Hello. My name is Aly and I hoard toys.

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I never thought I would be that mom whose living room is over taken by toys.

Cooper’s new hobby is dumping out huge baskets of toys I have organized in the corner of our living room. At times the act is okay because it allows me 5 minutes while she is occupied rummaging through the pile of stuff. I need that time to nurse or put Clark down for a nap or to take a shower. But her passion for dumping out things has become excessive, and her dislike of cleaning them up is unbearable.

One solution would make my life much easier, yet it is difficult for me to do: give away her toys.

 WHY ALL THE BATH TOYS?

WHY ALL THE BATH TOYS?

I don’t know why I don’t donate or toss them out. Maybe I feel sentimentally attached to the toy that at one point gave her so much joy. Maybe. But honestly, I think it is more the hope she will pull that toy out-- or more realistically, a piece of the toy set-- and find entertainment in it again. When I watch her find a random toy she hasn’t given attention to in months and finds some creative way to interact with it, even for a minute, it gives me hope. Actually, it’s a false hope: If I keep all her toys around, Cooper will have more to play with, thereby giving me more freedom around the house.

There are two problems with this belief.

#1 I am losing my mind with all the stuff and messes.

#2 She is only two and a half, yet I swear she seems bored of her toys. 

So this week’s #bebetter52 challenge centered around cleaning, and because I am focused on all the toys, I remembered a blog I read a while back. I google searched “mom declutters toys and kids play better,” and there it was. How Getting Rid of My Stuff Saved My Motherhood, guest post by Allie Casazza, The Purposeful Housewife. I feel so connected to her words. I encourage everyone to read it.

She states, “When I thought about my days and how I spent my time, all I saw were piles of dishes, an endless mountain of laundry, and picking up toys and books and markers and jackets and shoes and empty water bottles and paper artwork.”

“I had to keep moving or the house and the day would collapse. When I did press pause and spend some time with my kids, it felt like I had to pay the price – catching up on housework; making up for the time I missed living my life.”

“It’s not that I’m a neat freak (in fact, I’m probably pretty near the opposite). All this work was simply to keep the house functioning.”

So what did she do?

She went into her kids’ playroom and got rid of the majority of the toys (because she said they were bored of the toys within 10 minutes anyways). The thing that happened next was what I remembered. The kids thrived with less toys. They spent 3 hours the first day with the 10% of toys left, and they didn’t even seem to notice they were gone.

So this week I attempted my own experiment.  

 THIS IS MY LIVING ROOM.

THIS IS MY LIVING ROOM.

While Cooper was napping, I took out three huge baskets of toys and two more smaller boxes and put them in our remodeled garage (my office). I wasn’t quite committed enough to completely get rid of them. I left one small box of animal figurines, a little cloth basket for Clark’s baby toys and her pretend kitchen against the wall she had not given much attention to in months. When she woke up, I was ready for the melt down once she noticed all her toys were gone.

THE OPPOSITE HAPPENED.

She became excited to see her box of animals. She pulled them out one by one, creating a zoo and using the kitchen to cook food for them. No joke, she played independently for over an hour with her animals. It has been two days and the only toys she asked for were her baby dolls. I told her to sit and read while I secretly went into the garage to grab the dolls. I came back with the dolls in hand, nothing else. She danced with the dolls, cooked them food, and read to them.

Conclusion: too many toys is never a good thing. I witnessed her imagination expand when she wasn’t so distracted by the mess and all the toy options. She was able to remain present. I don’t know why this is surprising considering I feel like I operate the same way. When I clear my desk of the papers, the notes, the mail…I am able to think clearer and be more creative.  When I clear the kitchen of the dishes, food, trash…I want to be in there cooking longer. And I want to clean it.

MY OVERALL PREDICAMENT.

The challenge this week posed a ongoing predicament: how can you spend quality time with your children and still maintain a clean and orderly house? Both are great goals. I reached out to you through @alysangle on Instagram this week asking for advice on how to handle the messes during this time in my life as a young mother, and I adore some of your responses.

From @cjonas5 “It is a sign that it’s a well lived home full of creative and happy minds.” From @larissaandrowan “I want them to have more memories of joy and fun and not just the tidy space. I’m okay with that, because this is our season. We are currently messy making memories.”

It was also fun to connect to some of our 52'ers who are very passionate about safe cleaning. Here is one of our own, Joo Linn, who highlights her love for Norwex rags.