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Challenge: Reducing Holiday Stress

My Mom Policy: No More Toy Bins

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Have you recently found yourself in the home organization aisle at Target or, better yet, IKEA? Roaming and looking for solutions to house all of your kids' "stuff". The babies and Barbies and cars and Lego sets. The bottles and shoes and dresses that come with them, too.

When your kids are little, there is so much stuff (thanks, grandparents). And the natural thing to do, at least for me, is to find solutions to store it all in the least cluttery way possible. However, when we moved into the house we live in now I made a promise to myself that I would never buy another toy bin.

I bought toy bins that fit the space of our home, and held all the stuff we had at the time when we moved in. I decided right then that if I ever found myself feeling the need for more storage, it instead would mean we need less stuff. That was three years and a whole extra human ago, and the only time I broke that promise was when we finished the basement.

This house is a major upgrade from the spaces we've lived since our oldest daughter was born. We moved from the luxury of midwest space—3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house—to the scarcity of California space—1 bed/1 bath apartment—when she was just 12 weeks old. I packed up a whole room we had carefully decorated just for her and took down the hand-made bow holder and shabby chic letters above her crib (it was six years ago, ok?). We even packed away her crib, and we were left with just enough space for a Pack 'n Play next to our mattress on the floor.

That year we lived in California, about 1/3 of our stuff fit in our apartment and 2/3 sat in storage. Guess how much of it I missed? Zero. Not a single thing. In that tiny apartment, I learned how little we really need. How much love grows in little spaces. And how much crap we accumulate just to fill the space we have.

This past weekend, we did our annual purge (we do it before the new wave of stuff comes in at the holidays). And boy does it feel GOOD! We go through the house and fill boxes with toys and stuffed animals that have served their time and purpose here.

I purposely don't do this under the cover of night while the kids are sleeping. I want them to learn to part with toys, books and stuffed animals—even ones they love. I want them to understand that if they love it, another kid will, too. I want them to be perpetually in touch with the fact that physical belongings are not what matter. I want them to feel good about giving to less fortunate kids—and that doesn't mean giving our "leftovers" or the things we don't want, but rather sacrificing things we do.

At 8 months, 3 and 6, I wouldn't say they quite get those concepts yet. But eventually they will. And in the meantime, I feel lighter. The clutter has lifted and so has the weight on my shoulders. Instead of squeezing more in this holiday season, we have made room.

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