When we decide to declutter our home, we want to get it done. We often start off strong. We feel an urge to get rid of all the things. We fill up bags full of stuff and our house feels different. Lighter. Once the obvious items have been decluttered, it can start to feel difficult. It can become overwhelming. It can be easy to have motivation but we can lose momentum.
Why not learn from the brightest and the best in the business? Most of these authors started off just like you and me. They were surrounded by excess stuff and wanted a change. They needed to do something different. They learnt by doing and figured out strategies to help others do the same.
Many were parents who felt suffocated by all the things in their home. It was making them feel crazy. Something had to change. Something had to go, and it couldn’t be the kids. As toys tend to be a big part of the problem, they become a large part of the process.
It’s one thing to ditch some plastic junk that you are sick of stepping on and putting away. It’s another to involve your children. Getting your children on board with decluttering is an important step. When we come alongside them to sort out what they don’t love or use, and find new homes for them by donating or selling, we help them to form new habits.
Below are my favourite books on decluttering that might be useful to you too.
1. The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker
The Minimalist Home is the inspiration you need to start decluttering. Joshua does a deep dive into each room of the house and gives you steps to follow and questions to ponder. This helps you to reduce the inventory so you can focus on what really matters. Joshua has a comprehensive blog, YouTube channel and has published a number of other titles.
Messy Minimalism is for the messy folk out there who aren’t typically good at organising their homes. She takes a judgement free approach to decluttering and is permission giving that your house doesn’t need to look perfect. Rachelle has strategies and solutions that you can implement to create a purposeful home. She runs the Abundant Life with Less online community.
3. Declutter like a Motherby Allie Casazza
Declutter like a mother is written for mothers who are overwhelmed with all the stuff and are desperately seeking a change. Allie understands that season and openly talks about how seriously she struggled with this in early motherhood. In her book she motivates women to take charge, to get rid of the excess and to make a change for the better. Allie has a popular podcast, runs decluttering challenges, a book for children and has a huge following online.
Minimalist Moms is for mothers who seek to live intentionally. Diane gives a convincing argument for why reducing the stuff can have a positive impact on our lives. She gives practical steps to help you declutter your home. She also talks about the benefits of slowing down and saying no to extracurricular activities, and how this can help family life. Diane started with a podcast and has a community of like-minded individuals who strive to do more with less.
5. A Simpler Motherhoodby Emily Eusanio
A simpler motherhood empowers mothers to live life on purpose. When we declutter our homes and make a conscious effort to slow our schedule, it can have enormous benefits for our family. Emily unlocks the secrets to a simpler and more intentional life, and delves into marriage, parenting and faith. You can find Emily at The Simplified Mom on Instagram.
6. Love People, Use Things by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus
Love People, Use Things speaks about the power of reducing what we have in our homes and simplifying our schedule. When we take steps to do this, it can change the trajectory of our lives. Known as The Minimalists, they took decluttering to a radical level and couldn’t help but share their journey. You can find Joshua and Ryan on their website, listen to their podcast or watch their documentaries Minimalism and Less is Now on Netflix.
7. Project 333 by Courtney Carver
Project 333 encourages readers, especially women, to consider how many outfits are in their wardrobe and how many of these actually get worn. Getting ready in the morning can be stressful and partly because we have too many options. Courtney writes about how you can manage with just 33 items in your closet for 3 months, and learn to love it. You can find out more on her website and Instagram.
8. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying upby Marie Kondo
The life changing magic of tidying up takes readers through an expert guide on decluttering. Marie explains the order that she uses to tackle each area of the home. She has a particular way of folding and storing items so that they are visually appealing and are stored neatly. Marie is a multi million copy international bestseller, writes more about her KonMari method on her website and has a series on Netflix.
In closing, these titles are packed full of ideas to get you inspired to start decluttering and practical steps you can follow. I love that these books not help you to get rid of the physical clutter, but help you to become more intentional with the time that we have. Life is short and the time we have with our children is precious.
Books can make great gifts. I know I have so many that I’d love to receive. Why not add a few that catch your eye and save them to your wishlist. You’ll be supporting a hard working author and you can always give them to a friend when you are finished.
These are available to purchase on Amazon or your favourite bookshop. Many are also available to borrow from your local library and can help to save you money. If you enjoy listening to audiobooks, apps like Libby and Borrowbox enable you to borrow titles for free.
I’m so excited for you as you begin your decluttering journey or seek to minimise your home even more. I know that as you reduce the clutter, you’ll gain more space, increase your focus and give you back more time. I’d love to hear about your journey and connect with you on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
Being a good parent doesn’t mean we have to enrol them in unlimited extracurricular activities. In fact, putting limits around how much we let them participate in can be prove to be a game changer for your family.
