When we were preparing to move to Vermont, Dave and I divided up the work. I declared I would pack all the toys. I packed two boxes and then decided it probably made the most sense for me to take the kids to stay with family for a week and let Dave do all the packing and moving (it’s up for debate who had the easier job: Dave packing and moving all by himself for five days or traveling for five days with three small children). Anyway, I pride myself in keeping the number of toys we have to a minimum, but those two boxes barely made a dent. So when we arrived here we only unpacked about a quarter of the toys, following Kim John Payne’s advice to get rid of half of the toys, and then get rid of half again. It has been interesting observing how this decrease has (not) affected the kids’ play.
First, I don’t even think the kids notice that three quarters of their toys are gone. I’m sure it helps that we are in a new place so the absence of certain beloved items isn’t as obvious. The fairy wings aren’t missing from their spot because they have never had a spot here.
Second, they seem to treasure little things even more. I didn’t unpack their collection of race cars, but two emerged from the depths of an old backpack one afternoon and Katherine and Clara have discovered the simple joy of racing their little cars for hours. I don’t remember this happening when we had the whole box out.
Third, they fight over stuff just as much as they did before. More toys, fewer toys… doesn’t matter. They’ll find something to fight about. The only time they never fight is when they are outside and there are no toys.
Fourth, they’ll create what they need for their play out of other stuff. Like cardboard boxes and paper. Katherine has always made what she is lacking out of paper, from swords to jewelry, ice skates to scooters… all the things other kids have that we deny her (and then eventually give in to because it’s kind of sad when her cardboard scooter doesn’t hold up on the sidewalk outside). She continues her paper creations to fill in whatever she needs. Lately it has been paper money and coins for “tolls.”
Fifth, they know there are a bunch of half unpacked boxes in the spare room and once in a while they sneak in to take a peak. If they spot something they want, they beg and beg for it. It would be really annoying, but it reassures me that my plan to swap in these toys on really cold winter days is a good one.
Sixth, all three girls are perfectly content with their play. It doesn’t seem like the toys have a lot to do with it.
Finally, despite having only one quarter of the toys, they still manage to make a complete mess.