The Honest Mommy

Uncensored thoughts on parenting & more

Decluttering toys March 5, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — lotsofopinions @ 4:12 pm
Tags: , ,

This morning I am working on listing a few toys on Craigslist. I noticed in my Craigslist images folder how many toys we have sold over the last year or so; this doesn’t include the toys we have given to Salvation Army.

It strikes me that we have gotten rid of a LOT of toys. And guess what — I don’t think I regret a single one. Even the nice things that we have gotten as gifts.

“Less stuff, more living.”


Thoughts on holding a garage sale May 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — lotsofopinions @ 1:04 pm
Tags: , ,

Yesterday I took part in a garage sale at a friend’s house. I helped set up the night before (some work, but also fun to see friends) and arrived bright and early on Saturday morning to get ready for business. Our family made less than ten dollars, but we didn’t have much in the sale and we did get rid of our old, beat up pack & play. Was it worth it to take part in the sale? Hard to say. From a fun/social standpoint, yes. From a time & money standpoint, probably not. From a decluttering standpoint, it’s a toss-up since everything we got rid of could have been donated to the Salvation Army.

Of course, now that the sale is over, I see a number of things that could have been in the sale — sandbox, highchair. On the other hand, we would have needed to haul those items to our friend’s house, and haul them back home if they didn’t sell.

I can see why FlyLady generally advises against having a garage sale. It requires so much work and time and space (space to store things before and after the sale). I feel sad for my friend, Angela, because she had been saving her boy’s clothes and gear and toys for years, in anticipation of having a huge garage sale, and it didn’t turn out that great. We didn’t have as much traffic as we had expected, and the customers we did have didn’t seem to be in need of baby gear. Angela seemed genuinely sad and disappointed about the results of the sale, and I can’t blame her considering all of the time and effort that she put into it. Angela had a nice bouncy seat priced at 3 dollars, and the fact that it didn’t sell tells me that we just didn’t have the right customers. I have seen similar (or not as nice seats) priced at 10 to 15 dollars, so I know price was not an issue.

In the end, all of the people participating in the sale put most of what didn’t sell on the curb with a FREE sign. It’s sort of depressing and it makes me wonder whether it was worth it to have a sale. If the goal is “just to get rid of stuff” and you don’t care how cheaply stuff sells for, then why have a sale in the first place? Why not donate everything to the Salvation Army here in town? The more valuable things, like highchairs and the like, can be sold on Craig’s List, consigned, etc., for much less effort than holding a garage sale.

For the past few years, I personally have been taking my nice baby gear and baby/kid clothes to a local children’s consignment shop. Now, I am more certain than ever that this is the right route for me. The fact that I don’t have to pay for a garage sale ad (which costs about 19 dollars) or even for a share of an ad is a huge advantage, not to mention that it takes very little time, effort, and planning to go the consignment route.


Thoughts on decluttering January 11, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — lotsofopinions @ 2:44 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Over the last month or so, I have done a lot of decluttering around our home.  I wish I had a tally of how many boxes and bags of things I have put in the trash or donated to Salvation Army.

It is safe to say that every area of our home has some clutter that needs attention. We have been married for nine years, lived in this house for eight years, and had our first child four years ago. During that time we have accumulated all manner of stuff. There was college stuff (textbooks, lamps, sheets, computer stuff, study abroad souvenirs) and stuff from before college (high school memorabilia, childhood memorabilia) and wedding stuff (photos, invitations, memorabilia such as guestbook and cake knife) and wedding presents (some wonderful, some not) and hand-me-down stuff from parents (furniture of various types, towels, sheets, home decor).

All of this doesn’t take into account various sports and hobbies that we have done over the years, the generations of computer equipment and other techie stuff that accumulate, and all the stuff that comes along with having your first baby.

Take all of the aforementioned clutter, and more — then add into it a small-ish house with just enough storage space to tempt a person to stash stuff away and forget about it–and you end up with a lot of STUFF to deal with. I should mentinon that over the years, I have put good, consistent effort into decluttering. I made a point of regularly going through clothes and books and anything else that seemed to need weeding out.

I have long wondered why I don’t hear my peers talk about decluttering much. Do they just not accumulate (buy, inherit, or otherwise acquire) as much stuff as we do? It seems unlikely to me — hubby and I are not shopaholics by any stretch of the imagination. Neither of us has any unwieldly collections (angels, DVDs, or anything else) or an affinity toward knick-knacks or any of the other usual clutter suspects. We are both quite willing to get rid of things that we don’t use or love, even if they are things that might cause us guilt to get rid of, such as things we’ve received as gifts.

I myself am more willing than a lot of people to simply throw away things that we can do without (and that no one else would likely want). When no one else is around (especially my 4-year-old) I like to go through the house with a trash bag and make things disappear. I try to squelch the voices that say “Oh but if you save that you might be able to use it for XYZ.” Forget it! Just get rid of it and get on with life. Is the world going to be a better place if I hang onto something instead of throwing it away? No, on the contrary, my home and my state of mind will likely be better if I have one less piece of clutter to see, move around, clean around, and otherwise deal with.