When we become parents, we want the best for our children. We want to provide them with extracurricular activities to grow and thrive, improve and excel, meet other children and have fun. We sometimes feel pressure to be more and do more for them so they can have every opportunity available to them.
When notes get sent home about activities to sign up for and teams that need players, we can feel pressure to get our child involved. We don’t want them to miss out or to be left behind. We feel bad for clubs that can’t fill places.
There is nothing wrong with signing your child up for extracurricular activities. It helps develop gross and fine motor skills, learn responsibility and teamwork, reliability, time management and listening skills. It helps children to win with humility and lose with grace. As a boy mum, it is particularly important to me that my children know how to play a range of sports so they can make friends at lunchtime. However, this doesn’t mean that I have to sign them up for every organised activity.
Here are five considerations around why less might be more for your family.
1. Saving money
The more extracurricular activities our children are enrolled in, the more money it costs. It can all add up, especially if you have multiple children and they are enrolled in multiple sports. Some are more costly than others per term or season, for example, swimming lessons.
Others cost more for the uniforms, specialist footwear and accessories. Dance costumes often take many hours of work to put together or pay for someone else to make them. For those who make district or state teams, the cost to travel can be expensive not to mention, time off work if needed.
Factoring in petrol and any trips to the physio are worth considering too. For those in South Australia, school sports vouchers are available which at the time of writing save parents $100 a year on fees per school-age child. Similar vouchers that encourage families to take up sport may be available in your state or country.
Putting boundaries around extracurricular activities enables children to experience more free play. It allows for boredom, during which creativity and imaginative play can occur. Unstructured play enables children to decide who takes charge, plan what they will do and what the rules will be. It is crucial to healthy development. Children learn how to work collaboratively with one another and often over a range of ages.
The older ones learn to be patient and help out the younger children, who enjoy learning and look up to their older peers. They see what is possible and challenge themselves to climb as high, jump as far and run as fast. Less scheduled time means more space for playdates. This gives a chance for classmates to develop closer relationships with classmates and between parents.
Alone time allows freedom to daydream for children to lie on their backs and watch the clouds change shape, come up with things to do, problems to solve and creations to make. They have time to develop a range of skills during free play.
When children play on the trampoline, they develop leg strength, ball skills and hand-eye coordination. When they roll down hills and somersault on the grass, they develop flexibility, core strength and a vestibular system. When walking around the edge of a playground or stepping on rocks in the creek they develop balance, a sense of adventure and bravery.
3. More family time
When we slow down and limit extracurricular activities, it enables more family time. Younger children miss their siblings when they’re at school all day. By saying no to more things means you say yes to more interaction and relationship building. Siblings are able to reconnect after time apart and play with each other.
They don’t have to rush in and out of the car and be reminded of where they need to be going next. Weekends aren’t spent rushing to put uniforms on and get out the house and driving around like crazy all over town to make things in time.
Blank space in the calendar can do us all the world of good. We can get back to basics. We can spend time gardening, going on bike rides, having a bonfire, looking up at the stars, backyard camping, going hiking and playing at the beach.
When we limit the amount of extracurricular activities our children sign up for, we are putting a positive boundary in place. We choose to slow down and stop playing the role of a parent taxi driver, we give ourselves a chance to catch our own breath too. We can sit down for a cup of tea of coffee and enjoy it while it’s still hot. We have more time to plan out meals, cook more snacks and not have to rely on quick meals all the time.
We can have more dinner times as a family and spend time talking around the table. We can focus on listening to how everyone’s days have been, and share the highs and lows. We can all help to pack up afterwards, rather than being one person’s job.
I think that it’s important that parents get to have their own interests too and have regular breaks. Don’t stop doing all the things you love. Your relationship came before the children so it should come first. Date nights, girls and guys nights, alone time.
It’s all-important and you are allowed to prioritise this. When we over-schedule activities for children, it’s easy to have no time or energy left for our own needs. If we enjoy playing a sport, we can do that for ourselves in the evening once or twice a week, maintain fitness at the gym or going for runs, catch a movie, go late-night shopping, or take an art class.
When we prioritise having fun ourselves, we are more likely to be fun parents and enjoy life more. Our children should not take the top priority. When your children leave home, you want to have hobbies that you can continue and a spousal relationship you can enjoy in a new stage.
5. More time outdoors
When we reduce our children’s extracurricular activities, it has an array of benefits. Being outside in nature is wonderful for us all. When we slow our schedules and switch organised sports and activities for nature play, it’s often just what we need. Children are immersed in sensory-rich experiences as they play barefoot in grass, sand, dirt, mud and water.
