Toddlers are naturally orderly - Maria Montessori indicates that a child’s “sensitive period” for order (desire for consistency, repetition, routines etc.) begins at birth and lasts until around age five and peaks around 18 months to 2.5 years. A sensitive period simply means that children seek out relationships and objects relating to specific interests and abilities around certain times of development.
Some may say, if you want to avoid clutter at the holidays, why even give gifts? I love gifts. I love buying what I think people will enjoy based on a passing comment, or even just buying them exactly what they told me they want! I think small gifts add joy to a season of giving. That said, gifts don’t have to contribute to clutter.
If your family and friends ask for guidance when giving gifts, here are a few ideas you can share, or keep these in mind as your gifting this holiday season:
📝 Make a wish/idea list for each child and share it; An Amazon list doesn’t have to include Amazon-only items and you can add notes like sizes/colors. Be sure to let the people you share it with know that they don’t HAVE to buy from the list - that’s weird. 😜
🩰 Experiences; If your daughter loves dance, maybe a month of classes with a leotard would be a great gift. If your son likes fire trucks, maybe a trip to the Fire History Museum with grandma and grandpa is another great gift.
🎨 Consumables; Art supplies, craft and hobby kits are excellent for creativity and focus (and they get used up).
💵 Money; While I’d say it’s generally rude to directly ask for money, we have a few family members who like to give this way. Open a savings account for your child(ren) and/or share with the giver something you were planning on purchasing that their monetary gift would “go towards” - a swing set, a new stroller, a play kitchen, etc.
Do you enjoy giving gifts?
Don’t let your pursuit of minimalism interfere with your gratitude.
If you’re trying to live a more minimal-ish lifestyle, holidays and gifts can make you nervous, anxious and fear that clutter will enter your home.
As we start talking about the holidays, especially in relation to children, this is your reminder that gift-givers love and appreciate you and your children and want to spend their hard-earned money to demonstrate that. Receiving gifts gratefully and appreciating the thought behind the gift and thanking the giver is much more important than fearing that it could contribute to unwanted clutter.
If you’ve already fully decluttered your home, you’re starting off ahead of the game and a few new things won’t “undo” any of your efforts. If you haven’t started and have clutter in your home, a few new things won’t contribute much more than you already have. You’re also not obligated to keep what you were gifted forever!
If your family and friends are like ours and ask for gift ideas for you or the kids, I have a few tips coming up that will help you gently guide them in the right direction!
Why limit toys, books and what’s accessible to kids? In addition to lessening the clutter and keeping your home a bit more tidy and organized, studies show that less toys means higher quality play. The University of Toledo in Ohio studied 36 toddlers (ages 18 to 30 months) in free-play sessions with either 4 or 16 toys. In the groups who played with only four toys, toddlers played in more varied, advanced ways for longer periods of time.
I believe that both active (with batteries) and passive (without batteries) toys are a personal choice for each family and all toys have a place. Some that drive me to a place of crazy, but yes, they still have a place.
One last tip - don’t keep out what you don’t want to clean up. Is one toy a shape sorter with 10+ extra little pieces? Put it in rotation when you have other large, single toys out so it’s more manageable to gather little parts. When I do this, cleaning up is less overwhelming.
🎶 "Welcome to my learning farm..." 🎶 IYKYK. Although I am SO tired of this song, the learning walker toy has been great for my son over the past few months - sitting for long periods, crawling/pulling towards it and working on standing; I can't complain too much. Do you have a least favorite toy as a parent? Tell me so we can lament together.
My kids are two-ish and one-ish. When we moved from the east coast to the west over 4 years ago (woah!), I really started realizing how I wanted to own less, spend less, and feel less suffocated. Moving will definitely remind you of all the stuff you have that you really don’t need (and haven’t touched in years!).
As they grow and get older, I hope to teach my daughter and son that:
📌 You don’t need stuff to remind you of good memories and experiences
📌 Your brain functions better with less choices
📌 It’s good, helpful and kind to learn to let go and give something a second life; someone else will love it just as much as you
That doesn’t mean they don’t have toys, books, games, etc. I just take extra steps to limit what’s available to make it easier on them, their brains and our house, too.
It’s never “too late” to help teach your kids to let go, although as they get older it can be harder as they’re more aware and curious - you’ll just have to help them through the process. Even though my daughter is a tiny toddler, I let her know what I'm doing when I rotate toys, clean up and out, etc.
We’ll be talking about kids, gifts, shopping, upcoming holidays and all that fun stuff over the next few weeks - hope you’ll join me and let me know what you’re interested in seeing and what you need help with in your home!
Ways to Help Children Let Go
I am trying my best to teach my kids from a very early age that it’s okay to let go. In addition to helping to keep my house less cluttered and chaotic, doing some of the following things helps them learn how to make choices, give things a second life, be tidy and orderly and most of all, respect their things and what they have. Do I still have a toddler who throws toys and dumps out the bin of Legos? Of course.
