Last year I read a fantastic book called “Simplicity Parenting”. I saw it online and bought it immediately after being sold by its promise that I would soon be “Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids”. I could do with calmer kids.
It encourages parents to take a minimalist approach to, well, everything really: toys, clothes, scheduled activities, books, TV viewing, meal choices, even talking…
But let’s start with toys. The premise is that the fewer toys available, the easier it is for kids to choose what they want to play with. And then while they play, they no longer spend their time subconsciously worrying about the plethora of other toys they might be having more fun with. The upshot is that the level of play will be deeper, more sustained, and ultimately more developmentally effective. Makes sense.
It took me about five minutes to get on board. I wasn’t even halfway through the third chapter when I took to our playroom with garbage bags and gusto. I was a Mum on a mission. I threw away anything that was broken or had missing pieces. I donated anything that was perpetually un-played-with. And I hid about half of what was left in a cupboard under the stairs to see what would happen next.
What happened was a surprise even to this easy convert.
When our eldest daughter came home from school that afternoon, she was delighted!! She thanked me for her new playroom, and stayed there all afternoon. She was even unfazed when a close family friend forgot to use her filter and helpfully enquired, “So – your Mum got rid of most of your toys, hey?”
All of a sudden, our two daughters began to play nicely together. I could make dinner uninterrupted. For a time, peace descended upon the Rose household and I indulged myself with a number of self-congratulatory pats on the back. Nice parenting, Charlotte – well done!
But the problem is, stuff has a way of building right back up again. Birthdays, Christmas, drawings, empty toilet paper roll after empty toilet paper roll (apparently crucial for future craft activities), more drawings, free Qantas pencils, pass the parcel prizes…
These things and more are constantly angling to destroy all my hard work, and they inevitably win. No matter how much I try to fight it, the tide of stuff just keeps on rolling in until I forget to care – until sitting on the couch among a family of toilet roll people becomes the new normal.
Maybe my ancestors actually bothered to spring clean, and the warm spring air triggered something deep within me. Because last week, I looked around me and I just couldn’t stand it anymore.
The garbage bags came back out and I did it all again. I felt a slight twinge of guilt as I threw away a long neglected hand-me-down Littlest Pet Shop beauty salon, but I am confident it won’t be missed. I think. I’m pretty sure…?
After toy eradication Mark II, our eldest daughter arrived home and guess what? Again, she was thrilled! Fantastic – thanks Mummy! The kids played nicely together (again!) and I felt light of foot as I sauntered into the kitchen to prepare dinner. And then the other day when the playroom was looking a bit messy, it got tidied up without me even asking.
Less really is more.
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