Overload (Or Why I Took Away All of Eva’s Toys. Again.)

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Those of you who have been reading for a while know that there’s an ongoing battle against toy clutter happening in the Morgan household. For the first 20 months of Eva’s life, we were hostages to the toy situation. Small plastic items were everywhere and we bought so many bins and baskets and bags that our house started to look like a tag sale.

Around this time last year, I had had enough and we dramatically decreased the number of toys in Eva’s room. There was no fuss from her and we were pleased to see that she actually thrived in her cleaner environment and spent more time playing with the remaining toys. Over time, we added a couple of Montessori kitchen stations and then gave up on that idea and added a play kitchen/grocery store combination that has both been a huge hit and also decreased the number of small plastic vegetables we needed to store in her room. I also switched out the colorful bags and plastic items in her room for simple baskets and educational toys, always with the idea that the plastic toys would eventually come back.

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The goal was to rotate the toys once every two months so that she was constantly interested and refreshed. Well. That sort of happened. Except I also went on bed rest and we had another baby and the kid clutter exploded again. We lost motivation to keep rotating items and somehow Eva continued to collect more and more toys even though we told ourselves we weren’t buying her anything and before I knew it it had been a year and most of her toys had never come back into rotation and holy crap it’s Christmas.

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Major guilt this year. Guilt that a lot of her toys spent the whole year in storage. Guilt that too many new toys creeped back into her room and ended up broken or scattered because we haven’t been great about cleaning before bed. Guilt that, despite my big talk about simple toys and Montessori living, Kyle and I got Eva a whole bunch of toys with buttons and plastic pieces and branded characters for the holidays.

None of the things we bought her made it to the top of her list this year. She was completely overloaded by too many similar items and ended up focusing mainly on craft kits, kitchen play, and this easel from her uncles. She also got a Doc McStuffins check up clinic and she’s been peering into our ears ever since. It came with stickers and small dolls, but that otoscope apparently just takes the cake.

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Last night, I cleared out her room. I did this for a couple of reasons: (1) although much of the Christmas chaos ended up in the kitchen or is destined for the new living room art center I’m dreaming up, the rest was waiting out in the hall to come in and (2) I feel like Eva will enjoy the new stuff more if the old stuff isn’t an option.

That last statement is tricky and I’ll tell you right off the bat that Kyle doesn’t agree with me. He hates when I do this. He feels (perhaps justly?) that if Eva is enjoying a toy or has enjoyed a toy anytime in the recent weeks, that it’s mean to put it in storage where she can’t get to it. I don’t know. He might be right, but she just seems so much more content when the clutter is cut down. So I did it. He’ll deal. It’s not like she didn’t just get 50 new things.

I did make some tough choices though. I swept up a ton of Montessori toys that Eva isn’t really into, even though some of them are probably just a little ahead of where she is now developmentally. I was tempted to leave them because I wanted her to sit and study them quietly, but realistically she’s just not interested. Hopefully they’ll come back out of storage soon.

I also got rid of some books, making them the only things I took out of her room with the intent to donate. They’re mostly large beautiful picture books from artists like Mercer Mayer and Steven Kellogg, but they were 95% ex-library books, which means that they had library stickers on the spine and were in pretty used condition. It was hard to see them go, but Eva has too many books and I’m going to hold out for nicer copies. Plus, many of them were at least five years ahead of where she is now and they weren’t nice enough to save until then. In the last year alone, she’s gotten 50+ new books. Obviously, her library isn’t in danger of not providing enough reading material.

The hardest decisions were on toys that Eva plays with often. Yes, I’m mean. I put many in storage. The biggest gap is going to be her Calico Critters, which she does love. My problem with them is that she scatters the little pieces everywhere and then they get lost or broken. She has enough stuff coming in that I’m hoping it won’t be sad for her that her bunnies and pandas and cats (oh my!) moved out of her room. And, of course, they’re supposed to come back at some point.

What did I leave? Lots. Blocks, musical instruments, some games, baby doll stuff, dress up, books, and all of her new toys from Christmas. It’s a little blank, but she does have arts/crafts stuff in the living room and a very impressive play food situation going on in our kitchen. And she’s two. She doesn’t need the moon.

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It’s funny how much guilt I still have over how many toys she has access to. What is that? Why am I hardwired to want to provide her with a Toys R Us? I mean, Laura Ingalls Wilder had that corn cob doll and a pig bladder balloon and her childhood was happy enough to write a book about. Perspective.

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11 thoughts on “Overload (Or Why I Took Away All of Eva’s Toys. Again.)