🧸 Rotate toys and books every few weeks to keep things new and fresh
🧸 Remove excess clutter when it’s getting crowded (think overflowing stuffed animal piles, etc.)
🧸 Clean out drawers + closets every few weeks as they grow and seasons change; keeps wardrobes fresh and also helps family who like to gift clothes know what sizes they need
🧸 Donate what’s played with infrequently, overly loud toys and duplicates
Making these simple steps part of your regular routine shows your child(ren) that it’s okay to let go AND also helps them find their favorites and sharpen their focus.
Less = more.
Tell me, how old is your child and what’s his or her favorite toy? My 2 year old daughter is really into garbage trucks right now - something I never thought I would say!!
Buy With Purpose
Buy with purpose. Buy with intention. Only bring things into your home and life that you love and work for your family - not against you.
I use the “4 Qs” to help me make purchase decisions - Quality, Quantity, Question and Quick. I’ll break them down again in my next post, but I will also be talking more about this with my friend Shawna at Practically Minimal in early November. In the mean time, go check out all the great minimal-ish things she shares on her page and blog @practicallyminimal. Shawna is talking about a new, simple home organizing system every day this week. I love her perspective and I think you will too!
What is your favorite thing you purchased in the last month?
I know this sounds a little brutal. But yes, the money was wasted when you bought it - whatever it was.
When I was in the thick of totally ruthless decluttering a few months ago, I had two storage totes filled with old home decor and stuff I was planning on selling. You know, because I spent my hard-earned money on that stuff and I wanted some of it back! But a few accounts on here actually reminded me - I already wasted the money - it was gone when I bought it. Did I want to waste my time, too? Listing items, waiting for people to pick them up and dealing with the inevitable remainder that would still need to be donated felt worth it to me - at first. Then as I got more and more ruthless, I realized it absolutely wasn’t. The small amount I might make back (I did sell some larger and more expensive items) $2 here, $5 there, was already wasted.
I took those two totes and donated them a week later. I really, really struggled to just let them go. But as I drove away, I felt relieved and I haven’t thought about anything in them since (aside from a few passing ridiculous thoughts like, “I wonder if someone wound up liking that candle that I thought stunk.”).
I keep this in the back of my mind as I do my best to shop intentionally now and in the future - buying with a need and purpose in mind and purchasing quality products. You can have a beautiful home, be a minimalist and even have a “decor storage cabinet” (as I do) of some favorites I like to switch out, WITHOUT impulse buying, over-spending and buying on-trend just because (most of what I donated in those two storage totes). It doesn’t matter whether it’s a tool, a piece of furniture, a kids toy, or home decor, buy with purpose and you won’t regret it.
New to Minimalism? Start here.
Lately I’ve felt like my time is getting sucked away from me. This is a huge red flag and opportunity to reevaluate what’s working and what’s not working.
Time is precious - that’s why I am trying so hard to take it back and I hope I can help you do the same. As we approach the holiday season, I’ll be talking a lot about valuing your time, being intentional with purchases and really using the season as a time to connect with family and friends. You can still use your time wisely, stick to a budget, AND make your season a great one.
Going from an “easy” routine to having guests and adding new people, events and activities is challenging. I’ve got messy piles, paperwork piling up and a fridge of chaos. These simple steps always help me quickly get back on top of my home.
Want to start living a more minimal-ish lifestyle but don’t know where to start? Try this:
🧺 Put a bin in each heavily used room for “go backs”. Have you ever worked in retail? It’s been a long time for me, but this trick works great in the home. Grab each bin daily and put that lingering stuff back where it came from!
📄 Take that pile of paperwork and go thru it in 10 minutes - set a timer (remember the time trick?!). Dump all junk mail, random offers, catalogs and magazines you can get online, etc.
🌮 Meal plan faster by having a list of family favorites, doing a quick check of what needs to be used in your refrigerator and combining the two to get the most meals with the least waste for the week.
I absolutely struggle with PAPERWORK. 📄 I hate it so much. I have a great system for it, but when life gets busy, I don’t always use it and the clutter piles up. What is your biggest struggle when it comes to your home?
When routines change, behavior can change. With guests, LOTS of temporary changes can happen quickly and sometimes kids are over-tired (hours at an aquarium with the grandparents and friends), hangry (usual snack time missed or eating on the go), over-stimulated (too much Christmas - presents, food, TV and more, and more), confused/frustrated (Having guests stay in a child’s room and them having to sleep somewhere else).
✨ REST - Get quiet and calm, try a 15 minute quiet time (music, reading) or even a short nap
✨ RESET - Create a positive transition from activity to activity with full bellies, drinks and a relaxed mind
✨ROUTINE - Revisit your typical routine as much as you can; create one-on-one connection with your child(ren) for even five short minutes, one at a time - this can help a child who is overwhelmed feel heard and attended to and help them make it thru the rest of the day
Do you find anything particularly challenging about having guests over with kids?