They learn how to balance on uneven surfaces like slopes, rocks, gravel and bark chips. We feel the warmth of the sun on our faces and the rain in our hair, and learn to be resilient in all types of weather. Children are met with all sorts of natural materials and environments which leads to endless opportunities for deep open-ended play.
Adults don’t need to entertain or educate or set an agenda. Children are less likely to say they’re bored compared to an indoor setting, and in my experience will often play outside with fewer quarrels and fights. Their imagination can be wild and their play has no bounds.
Being in nature has mental health benefits for us all, with vitamin D, fresh air, bird sounds and beautiful landscapes to admire. We aren’t governed as much by the clock, but instead by the rumble in our tummies, the position of the sun and the weather to guide when we eat, where we play and when to seek shelter from the elements.
Intentionality around scheduling
Now that we’ve looked at some of the benefits that can come from less organised activities, it is important that we are intentional in how we schedule our time.
This may mean choosing a school that has lots of extracurricular activities built into it. Want your child to learn an instrument? Make sure your school has tuition offered. This will mean your child will miss 30 minutes of a lesson once a week but this will save you from having to drive them to a lesson after school. Does your child need therapy such as OT or Physio? See if the sessions can be done at school.
If you want to do more nature-based free play but don’t want to spend time in the car, consider adding it on to somewhere you already have to be. For example, my eldest’s school is positioned right opposite a creek. We’ve started playing here after school. Their gumboots, snacks and towels stay packed and ready in the car and now their classmates are joining them.
It’s been so wonderful. It’s the perfect type of playdate that involves no organising or driving. Every week now, we have at least two afternoons in the creek. My 3 and 1 year old follow their older brother around, pretending to fish and catch ducks, play chasey, make cubbies and forts, play cops and robbers, hide and seek, and even go swimming in the cold water.
They never want to leave. We eventually do as it starts to get dark, they get ravenous or they start to shiver, whatever comes first. We pack up all the gear, I strip off their wet muddy clothes and cover them with warm blankets, and we drive home (all of five minutes worth).
They are so tired yet so happy, and their tanks are full from playing outside with their friends. I’m so happy too. I can’t help but feel this is what it’s supposed to be like. Kids get a chance to really be kids, and adults have time to sit down and chat while we watch them run around. It feels easy almost, far from how parenthood is seen these days.
Here are some of my favourite authors who write on the topic of choosing slow living over busy lives with extracurricular activities. They may inspire you to slow down and simply enjoy your family.
Some you can listen to on Audible or free on the Libby and Borrowbox app through your local library. Alternatively, you can buy on Amazon, Book Depositary or wherever you find good books.
In the end, you choose how busy you are. Sometimes we like to complain about all the things that are on and how our role as a taxi driver. We whinge at this stage of life but don’t always stop to consider if we need to be doing so many things. If our children really need so many opportunities. You are allowed to say no. You are allowed to put boundaries in place.
As a parent, you don’t have to provide them with all the opportunities. Choose a select few extracurricular activities based on their interests and strengths, a variety when they are younger so they can choose one or two to master. When children get their driver’s license, they can choose how many activities they do. They might decide to take up new sports or hobbies and be out every evening.
When I was growing up, I took piano lessons and played netball. I learnt how to swim during VACSWIM, and played sports at school. It wasn’t until I left school that I took up playing soccer and touch footy, learnt guitar, and did a musical. I hope to give my boys enough extracurricular activities to help them decide what things they are good at and enjoy, and dabble in a few different things, so they can do more when they are older.
You can give your children the best childhood and not run yourself ragged in the process. By slowing down and saying no to the unnecessary, we can make space and say yes to what is most important. I give you permission to be brave enough to make changes to how your family does things from here on out. You get to choose what your days, afternoons, weekends and school holidays look like. It’s up to you.
I’ll leave you with a favourite memory I have of my two eldest boys at 3 and 1. It was a Tuesday and I normally went to weekly Kindergym. This particular day though, I decided not to. It was a rainy day. Knowing that the rubbish truck was due to come past soon, I put some chairs under the front verandah and sat with my boys. When the truck came past, they were so excited.
They were both waving and squealing and were stoked when the driver waved back and honked his horn. My eldest turned to me, beaming, and said, “how lucky are we mum? This is the best day ever!” It was a lovely reminder to me that kids don’t need much to make them happy.
We all have children in our life who we need to buy presents for, whether they’re our own, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and when our children go to parties. Sometimes it is hard coming up with an idea, especially when the child seems to have enough stuff already.
