I love the idea of minimalism.
I love the magazine and Pinterest pictures of clean homes that are completely clutter free and only have four deliberately placed decorations.
And for years I’ve strived for this.
I’ve purged toys and books and clothes. I’ve held serving platters and asked, “Does this bring me joy?”
I’ve donated bags and boxes to Salvation Army and sold unnecessary belongings on eBay.
I’ve felt guilty every time I’ve opened a bedroom door to find it overflowing with toys and detritus that show we have four children living here.
And today as I began cleaning out my daughters’ room for the millionth time, the girls just stood in the corner and watched me. They didn’t bother to beg to keep their stuff or try to negotiate the purging of a different toy instead of the one I was holding.
And their silence broke my heart.
I suddenly remembered being seven years old and watching my Barbie Dream House being sold at a garage sale.
I loved the Barbie Dream House and played with it often, but my mom needed cash and clutter stressed her out, so she sold it. The selling of my toys happened often so I just stood there silently because I knew that there was nothing I could do to change her mind.
When I remembered my seven year old silence, I stopped cleaning out the girls’ room. I put the bag down and gave up on reaching a “manageable level” of stuff.
My oldest daughter turned nine yesterday which means that my time with her in my house as my little girl is halfway over.
Sure, she could live at home while she goes to college or move back in after she graduates from college, but that time doesn’t really count the same way.
She’ll be an adult then.
And considering how quickly the last nine years have flown by, I’m pretty sure the next nine will go by just as quickly.
I know that all parents say that, but it’s so true.
And if she loves the line of 100 bracelets that she looped together so she can pretend it’s her hair and she’s Rapunzel, then she should get to keep that.
And her owl collection (she’s up to 17 now!).
And her tubs of arts and craft supplies.
And all 639 pieces of her bracelet making kit.
Because soon enough I won’t have to convince her to get rid of any of that stuff.
She’ll be a teenager and she won’t want to make bracelets or refrigerator art or craft projects. She probably won’t even want to collect stuffed owls anymore.
As a parent, my priority is my children not my own obsessive need to feel in control of my life by cleaning stuff out.
Because that’s what it is. I want to express control over my life by cleaning out.
But here’s the thing – I’m not in control of my life.
God has a plan for me that no amount of decluttering will ever change.
But I know that my children will remember that I constantly threw away their toys because I remember that experience from my childhood.
And I remember how it made me feel like my thoughts and desires were completely unimportant.
I’m not saying that my kids should be the center of my world.
They are third in my life.
God is first and their dad is second. (There’s no way I can be the best mom to them if I’m not taking the time to be a great wife to their dad.)
But they have to know that they are more important than stuff.
And sure, there’s tons of evidence that kids with less toys are more creative, resilient, and can see through walls (okay, maybe not that last part).
But I know that for me the decluttering has never been about building their character.
It’s always been about my need to feel in control of my life.
Maybe someday I’ll be able to find my peace and calm from my daily devotional time, and I’ll be able to approach the decluttering of my kid’s stuff from a purely normal place.
But for now, I’m going to leave the piles of toys and let them play. Most of their toys aren’t electronics so their toys are mostly used as props for all of their pretend adventures.
I’m going to pray for God to help me to let go of control and to help my kids know him more.
And I’m going to order some cute bins from Amazon to put all their stuff in.
Because someday I’ll have a nice, silent, toy-free house, and I’ll miss all of those creepy, stuffed owls.
At least that’s what all the old ladies who stop me in Walmart keep telling me.
How does your family deal with toy clutter?
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