  1. Thank you for posting this. I’m in the process of cleaning our Little Man’s playroom…That has just exploded. Fact: with Hannukah, Birthday and Christmas all in the same time frame, we took many of his gifts and put them in the basement…To come out at another time.
    I understand where Kyle is coming from–things that she loves and putting them into storage…My spin on this is as long as it isn’t the lovey she sleeps with at night or a comfort item, she probably won’t miss it. Just my 2 cents.
    I agree–our kids are young and don’t need the moon–although we love to provide that for them and so does everyone else that loves them. Make this a teachable moment and make donating a big deal…For example, there is a Christmas box at daycare “for toys for kids that need them.” Each year we put a donation of toys in the box. I’ve done it since my kid was an infant. Despite not really grasping the concept at his age, I guess my hope is that he understand eventually that there are others that need things and don’t have them. This year, now a toddler, he can point to the box and say “Box toys. Kids need them” and beams when he makes his donation. (and so does his mother…) People laugh at me for making sure that we do this…but I felt that if I didn’t start young with it I’d get complacent. Who knows…Long winded to get to a point…Maybe having her help you take the books to make the donation to kids that need them might make her feel good about helping?
    In the end, we’re all trying to figure out how to do this mom thing. We’ll get it…
    Again, thank you for the post. Glad I’m not the only one swimming in toys!

    • I love your story about your son and the donation box. I don’t actually think we’ve ever talked to Eva about the concept of donating things because I always thought she was too little to “get” it – looks like there’s a teachable moment coming up!

      • Glad I could help. I think whether or not kids get it is how it’s presented. Does my son understand that he is donating things? Nope. Big word. Sounds like donut. Is he getting a donut? LOL. He does understand kids, toys, and needing them 🙂

  2. Instead of focusing on which toys to take away and put in storage, maybe focus on why you or other people are buying her so much stuff that deep down you feel she doesn’t need. I agree with Kyle that it is mean to be taking away the toys she loves just because new toys came in…toys she didn’t ask for or apparently need. I know it is easier said than done but what really needs to be done is that less toys and stuff needs to be bought for her. Also, if I was one of the people who bought her one of the toys she loved and you put away, I would be annoyed and hurt.

    • You definitely nailed one of my biggest sources of guilt: gifts. I did leave all of her new presents untouched, of course, but I stored at least 4-5 things that were gifts from last Christmas. I hate putting things in storage that other people purchased, but it’s just too much for our little house. I’m hoping that I’ll be better about rotating them this year so everyone’s gifts get a chance to be out.

      I also need to get better about controlling the flow of toys coming in. The thing about it is that most of her accumulated toys from this year weren’t actually purchased. We get a ton of hand-me-downs because we’re surrounded by generous people who bought their kids really cool stuff when they were little. I also get a lot of products sent to me for review and that stuff winds up cluttering Eva’s room. It’s amazing what a magnet kids are for stuff, even when you aren’t taking them to the toy store.

  3. I think doing this sets boundaries that need to be set. As a child we knew that our messes belonged in our bedrooms and that if we got too messy, my mom would clean. End of story.

    Not saying you have to be as cutthroat about it as my mom was, I do understand that having children doesn’t mean losing your whole house to plastic stuff! It looks to me like Eva still has plenty to play with and I am sure if she really wanted something back from storage you would get it for her.

    Or does Kyle just miss the stuff he likes to play with?

    • Kyle’s actually pretty on board this time since Eva has been excited about having her new toys where her old toys used to be. His big thing is that the stuff we’re putting in storage isn’t junk, so he hates to see it boxed up. And, I admit, he really likes the Calico Critters so that was a sore spot. Those little bunnies have some really cool gear. Little does Eva know that we have a whole other Calico Critter hand-me-down play set just waiting for a turn in the rotation!

  4. As a mom (and a montessori teacher) I completely agree with you. A lot of the gifts my daughter received for Christmas are safely tucked away in the closet and will be rotated in over the next six months. I don’t think that kids need tons of “stuff”, but a rather a variety of engaging toys and books.

    • I think this is a very Montessori thing. My mom friends who are “true” Montessori all keep enviably organized and simple kid rooms and they’re toddlers are thriving. I don’t know how they’re blocking all those blinking plastic toys from coming in!

  5. I was gonna say if those Calico Critters need a home, send them to me!! So glad that you didn’t get rid of them though. You’d break MY heart! lol

    The “after” pictures look amazing. Can you come and clean up our toys? 🙂

    Maybe you can set an alert on your phone to remind you to rotate the toys to the ones in storage?

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