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Time for a Purge: 7 Steps to Living with Less

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Have you ever had to sit on your luggage to zip it shut? Over-packer pro tip: I’ve found laying on it is actually more effective. Better distribution of weight. But you know when you open it, sleeves and underwear will pop out and there is no way it’s all fitting back in. This is basically my kids’ playroom. Every bin lid is bulging. The toy box lid won’t stay down. The books on the shelf are crammed in so tightly that I think their pages have molded together.

So it’s time. We need a toy purge. But we can’t stop there. I want living with less to be the new normal. I want minimalist kids and a minimalist toy room. Not because of the aesthetic, although a tidy house makes my heart happy. No, I want it because I know it’s good for their bodies, minds, and spirits. So I’ve got 7 steps we are going to take to get to the point of having (and being happy with) less.

Several studies have observed the negative effects of too many toys, but I’m thinking big picture here, too. I want my kids to grow up to be adults who love people and not possessions. But I can’t fill their lives with all the things and expect them to have a magical shift in priorities one day. I have to start out the way I want to end up. So let’s get started.

1. Do a preemptive purge.

If new toys are coming in at a birthday or Christmas, clear some space. The kids will probably be more willing to part with old stuff when they are excited and anticipating new things. This also will help prevent new toys from getting pushed aside and never played with. Fact: I have the same rule for my closet. If something is coming in, something else needs to go out.

2. Pray through the purge.

Have a conversation with the kids about the importance of being generous with their things. As they sort through toys, ask them to pray for the kids who will receive them and ask God to give them even more joyful memories. Living with less is a lot more doable when you remember how much less others have.

3. Sort it out.

Make four piles: keep, donate, maybe, and toss. Tell the kids the goal is to make the donate pile the biggest. If you’re having trouble deciding what to keep, these criteria will help: Have they played with it in the past nine months? If it’s been collecting dust for the same amount of time it takes to grow a human, they can live without it. Do they look for it when it’s missing? Does it bring them joy or does it cause fights?

4. Make a “maybe” bin.

If you have a bin or two of stuff you were just not sure about, rotate them in and out of play. If you rotate toys out for 6 months and no one has missed them, it sounds like they could be donated. Rotating bins is also a great way to freshen up playtime without buying new toys.

5. Do a secret purge.

If your kids are too young to reason with, you might have to do a cleanout while they’re sleeping. My sons are at their dad’s house every other weekend and I use that as an opportunity to sort through those overflowing bins. Not once have they asked me for a toy I purged. Not once.

6. Keep it up with mini-purges.

Clutter Jail

Living with less means it actually has to be part of your routine, not just a yearly dump. So once you’ve done the purge, keep it up with random giveaway days. Once or twice a month, tell your kids to find three toys to give away (or to toss, if it’s broken). Pick a specific recipient like the local coffee shop that has a play area or the treasure box at school. If clutter is really getting to you, try iMOM’s Clutter Jail. It’s a great (and fun) way to encourage kids to be more responsible with their toys.

7. I do. You do. We do.

If your kids see you cleaning out a drawer, they’ll be more likely to follow suit. So when you ask them to give away three things, grab three things from your closet or make-up drawer that you’re ready to donate or toss. Making it a family activity not only will make the habit stick, it also will help the whole house feel more tidy.

What strategies do you use to encourage your kids to part with toys? Is living with less possible with kids?


What should you do if your friend asks to play with your toy?

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