When I was pregnant, one thing I told myself was that I did not want baby toys to take over my living room. I've seen it a thousand times- a nice home overrun by baby and kid toys all hours of the day, even after cleanup and bed time. My house wasn't perfectly decorated or organized, but I didn't want more stuff to take over.
But after the baby came, no sooner was my living room filled with 2 different swings, a play mat, and a couch and floor overtaken by baby toys.
As she got a bit older, the swings turned into an exersaucer and a jumperoo. And the toys all over the place? They only multiplied. Even when we found space for them, they still ended up overflowing. There seemed to be a little toy bin in every room.
I accepted it as the way of new parenthood, but then I started to observe Gemma and see her play habits. First of all, she seemed to get bored with most of her toys within 30 seconds. Mostly, she just wanted to take them all out of the toy bin and drag them around. But she seemed much happier dragging around a wipes container, a clean diaper, or some kitchen appliances like measuring cups.
Even better, she liked to play in the Tupperware drawer in the kitchen, or climb into and over top of boxes.
When we started to adopt minimalism into our life and declutter our entire home, Gemma's toys were a hard spot for me. I knew she had more than enough, but at the same time, there were only a couple small bin fulls of toys, and since our culture is one of overabundance, I questioned the thought of her having less than she did. Plus, I knew she couldn't say whether or not she wanted a toy, and I had a hard time making that decision for her.
The toys we did purge definitely didn't make a difference to her- other than maybe helping her have less toys to dig through to get to the ones she wanted. With everything else in my house, once I started purging, I just wanted to continue. With Gemma's toys, again, there is just a bit of emotional attachment to them, even though she barely plays with most of them.
After several convincing conversations with my husband and one with my nana, I've started to realize how unnecessary baby toys really are. Of course, some are good to have, but an overabundance actually can affect the quality of life of the whole family.
So if you are a new mom, or even a well seasoned one, and you feel like you are drowning in baby toys...
Here's why I think your baby (and you) will be much happier with less:
1. Your baby doesn't use them- If your baby is anything like mine (and another baby I observed earlier this week), faced with a choice between a fun-looking, noise-making baby toy and a Tupperware lid, the baby will choose the Tupperware lid. Gemma would rather crawl around and play with "real" household items than even look at most of her toys. Your baby is probably the same. Why keep around something that takes up your space and energy (everything you own does this to some extent) when it isn't even being used?
2. Your baby will most likely choose a measuring cup over the latest fancy developmental toy. The stuff I have in my kitchen cabinets, a box that comes in the mail, the wipes container....all of these things are way more exciting to Gemma than pretty much any of her toys. Why spend money and take up space with dozens of toys that your baby isn't choosing to play with if you have plenty of fun objects in your cupboard that you can re purpose as baby toys?
3. Too many toys can have a negative, overstimulating affect on your baby's brain. It's pretty common knowledge that babies are easily over stimulated (and if it isn't common knowledge, you learn it pretty quick when you become a parent). It only makes sense that toys scattered all over the floor would be overstimulating for a baby. If you're a parent, you've probably experienced the screaming baby after playing a little too long or seeing too many different faces in a short period of time. Nick and I personally started to realize that Gemma wouldn't play well for very long in our living room when her toys were spread out everywhere compared to a tidy room with more space and less toys. It just makes sense that this would be the case- adults don't thrive when things are scattered all over the floor (or just disorganized in general) so why would babies?
4. Babies thrive with more space- especially older babies. Around the same time we noticed that Gemma didn't love to be in a room that felt closed in by toy-clutter, Nick noticed that she absolutely loved a room that had basically nothing in it. At the time, she was about 7 months, and we had a room that was nearly empty as we were getting ready to move. That child would crawl around and play contentedly with a toy or two for loner periods of time than I'd ever expect a baby to entertain themselves. She was so happy with empty space and room to move. Space to move is important for older babies, and from my own observation, a baby is happier with open space and less clutter.
5. You will be a less stressed out parent. The best thing you can give to your child is your calm, positive, and happy self. I am not the perfect picture of this by any means, but having less toy clutter around the house, and less clutter in general, makes me closer to being that person. Even if you don't think its affecting you, studies show that visual/ physical clutter overstimulates our brains and causes us to be unfocused and stressed out people. Sometimes I wonder if this is why so many parents are stressed out and have negative feelings about parenthood in general. In our culture, it's normal that having babies/ kids means having so much more stuff around the house. The stuff causes clutter and the clutter causes stress. Have less toys and have less stress. It might honestly be that simple.
6. It creates good habits for a less toy-cluttered future. Right now, your baby doesn't know whether he/she has an abundance of toys or less than the average baby. When they get older, they will know the difference, and if they are used to having an excess of toys from day one, they'll continue to see that as the norm, and the habit will become extremely hard to break.
That doesn't mean parents of older kids have no hope for decluttering and having less toys in the home. You are the parent. You make the rules. You set the boundaries. Your kids will adjust. Here's a great article on why fewer toys will benefit kids for parents of older kids.
But if you only have babies right now- start good toy habits early. Have few and only what is needed or what seems beneficial to your babe. And continue to do this as your baby turns into a child.
With all of this said- it is still hard for me to purge Gemma's toys. I feel like her things still take over a bit, but I'm working on it.
I want to give my baby the best, and our culture tells us that means we should give our baby lots of things.
But babies have developed and thrived with WAY LESS before the inundated baby product culture we currently live in. And honestly, they probably developed and thrived much better than they do now when they are most likely overwhelmed with way too many toys.
I know that what is actually best for Gemma is to give her a space where she can thrive- a home that she can move in- a home that doesn't continually overstimulate and distract her while her little brain is growing so fast. And I know starting these good habits of living with less early is a way I can love her well.
Being a new mom (or a new parent) is already stressful enough. More stuff causes more stress. You shouldn't have to feel guilty for wanting less clutter in your home and more space to breathe.
If you have a house that has been overtaken by baby stuff and baby toys, please know I'm not judging you or saying you are wrong. I have a ways to go myself, and some days my house feels a little too overrun by baby stuff we've somehow re-accumulated. I'm simply offering another perspective- and hopefully giving you permission to say goodbye to the overwhelm that comes from the clutter your baby's stuff is causing.
Is clutter an issue you can't seem to figure out how to get rid of in your life? I feel ya. I always thought I was totally fine living with clutter, and even if I wanted to change it, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around how I would do that. But then I discovered minimalism, and everything changed.
Want less stress, less overwhelm, less time cleaning, and more time to spend intentionally with your family and doing the things you love?
It really is possible- and I created a guide to help you get started, using the steps that worked for my family and I. It's already helped other mamas do the same!