We have arrived at Chapter Three, entitled, “Environment”. The chapter begins with painting a picture of the child’s room which ends with this sentence: “The room’s pastel color scheme and basic furniture – bed and bureau where the changing table once was – are no longer visible, buried under a thick overgrowth of multicolored, ever-growing, and expanding stuff.”
Kim John Payne talks about how in many of his workshops, parents want to begin simplification by simplifying the environment. This is a tangible, doable step toward simplification.
American culture leaned toward selling toys to children beginning around 1955 with the advent of the Mickey Mouse Club and Mattel advertising a toy outside of the Christmas season. And now, toys have expanded so that one doesn’t have to go to a toy store to buy a toy, but toys are available everywhere! Advertisers spend about 16 billion dollars a year now to market to children.
The four messages of advertising include: be unhappy with what you already have; you are the center of the universe and you should have what you want; products can solve problems and buying products is important.
Kim John Payne writes,” If you overwhelm a child with stuff – with choices and pseudochoices —before they are ready, they will know only one emotional gesture: “More!”
He asks parents to imagine all of your children’s toys in a mountain, and then halving this pile and perhaps again. Commercial toys shifts children’s creativity toward something that is dependent upon adults and the things adults provide. What would it be like to have less toys in your home?
I am so excited, Carrie. Last week, while my 9 yo son was at day camp, i took all of the toys in the house and piled them in an empty room. I had to stand on a ladder to take a photo! Then, i followed KJP’s advice and tossed everything that was broken or based on a commercial character and that plastic stuff that comes in goody bags. The rest was separated into a sell pile and a keep pile. Except for a few things like his wooden swords and guns, tinkertoys and blocks, the rest were put into 4 medium sized clear bins in the garage and one basket for the other plastic stuff (nerf guns…sad to say). He actually added some to the sell pile and only took one stuffed animal out (because it had “too many memories”). The house, particularly his room, feels so much better and he seems calmer. Also, so far, he hasn’t had his typical trouble to fall asleep. I am very happy with the outcome!
That is so exciting! COngratulations!!
I too went thru and cleared out my girls room. It’s amazing how much “junk” creeps in! They have been soooo happy with the results though, once in a while I hear “where is…” And they get mad at me when I tell them it’s gone. My mom isn’t too thrilled either as the provider of much of the junk! But I am learning to have boundaries with her and not allow her negative comments to direct the way I raise my kids. It’s a process.
Decluttering does have a way of working on relationships, doesn’t it?
So good to work on things physically and emotionally!
We’ve done this a few times in the past few years (honestly it was motivated a lot by moving, not in the name of simplifying, but whatever it takes!) and it is AMAZING how much more my boys will actually PLAY with toys when they have fewer toy choices. When they have too many, then end up bouncing from one to the next and doing a whole lot more taking out/dumping. When they just have a few choices they sit down and spend an hour building something, then incorporate a few other toys into whatever they just built and use that dwelling for the rest of the day. Plus, then at the end of the day everything has a place to be put away and they can handle it themselves instead of me pulling my hair out taking care of their things. =) Love this advice!
I love your observations…So true.
I know that those “four messages of advertising” work…because *I* learned them as a child and still ascribe to them unwittingly as an adult! So true – there’s always something better ( that ONE homeschool book…) and products can solve problems – ouch. It takes such courage to step outside and be That Family. Such courage. I am grateful for others that model it for me on this path…it helps at least a bit to know there are others out there who value their kids inner life enough to say no to the stuff. ❤
I just loved reading this & then implementing it in our home. Lately, we’ve been living on our screened porch & the only play thing out there are our wooden blocks. My girls have been building beautiful structures & haven’t even gone much into the play room. I know this is mostly due to summer weather but I’d also like to believe they’re just content. I know i am sitting out there watching them 🙂 thanks Carrie!
I’ve done ‘the clear-out’ a number of times. But somehow we’re still overwhelmed. My oldest is 10 now, and I recognise that quite a few of the toys in the kid’s rooms are mementos of earlier days, and even toys we store in there that once belonged to us as kids. I’d love to move a lot out into the garage. But our house is little, and the garage isn’t totally weather proof. I have to think about storage where things won’t get damp 😦
The trouble is that cleaning out the children’s clutter is just ‘one more mission’… added to the mission of sorting out meal planning (with the new online planner I just joined), and sorting out next years homes school, and sorting out all my own clutter, and sorting out our finances (How did we end up paying that much each month in insurances?), and sorting out all those boxes of homeschool resources. I think whats needed for me, is an approach where I can break this all into manageable pieces and feel some achievement – and yet still keep up the enthusiasm and energy to do it. This isn’t going to happen overnight. I think I’ll go start with one bite – right this moment 🙂
Right, well I spent about 4 hours in the children’s bedroom in the end. And it was very satisfying to move a lot of things to the charity bag, and dust, and put things aside for the garage storage. Once I got started I could see that a lot of things just needed to go.Its only a start. I’ll be interested to see how the extra space affects the kids 🙂
I’ve just read your Snazzy Six Year Old Post from some time ago. That article describes my daughter exactly. We were on vacation for a month and she wore the same dress and underwear for 14 days! Nothing felt right, everything was a fight. When we got home I applied Simplicity Parenting to her closet and dresser (which is already pretty good). I left her with days of the week underpants, bought her all the same socks and removed all but a few dresses and skirts and tops. I made a rule that she must change into pajamas at night and cannot wear the same dress 2 days in a row unless its the weekend. The first 2 days were shaky and as soon as whining started I told her I was going to wait in the car for her to get ready and she should let me know when she was done. We have had 3 no crying or screaming days in a row. Pairing your article and Simplicity Parenting saved me. I was literally sobbing a few days ago! I do have a question about the insecurity. My daughter always used to drop off anywhere easily but suddenly she doesn’t want to do anything unless I go. How should I handle this? I don’t want to make her if she’ll be scarred for life. I’m just talking about Pottery class for a few hours. She wouldn’t go to bible bunch this morning either.
Thank you so much for your blog. You have such valuable information. I was really at the end of my rope a few days ago. I have renewed hope that she will return to the angel she always was.
I think it is common for many children to not enjoy a lot of activities when they are younger, and if they did enjoy it, it seems for some children an awareness seems to seep in at the six/seven year change that it is separate and different and they feel different and they no longer care about the activity. Can you stay where she is during the activity? Or, if you decide this is really important, and the line must be drawn for your family and she must go, then I think you have to be as ho hum as possible. I would talk to her teachers as well and let them know she is in a place of developmental change and ask for suggestions. But first, get really, really clear as to what you want and what is important to your family. I think back to our childhoods and many of us did very little until the middle school years, and the more I see children out and about, I think there were good developmental reasons for that sometimes! So, spend some time meditating, observing your daughter, praying. See what you think she needs. Not just what might be fun, etc, but what she really and truly needs at this developmental stage. Usually it is a pulling back, a strong rhythm, and boundaries.
Good for you for setting boundaries with the clothes and coming up with what works for your family.
She is becoming her own person with her own ideas. She may never head back to the developmental level of being three or four, but you have wonderful experiences of connection and adventure awaiting! If you want some more reading about this developmental phase, I suggest the book “You’re Not the Boss of Me! Understanding the Six/Seven Year Transformation” edited by Ruth Ker.
Thank you so much for being a reader, and I am so glad being here has helped your family life.