This was really the chapter you all were waiting for, wasn't it? The Stuff. This is what brought most of us to this book I suspect. It is for me.
Pictured above is my latest clearing out from earlier this week. This one was a spontaneous put-the-kids-to-bed-late-because-I-just-can't-stop-cleaning-my-basement sort of purge. Toys. Clothes. Books. Furniture. Randomness. I filled bag after bag with no end in sight. And there is still more to do.
As I packed up these objects that no longer serve us I realize that much of what I read in this chapter applies to me as well as my children. That was a powerful take-home message for me during chapter three.
We have been striving in ernest to beat back the monster of Too Much for six months or more, since I shared this with you. Yes, we are winning. But there is much more to do. And there in lies my primary attraction to Simplicity Parenting: the concept of less things and more life. For us and for our kids.
So let's dig in with the chapter review, shall we? I expect the comments will be especially lively today so I'll try to keep it short.
Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne
Chapter Three: Environment
Stuff: Books. Art supplies. Toys. Clothes. Gadgets. Jackets. Shoes. Magazines. Stuffed animals. In Chapter Thee Payne discusses both the quantity and in the case of books and toys the quality of the things we surround our children with. Payne asked us to be conscious of what we are really providing our children. Our culture tends towards the following misguided choices for our kids:
- Far too many toys, books, clothes (too many choices)
- Too many gifts given to the child for any or no reason as a substitute for real connection
- Closed-ended toys that only do one thing, robbing your child of creativity to create on their own play experience
- Toys that are supposed to make your child "smarter, brighter, more… insert adjective here"- an erroneous concept from the start
- Toys that are pre-scripted through movies, television, and other media or commercialization
- Duplicates of toys, furthering the chaos and lessening the value of each possession
- Children's rooms that are a nucleus of chaos, an unhealthy place in which to live and grow
I found myself nodding my head and feeling affirmed in the vision I entered parenthood with. No commercial characters. No – or very little – plastic. No batteries. No closed-ended toys. Simple, simple, simple. And yet even my simple has gotten way out of hand.
Inspired by Simplicity Parenting we've been paring down. I shared Lupine's minimalistic room re-do with you last month and decided to take "Before" shots of Sage's room. Even in our less-is-more world we still move towards too much and towards chaos. (See above. I'll share the "After" shots with you soon.)
One of the most brilliant "a-ha!" moments I experienced in Chapter Three was regarding books. After reading it I recently downsized our children's book shelf area from a packed book shelf to one holding less than a dozen books. And it have been wonderful. I suspect books are an emotional touchstone for many of you. Payne argues that creating deep, emotional relationships with the books that we read is far more important than having access to dozens or hundreds of books. I've found this to be deeply true.
We've downsized toys and expanded the "Toy Library" in our basement to contain more than it had before while letting go any and all that we aren't emotionally invested in. We've let go of all clothes that we don't absolutely love. We've done away with any duplicates. (Three pairs of jeans for a girl who wears dresses every day, for example.)
That being said, we still have too much stuff. Too. Much. Stuff. We've been paring down for months and yet Lupine still has seven pairs of tights and five pairs of shoes. Really? Where did these come from? So every week we let a few more things go (or in the case of this week a few hundred) and make room to breathe.
And so we forge ahead, one room (or closet, or shelf) at a time. We're simplifying the quantity and quality of toys in our lives. We make progress by putting away, giving away, or otherwise move along the bulk of our things. More great toys (or clothes, or books) does not equal more great experiences. The opposite it quite true.
I look forward to your reflection on how this chapter has effected you, your children, and your home. Are you transformed? Confused? Frustrated? I keep reminding myself that I brought it all in. Now I need to take it all out.