• Everywhere I turned, there was something to clean up. Toys, arts and crafts supplies, clothing and so on. I tried getting toy organizers, baskets, cabinets. I tried nagging the kids to clean up. I tried offering rewards via a chore chart. I tried threatening to throw away whatever was on the floor. This worked for a day at most. And then, it didn’t matter. Somehow the ‘stuff’ would get strewn throughout our house, yet again.

    Then I decided to get rid of most of our ‘stuff’. I sent my husband out with our kids and grabbed two huge garbage bags. I filled them with beautiful toys and clothes. It was probably as difficult for me to do as it would have been for the kids to do, possibly more so since I knew how expensive some of the items cost. So, I gave myself this mantra as I filled the bags: “These will go to a child in need.” That helped me execute my mission. It was no longer about cleaning up a mess, but rather about giving to people who have none. Two hours later, our house seemed almost empty. I was nervous that my kids would come home and get upset, searching for coveted items. They didn’t. They ran to a favorite toy exclaiming that they haven’t seen it in awhile and were excited to play with it.

    It was no longer about cleaning up a mess, but rather about giving to people who have none

    This giant purge made me realize that our children have too much stuff. They didn’t notice a thing was missing. They are overwhelmed with too many chotchkes to manage and organize. All of this ‘stuff’ was a burden to them as well.

    I spent the next few months basically purging our home of eighty percent of our ‘stuff’. I donated, I shared with friends, I cleaned out books that I don’t enjoy reading to them and filled a few boxes of items to store in the garage just in case they asked for them at a later date (only one of which was actually requested again). Basically, I simplified our lives.

    The result was wonderful. There was much less cleaning up for everyone. I wasn’t stepping on sharp plastic objects walking into their room. The most significant thing I noticed was that their imaginations were being stimulated more than ever. They stopped playing with ‘things’ and began creating them, building forts out of couch cushions and blankets, using toilet paper rolls to make binoculars (since I donated their plastic ones), playing instruments and having dance parties, and creating props from items salvaged from the recycling bin. They spent hours preparing for the shows they put on in our living room.

    Fast forward a year. Birthdays, holidays, grandparents and relatives who buy them too much have re-infiltrated our home with plastic noisy toys. Only now, we have a clean-up fairy who comes nightly to do her mission. Whatever isn’t put away, gets cleaned up by the philanthropic clean-up fairy after dark. She gives these items to children who don’t have toys or who are responsible at taking care of their things. I don’t have to nag, the kids know what they have to do and I also learned which toys have value to them. My older daughter has been given 3 different types of looms with various small pieces from her grandmothers. Somehow, when the clean-up fairy arrives after dark, the looms are the only items that have been put away daily. And so, everything else must go.