We have so many toys in our house that I've gone to
semi-desperate measures as to make room for them.
Upstairs in our loft, our nice grown-up coffee table is gone,
and in its place is the child-sized red plastic table with two
little plastic blue chairs that doesn't fit anywhere else. In the
kitchen nook that once held a wine refrigerator, there are boxes of
Play-Doh, stickers, watercolors and construction paper. But don't
worry, we drink as much wine as ever (possibly more); it's just not
at the exact perfect temperature anymore. My novels and other such
books about art, history and topics of zero importance to my
current everyday life have been donated and forgotten about. On the
shelves that once held these books: Mega Blocks and train
My house has been taken over by toys. And fruit snacks, diapers
and misplaced mittens. Don't even look for the bottom of the tub in
the boys' bathroom because you can't see it through all of the
squirty toys and foam letters.
All of the snow we received this winter? Kind of nice since it
covered up the toys in the yard that I neglected to bring inside
for the season. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
The toys in the house fill up big Rubbermaid containers, the
colorful bins of storage units, the not-so-colorful shelves that
once held my own books and decorative items and every other
available nook and cranny.
When I clean up at the end of the night, I put some of the
puzzles "away" by piling them up next to the couch. Big stuffed
animals go in corners. The baseboards along the walls are like the
barriers of a parking lot and are lined with oversized vehicles.
There are dump trucks, tow trucks, airplanes and buses. Toys
sometimes belong on top of other toys; in the living room is a play
kitchen set, upon which we put a basket containing both kitchen
related items (pretend food) and the pretend doctor kit. When I
tell my kids, "Put the doctor kit away," they know that's where it
goes, atop the fake oven burners. There's just no other place left
Sometimes all the toys make me feel like I'm losing my mind a
little. It seems that every "real" item in our house has its fake
counterpart and when I stop to survey the house, it's a mind
Here's the real hammer. Here's the toy hammer. Real remote
control. The Elmo remote control. Here's a frozen pizza. Here's a
pretend pizza. Here are my car keys. Here are the plastic car keys.
My cellphone. The Fisher Price cellphone.
My laptop. The bright orange laptop that only teaches letters
and numbers. You can't access the web on that thing. Don't bother
trying to crank out a blog entry. And if you stare at the little
black and white screen for too long, you may feel ill. Take your
temperature with the real thermometer - NOT the thermometer
that only tells you if your fever merits a sad face or a happy
At times, I feel the urge to purge, to pare down my children's
toys until they are left only with the bare essentials with which
to supplement a happy childhood. But what are those few but
necessary items? Will three Matchbox cars, a handful of LEGOs and
one jump rope do the trick? If I let them keep Batman and his
Batcave, can I safely set Talking Elmo and Dancing Mickey on fire?
Or can I sell everything in a giant garage sale and have the boys
spend the rest of their youth pretending the couch is a boat and a
stripped down paper towel roll is their "piratescope?" But only
until garbage day; garbage day is when the piratescopes hit the
I wonder: Does the clutter of toys affect the boys the same way
it affects me? Do they sometimes feel like the sheer volume of
plastic and colors and noisy buttons is slowly eating away at the
corners of their mind? I'm guessing the answer is probably no, but
maybe - just maybe - a fresh, clean palette free of toys
would indeed give their imagination and intellect the room it needs
to grow. Perhaps if I threw away all their toys in the night while
they slept, they'd awaken to find that they felt a new sense of
freedom, like there was somehow more air to breathe.
Either that or they'd go crazy while looking for their stuff and
assume that my purging meant that I was also kicking them out of
the house. "First the toys go," my oldest might whisper through
tears to his little brother, "And then we go, too."
How do you solve the problem of too many toys, of which only a
small percentage can be given away before your kids start crying
foul? More shelves and bins? Better stacking skills? Or, more
likely, emptying your kitchen cabinets of pots and pans and your
closet of your infrequently worn clothes as to eke out a few more
square feet of toy storage? Because, yes, I do get to purge some
stuff as the kids acquire more and more toys. But it's my stuff.
And it's turning out to be all of my stuff.
Jackie blogs about the mostly joyous, sometimes painful, but always entertaining aspects of being a full-time mom to a couple of little lunatics.
See more of Jackie's stories here.
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