is definitely a work-in-progress.

Third, I want to share that we did The Great Toy + Clutter Purge during a multi-state move, so our kids really didn't notice that anything was missing when we finally arrived and unpacked our new house.

But we did get rid of probably 75% of our toys—and all of the toys we currently own take up about two boxes.


And I did get rid of so many articles of clothing that my mover said he's never seen a woman with fewer shoes.

And we did finally stop paying rent on the storage unit full of stuff that we didn't even need.

And I only really, truly kept things that “sparked joy,"(thank you Marie Kondo)—so the objects in our home now are, on the whole, more beautiful, meaningful and pleasureful to me.

Getting rid of all this stuff has definitely transformed our mentality, our shopping habits and our daily life.

But getting rid of the excess toys, I believe, has helped free my kids to have a more creative, less chaotic childhood.

Here's how I got started—

My husband took the kids away for the day. I took to the playroom.

If my kids absolutely loved a toy—it stayed. (Even if I didn't like it.)

If they were indifferent—it went.

If they wouldn't notice it was gone—oh you bet those went by the wayside.

If the toy or game was way too complicated, it was donated. (You know what I mean—the billion pieces where one was always missing or it took two hours to clean up...)

The toys and clutter that had taken over our home wasn't just taking up all of our time cleaning, it was actually preventing my kids from playing.

It wasn't giving them ways to be entertained—it was keeping them from enjoying one toy at a time. All the 'stuff' wasn't enhancing their childhood, it was drowning our house in mess.

So how has getting rid of 'stuff' freed our family?

I have to clean SO. MUCH. LESS. (More free time for me. Score!)

My kids are actually capable of cleaning up the messes they do make—win for kids' independence, win for me.

We don't spend our money acquiring the latest cool thing—we have a high standard for what we will purchase.

We don't keep all the kid clutter that comes into the house—artwork is appreciated, and then recycled. We keep the ones the kids love and we love.

We can spend more money on things we do value—higher quality furniture, family vacations, investment items.

Our family has started gifting us activities and events—a donut cake, a dinner out, swim lessons.

We enjoy more experiences—listening to books on tape, reading stories, creating things in the backyard, going on adventures. We spend our freed-up money on museum memberships, Friday night pizza dates and soccer club.

We've explored other ways we can make more conscious choices like that of living minimalistically—seeking more flexible jobs, exploring alternative schools, and recognizing that we have more control over our daily lives than it may have seemed before.

And I can see the major benefits to my kids.

My middle child has been meticulously building a fort out of boxes in our backyard. He also seems to be more creative with the toys that we kept—building rocket ships and blasting them into outer space. His favorite game is “playing-Legos-in-the-bath." He spends more time coloring and on fine-motor activities—in part because our house is more peaceful and seems more introspective now.

My older son has taken to listening to “books-on-tape" and devouring Harry Potter. Now that he's in busy, all-day kindergarten, I find it especially important that our home is a place of calm, and a more clutter-free house has been good for him.

Our baby is able to toddle through the house without losing her footing to a misplaced puzzle or pile of papers.

I'm not saying that minimalism and living with fewer toys or clutter is the answer to every single challenge a parent faces, but for our family, we've been liberated. We've been given more time, more space, more money—but are living with fewer toys, less 'stuff' and more freedom.

It has truly brought more joy and happiness into our lives than I ever thought it would.

I'm just so glad I found it.

Psst. . . here's where I started!

In This Article

    14 Toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

    So, what's new this week? All things maternity fashion, mama.

    Stowaway Collection Maternity: Modern maternity wear that shows off your bump.

    Finding clothes that still make you feel like yourself isn't always easy. With their premium fabrics and universally flattering cuts, we can't get enough of the maternity wardrobe essentials from Stowaway Collection maternity. Even better? Everything from the mama/daughter duo owned brand is sewn in Long Island City, NY and they source USA-made fabric whenever possible.

    Superkin: High tech, low maintenance clothing designed for mamas.

    Superkin's line of focused essentials (launched by two retail execs, Miriam Williams and Tara Henning, who worked for world-class brands like Louis Vuitton, Walmart, J.Crew and Narvar) are meticulously designed with the needs of mamas in mind. Made from luxurious, wear tested fabrics and featuring thoughtful design details, they've created a line of clothing women actually want to wear. Each piece is a welcome addition to a solid maternity capsule wardrobe, making them a worthy investment from the first trimester.

    Tellus Mater: Sophisticated, luxury maternity wear with a minimalist aesthetic.

    Founded by a former ELLE and Marie Claire beauty editor, Tellus Mater offers high-end, sophisticated maternity looks. Designed for mamas who are looking beyond the standard ruched dresses and oversize T-shirts, the considered line features classic white blouses, tailored trousers and fitted turtlenecks with a minimalist aesthetic. Their classic feel can easily carry mamas from meetings to business dinners all in one day.

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