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!

Raising a mentally strong kid doesn't mean he won't cry when he's sad or that he won't fail sometimes. Mental strength won't make your child immune to hardship—but it also won't cause him to suppress his emotions.

In fact, it's quite the opposite. Mental strength is what helps kids bounce back from setbacks. It gives them the strength to keep going, even when they're plagued with self-doubt. A strong mental muscle is the key to helping kids reach their greatest potential in life.

But raising a mentally strong kid requires parents to avoid the common yet unhealthy parenting practices that rob kids of mental strength. In my book, 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do, I identify 13 things to avoid if you want to raise a mentally strong kid equipped to tackle life's toughest challenges:

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play