I heard a quote recently that has been on my mind a lot: “Less stuff, more living.” This quote guides me in a lot of things around my home (and since I am a SAHM mom, I am home a lot!). My idea — and it’s not an original idea, but important to me just the same– is that the less stuff we have, the nicer our home can look and the better our home can function, and the more we will enjoy being at home.

I spend a good deal of time and energy getting “the toy situation” under control in our home. I hope it’s worth it; I think it’s worth it! I have written about this before as well.  Some people who visit our basement may think that we have a lot of toys, but the key is that 90% of our toys are stored in our basement at any given time. It is sort of like a toy library, and it works well considering the set-up of our house and considering my personal preferences. My older son, Adam (4.5 years old), generally has 2 or maybe 3 toys/toy sets in his room at a time. (He also has a “craft center,” a subset of his books, a CD player, and a few other things.)

Over the last few weeks we have begun to talk seriously about doing an addition on our home. This makes me even more motivated to declutter since the process of adding on to our home will be just a little bit easier if we can pare down on how much stuff there is to move out of the way, and clean dust off of, afterwards


Thoughts on getting a child to clean his room December 30, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — lotsofopinions @ 3:05 pm
Tags: , , ,

My oldest child, Adam, is 4 1/2 years old. I want him to learn, however much he can given his age and personality, how to tackle a mess. Fortunately, his room is a great learning tool, especially in the last few weeks since I put in a “craft tower” for him (a stack of drawers for markers, crayons, glue, paper, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, and so on).

It is very tempting for me to go in and “help” him (or just do everything while he’s away at preschool) but I feel it’s important for him to 1) learn how to clean up a mess, and 2) experience the effects of his previous choices (e.g., to leave scraps of paper all over the floor).

I find it’s important, and also fair, to be specific when giving him instructions about cleaning his room. This morning I instructed him to clean off his table/desk by way of picking up an item and deciding where it belongs, then putting it away. If he doesn’t know where some things belongs, I instructed him to put them in a specific corner of his room, for us to work on later.

By following this procedure, I hope he will learn to take responsibility for his things; get reinforcement in the idea that most of his belongings do have a specifc place where they, well, belong; and get practice in focusing his attention over a period of time.

It’s not uncommon for Adam to pout, huff, or otherwise throw some sort of little fit when he’s instructed to do a particular task. Being the old-fashioned mom that I am, I generally do not accept that behavior. This morning he has twice been sent to lie down for 20-30 minutes at a time, as a consequence for his fits (during this “time-out” he is not allowed to talk, look at books, etc.).

Without a doubt, it is a lot of work for me to oversee his work and to follow through with discipline. I am not always up to the challenge, and I try to give myself, and Adam, some grace on those days. But all in all, I believe that it is worthwhile to put effort into this. I believe that if he is expected to follow directions without “giving attitude” and to take responsibilty for his belongings, that will help prepare him to be successful student, friend,  adult, husband, and citizen.


Decluttering, one decision at a time December 12, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — lotsofopinions @ 12:33 pm
Tags: , ,

Decluttering is such an interesting process, for one because it involves a lot of thought and emotion. One of my many dilemmas is: what to do with various packages of markers that I have from before I had kids. My children are ages 4 and 1. The 1yo is too young for markers, and the 4yo has a number of Crayola washable markers. I myself don’t use markers all that often; these days, much of my creativity is expressed in a digital manner (

I always say that the only markers that make it into my house are washable. It makes things so much easier and less stressful, knowing that the marker will come out of almost anything.

The markers that I have from before I had kids are not washable. I want to hang on to them because they are perfectly good markers, but I think I will get rid of anything that’s not of particular sentimental or “art” value. Yep, that settles it. Out they go!


Go me! and, thoughts on decluttering February 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — lotsofopinions @ 9:21 pm
Tags: ,

Today I have weeded out at least 20 books to get rid of. It feels good!

Also, after my husband got home from work, he went through DVDs and chose about ten to get rid of, including some boxed sets. He picked out a bunch of CDs to get rid of as well.

It always amazes me how much stuff we find to get rid of. As in, why didn’t I get rid of this the last time I went through this stuff? I have certainly found it to be the case that decluttering happens in stages. On one particular day, I might not be ready to get rid of something. Three months later, I have no problems parting with that same item.

It’s interesting what things go through my mind while decluttering. Some things are hard to get rid of, because doing so would be admitting that I never am going to read that book, pursue that hobby, and so on. Getting rid of certain things seems to represent a failure to live up to my own expectations, or even to others’ expectations.

For example, I took a watercolor class with my MIL a few years ago. I still have all of the supplies, but I haven’t touched them since the class ended. It isn’t likely that I will pursue watercolor painting anytime soon, or ever. And since my relationship with my MIL has gone down the tubes over the past year or so, it isn’t likely that we will spend time together doing this hobby. Wow — I really should get rid of that stuff!


Too many toys? Part II February 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — lotsofopinions @ 10:29 pm
Tags: , , ,

Nearly every parent knows what it’s like to feel overwhelmed by toys. Toys in bedrooms, toys in living rooms, toys in the tub – just too many toys all over the place. John Rosemond promotes an approach to toys called the Toy Library.

