Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Sarah Mae of SarahMae.com.
There he was, sitting on his bed with tears in his 7-year old eyes.
I had just got through yelling at him, again, to clean his bedroom. I was tired of the mess and I was tired of telling him to clean.
“Just do it!” I would shout. How quickly I forget how overwhelmed I feel when a mess is staring me in the face.
This was not the mother I wanted to be.
As I looked at my son and I looked at the mess, I realized we were both overwhelmed. It was too much—it felt like too high a mountain to climb.
It was then that I knew we needed a change. My sweet boy needed a mom who wasn’t so stressed, and I needed a boy who didn’t feel defeated before he began.
That was that day we decided on a very simple rule that would become the foundation for how we would live: Fewer things, more peace.
The less we have, the less overwhelmed we feel. And the less overwhelmed we feel, the happier we are. (tweet that)
It was with that philosophy in mind that I said, “Buddy, we are going to get rid of some things today. We can throw some things away and give some things away, but at the end of it all, you are only going to have 20 toys left.”
We called it The 20-Toy Rule.
20 toys sounds like a lot… or maybe it doesn’t. But you’d be surprised at how many things children can accumulate. I was shocked when we began moving towards 20 toys each. We don’t spoil our children and I already had been pretty strict about the toy situation. But when I sat with my son in his room that day, I had to face the fact that we had allowed in too much stuff.
At first, upon hearing my idea, his eyes got big and a look of worry came over his face. But once we started, he really got into it. He was sorting and getting excited about giving things away and even selling things in a future yard sale. He was, believe it or not, actually having fun with the challenge.
The more we got rid of, the lighter I felt. And the anger began to disappear. There we were, getting rid of stuff, and we were happier.
We don’t need stuff, we need peace. We need to feel loved and safe and okay with what we have.
I want my children to learn contentment and joy where they are and with what they have. I don’t want them falling into the trap of always needing more and better things. Learning to have less helps them to be free. And I want them to be free.
To be fair, keeping toys to a minimum has taken work. I have had to train my three children to be okay with not having something. And yes, it has been training. For example, every time we would go into Target we would immediately pass the dollar section of the store filled with bright and beckoning things that call to children (thanks for that Target). I used to think, “What’s a dollar? It’s no big deal.” So my kids would each get something nearly every time we entered that store. I decided that would be one of the changes I made right away, no more dollar toys. I told my children before we even went in the store what to expect, and they all nodded their little heads of understanding.
You can imagine the shock when I actually followed through. “But mom!” No buts, baby. We are doing this. We are learning to live content. After a few times of whining and crying and me not giving in, they stopped the fussing. Now we go into Target and they don’t even ask. They know it wouldn’t make a difference anyway.
The point is, we had to put rules in place, and we had to stick to them. It’s hard at first, but if you stick to it, it gets easier, I promise.
You can do it. You can help your children be free.
It’s worth it.
Sarah Mae blogs at SarahMae.com where she encourages and inspires moms in motherhood. You can also find her on Twitter.
I have to ask – why are you at Target? You won’t buy toys for the kids, but are you buying yourself something frivolous or yet another piece of clothing you don’t need? Fair is fair.
catherine daughett says
They also sell grocery items and lawn treatments. They also sell toothpaste and other items such as deodorants and soaps. Underwear is sometimes essential too especially when the children outgrow them. Shoes can be pretty necessary also as the children keep on growing out of them. Darned !! All are offered at Target and usually at a pretty good price. Towels are nice to have around after a bath. Sometimes they are forgotten at the beach or just get worn out to the point of pretty useless. We usually pass them down to the dog bath. Lots of things essential to life to be had at Target.
Z. PROKOSH says
This is the start of inspiration to all of us who are buried under our accumulated possessions. I keep reading about the people who have freed themselves from “having” to enjoying the freedom of a stress free life. I want that kind of life. Thanks to all who inspire this lifestyle and me.
Ellen S O says
My kids have totally been on board with both selling and giving away their toys and stuff for a few years now. They look happy every time I tell them they sold something, and feel ok when friends pick up their stuff for free as well. Even when we donate they are fine with it. It is like she says. It is easier to move around in their rooms, and easier to clean and tidy up. Keep up the good job!
Walton Farrer says
I’m impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a weblog that’s each educative and entertaining, and let me let you know, you’ve gotten hit the nail on the head. Your thought is outstanding; the problem is something that not sufficient persons are talking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled throughout this in my search for something referring to this.
I wholeheartedly support this as a liberating lifestyle! A few years ago I liquidated an entire household, once the home of my four children (grown and gone with SOME of their stuff!), to teach for a year overseas. All I owned as I strolled through the airport were the two suitcases I was pulling behind me – there was a little bit of fear, but also a giddy sense of lightness on the earth, a very strong sense of being unshackled… Then I returned. It only took three years to sink deeply into debt as I proceeded to reestablish a household, a two bedroom suite, and once again felt crushed beneath stuff and debt… As I began thinning out my possessions for my latest move (downsized to a bedroom in my son’s home) I realized that every single thing in my home represented money-out-of-pocket. No wonder I felt choked by monthly payments to my credit line!
Now, sitting in my bedroom at my work desk, I realize that every item sharing this space is meaningful to me. I fill with joy every time I walk into this ‘sacred space’. I highly, HIGHLY, recommend it…. Besides, now I am on-hand for the eventual arrival of grandchildren…! :)
I’m curious how this works. My daughter really enjoys her play food and dishes, but also her wooden doll house, and also her magnetic dolly with clothes and also her favorite dolls and stuffed animals. So that’s only 4 types of toys, but easily 20 items per category….
And of course things that belong to all the kids, the legos, the little people, the wooden trains, the many puzzles, etc. I feel like I’m good at sticking to categories that have long term play value, but they tend to be big categories…
Whoops, I missed that there was a second page of comments! :) found your answer there.
Christina Schexnider says
I remind my kids when we are at Target, “that’s why we’re here, to look at the stuff, look at it here, enjoy it here, we aren’t taking it home with us.” I do spend 20 minutes on the toy aisle letting them explore, but if we ever take anything home, it’s ignored in no time flat, it does not need to come home with us to be enjoyed. Really good outdoor toys are something I’m willing to have a few of though. Every spring we do bubbles, that never gets old. Excellent post. :)
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