We've been there, mama.
It happens to the best of us. Even to the GOAT. When you have a baby it's so easy for your home to just fill up with brightly colored plastic. Just ask Serena Williams.
Her 1-year-old daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.'s things seem to be taking over the house, as Williams shared with her Instagram followers.
"Sometimes I have to throw my hands up in the air. #thismama used to have a living room. Now I just have a play room. When did that happen?" she captioned the relatable pic.
We've all been there, Serena. As Motherly's minimalism expert, Juli Williams, previously wrote, when so many kind family and friends gift your child with playthings, it's easy to forget where the toys taking over the living room even came from.
"By the time my daughter was 8 months old she had so many toys that we had filled two huge chests with them," she explains. "Plus the activity gym, bouncy seat, swing and walker that were sitting in our living room. Oh, and don't forget the bag of bath toys hanging to dry in our bathroom tub."
The clutter began to get to Williams, who was tired of picking up toys her daughter wasn't even playing with. When she got rid of almost all of her toys, she found herself "more at peace, with less to clean" and she noticed her daughter was playing more with the toys she did have.
Williams isn't the only one to notice this: Scientists have, too.
As Motherly reported last year, researchers at the University of Toledo found that toddlers play longer and more happily when there are fewer toys around. Their study involved setting toddlers up in a room with either four or 16 toys. It turned out, the kids with just four toys engaged "in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively."
Bottom line: You don't have to sacrifice your living room (and your sanity) to bright bits of plastic when you become a mama. If you're overwhelmed by the number of toys in your space, your baby probably is, too.
If you are feeling the same way Serena is, consider Team Motherly's tips for keeping toys from taking over:
1. If you're moving soon, don't take all those toys
When Motherly's co-founder, Elizabeth Tenety, packed up her playroom for an interstate move, she didn't bring 75% of the toys to her new house. She had the same problem as Serena, and didn't want to bring it with her.
"Our playroom was often unusable because—you guessed it!—the toys were E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E and all over the floor, all the time. (No room to play.)," Tenety previously wrote.
Before the big move, she donated a ton of toys and found it has been "absolutely incredible to see the impact of living with radically less—on me, our home, and especially our kids."
2. Consider packing even if you're not moving
Take a look at your living room or play room (wherever the toys replicate in your home) and consider what you would bring with you if you were moving (even if you're absolutely not).
Pack up anything you wouldn't take, and move it to Goodwill or another charity.
3. Prioritize experiences over material goods
As our children grow, they're going to remember the memories we make together—not the toys cluttering up the house. If you can let grandparents and aunties in on this secret, you can keep your living room from looking like Serena's.
When Tenety decluttered her kids' toy stash, she asked her family not to gift the kids with any more toys, suggesting a weekend at grandpa's house, some art supplies or swimming lessons would be more meaningful.
Minimalism expert Juli Williams did the same. "For my daughter's second Christmas, we asked our family to gift us a registration to a toddler class instead of toys—and my daughter loved it," she previously wrote. "I took photos at the class and sent them to our family every week to show them the exciting new things she was learning—and so they truly understood that it was a gift that kept on giving."
4. Consider a no-toy Christmas this year
For a lot of families, a pile of toys under the Christmas tree is a holiday tradition, but more and more parents (including Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher) are opting for no-toy Christmas celebrations.
Motherly's own Rachel Gorton has also opted for this minimalist tradition. "Christmas in our household represents so much more than toys under the tree. I don't want our children to be distracted from the real reason we celebrate this holiday by a shiny new toy they don't need," she previously wrote.
"I want them to learn about giving without the concept being tied only to possessions in their mind. I want them to understand that giving doesn't always come in the form of an object."
Like Kunis and Kutcher, (and Tenety and Williams) Gorton emphasizes meaningful gifts and gifts of experience in her family's holiday rituals. Serena might want to hop on this trend, too.