In this system, the child “checks out” one toy at a time from the Toy Library. When the child is done, s/he returns it in exchange for a different toy (usually with assistance from a parent, especially for younger kids). (A small assortment of Hot Wheels would count as one toy; a set of blocks would count as one toy.)

I have never followed through with this system because I couldn’t think of a way to make it feasible on a day-in, day-out basis. However, a few days ago I began to use a modified version of the Toy Library.

1. I pared down the toys in 3-year-old Adam’s room to: markers, crayons, & paper; a bin of misc. things such as empty coffee cans and empty boxes; plus 1-2 toys such as a set of Legos and an assortment of Hot Wheels. (I didn’t change anything with regard to the 30 or so books in his room.)

2. All other toys, I stashed away in our basement.

3. Adam is welcome at any time to request a toy from the basement. He needs to trade in one of the toys from his room (Legos, for example) in order to get the new toy. Naturally, this requires him to pick up and put away what he had been playing with. This is where I do a happy dance.

The benefits of this system are many. I think he appreciates his toys more, when they aren’t stuffed into every available space in his room. I should mention that since we have a small house, his bedroom is also where all of his toys are kept, aside from the toys that are stored in the basement. Using this sytem, he is required to keep his room and our main floor quite tidy because there simply aren’t a bazillion-and-one things for him to strew about. Also, I think he plays more creatively when we use this system.

It is a bit more work for me, but I think all in all, it nearly evens out in the end because I don’t have to deal with a bazillion-and-one toys all over the place.


Paring down the clutter in my 3-year-old’s room January 16, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — lotsofopinions @ 4:48 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

When I have a few minutes to spare, I like to go into my 3-year-old’s room (preferably when he’s not home) and pare things down. Why?

1)  Children play better in an environment that is calm & orderly, and spacious enough to spread out and play. (Both FlyLady and John Rosemond recommend this approach, and I couldn’t agree with it more.)

2) It is easier to keep his room tidy when there are fewer things to deal with. Therefore, I can hold him responsible, to a greater degree, for tidying up his room.

Last week I pared down his collection of markers and crayons from 40 to perhaps 20.  This is a sanity saver for me because he sometimes likes to take out all of his art supplies and play make-believe with them, putting them in boxes, bags, and so on. I don’t want to discourage this make-believe play, of course, but it is good for my mental health when there aren’t as many markers involved.

Like many parents, I also rotate toys in and out of storage. I do expect him to entertain himself most of the time, and I can handle the occasional guilt about this if he can enjoy something “new” now and then. However, I do try to make sure I don’t put him in a mindset where he thinks he can entertain himeself only if there is something new to play with.

As adults, sometimes it’s easy to think that more is better when it comes to toys for our kids. It can be difficult to fight this mindset, but I think it’s worth it. Kids don’t need lots of things; they do need the opportunity to play safely, to explore, and, when they are old enough, and to play creatively and imaginatively.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences regarding kids, toys, and decluttering!


Too many toys? January 11, 2009

Filed under: Toys — lotsofopinions @ 12:05 am
Tags: , ,

A year or two ago, a lot of my mommy-friends seemed to think that we had a LOT of toys at our house. We did have a fair number of toys, and they were kept in our living room since we don’t have a place for a play room.

Since then, I have changed my thinking about toys, and my 3yo son has also moved into a different bedroom, which is on the main floor. Now, we have almost no toys in the living room, and all of his toys (the ones that aren’t being stored in the basement) are in his relatively small bedroom. He has just a few toys in his bedroom because I believe it’s important for kids to have the opportunity to play creatively with a few toys and not be overwhelmed with too many toys all at once.

And so, I recently realized that now that my friends’ kids are getting older, their houses are being overrun by toys, whereas at any given time, we have just a few toys underfoot at our house. It is funny how things have turned topsy-turvey in that regard. I am often relieved when we return home from a friend’s house because I don’t feel overwhelmed by gazillion toys everywhere. I also feel that my everyday life is a good deal simpler because I’m not trying to operate in a house that’s overrun by toys.

Another benefit of having fewer toys is that I don’t feel that I’m being unrealistic to expect my son to pick up and put away ALL of the toys that he’s pulled out.

I’m sure my friends think I’m a little kooky. Like when we have playgroup at a local church’s nursery, when I arrive I put out of reach at least half of the 150 pieces of play food. Why? Because I hate picking them up after they’ve ended up in every corner of the room. I also think kids have just as much fun with 75 pieces of play food as they have with 150 pieces (okay, I may be exaggerating a bit here, but not by much).

All in all, I still feel we own too many toys. My strategy for dealing with the problem is

  • We keep just a few toys in my son’s room at any one time. The rest of the toys are tucked away in the basement and we rotate in different toys every so often.
  • We try to limit the number of new toys coming in to our house. For birthdays, we ask for no gifts (though we don’t expect the grandparents to comply).
  • I make an effort to get rid of the toys that don’t seem worthwhile. This is getting more difficult as Adam gets older, however.