When a child receives lots of toys for their birthday or at Christmas time, they are initially excited. Most kids love the thrill of opening up a present to find a new thing inside. Once the shine has come off a bit and the gift doesn’t seem so interesting anymore, the following two things tend to happen:
There is an increase in overwhelm for the child. They have too much choice about what to play with. They get distracted. They don’t delve into deep, meaningful play. There is too much mess to clean up.
Secondly there is overwhelm for the parents. This tends to affect the primary caregiver, the one that is home the most. They have to find a spot to store it, create systems for toy rotations, tidy it up, manage the pieces.
It’s a lot. When I’ve gently asked some family members to avoid buying toys or less of them, I have been told, “but they like it,” or “they’ll be so excited opening the box.” Yes, of course they would be but in the end, as a parent I have to manage all the stuff. We have so many more things and toys than a generation or two ago. This wears us down and can steal some of the joy of motherhood.
I have been on a journey of decluttering and it has made the world of difference in our family.
Here are some gift ideas for children that won’t add to the overwhelm, go to landfill or break the bank.
#1. Gift idea: Toy library voucher
Toy libraries are amazing. My local one has gift vouchers for purchase for just $35 a year or $20 for 6 months. It is a brilliant way to give the gift that keeps on giving without adding to the excess in the family home. This can be bought with another family to keep cost down or even put money in the card to go towards buying the membership.
#2. Gift idea: Op shop voucher
Money doesn’t go very far in department stores. When my son went to spend some pocket money, the $15 barely bought one Paw Patrol car. We went across the road to Savers (a large op shop / thrift store) and he was amazed with what he could purchase. There were less options but there was a range of different things he could buy.
You could offer to take the child shopping to spend it, and could go towards books, clothes, shoes, dress ups, or art supplies. If there was a particular toy they wanted they could get that too, and when they get bored with it, sell or donate and then buy a different one. This reduces the impact on the environment because you aren’t buying a new toy with packaging, and the child is choosing something that they really want.
Growing up we had an uncle who only ever gave books as gifts. This didn’t always seem very exciting, but I secretly loved having a new one of my own to read. I loved being able to write my name in the front and keep it in my bookshelf. I could reread it again and again. Books can be expensive but they don’t have to be bought new. You could buy a set of books from Marketplace or Gumtree, or from an op shop for a fraction of the price. It’s nice to check first with the child or parents that second hand is ok. If they say it’s fine, money will go further meaning more books for them!
#4. Gift Idea: Audiobooks
Listening to a story in the car can help to pass the time, especially on long trips. It can be a different option to screens during rest time at home. They can be a relaxing way to wind down at bedtime. These can be bought as a CD format (new or secondhand) or downloaded on a device to listen on a speaker. Apps like Libby and Borrowbox even let you borrow audiobooks from the library for free!
#5. Gift Idea: Buy an Experience
This is my personal favourite gift and love when my boys are given one of these. The options are endless but here are some that won’t break the bank. Some could be money towards an experience, or pay for themselves and the child to do together as a special outing.
We have compiled a list of experiences and outings that our children have never done before. This is stuck on the fridge for ideas and inspiration for special weekends or if someone asks for a present idea. This helps our children to focus on less material things and helps us remember about the fun things we can do as a family.
Too much stuff can create stress in our lives, but meaningful experiences creates memories. I encourage you to be extra intentional with gift giving going forward. Toys themselves aren’t bad, but children can only play with so much. They only need so much. Less things to manage can help families feel happier too. 💕
Have you noticed the growing pressure to spend more and own nice things? More and more I feel like we are expected to have a high standard of living.
I think that some of us want the first house we buy to be the one our parents saved up their whole lives for, and the ones our grandparents and great grandparents would have only dreamt of. There’s a lot to be said for being content and grateful for what we have and not needing to have everything all at once.
I am not trying to bag young people or say it was easier in my day. I’m still semi young (😅) and I know not all young people have this attitude.
I know house prices have gone crazy recently and times are hard and we are not all out getting avocado on toast. Some cities are becoming almost unaffordable for even the most basic of houses.
However. I do think that there is unreasonable pressure to have all the expensive things straight away. It is expected, in many circles, that once you are working you’ll buy the nice car, big house, new furniture and fancy tv.
It’s fine if you save up for these things but more times that not, this is paid for on credit or left with huge debts. I hear people all the time complaining about how busy they are. About how they ‘have’ to work full time. About how they ‘have’ to go back to work after having a baby or both ‘have’ to work to afford kids.
For some people, this is reality. They have no choice.
But at the risk of being hated, I’m going to say it anyway. Most of us have choices.
We can buy the amazing new car and have a loan, or we can drive an older one and save to upgrade it.
We can over-extend ourselves and buy a massive house and work lots to pay for it (and will be in trouble if they lose their job or interest rates go up) or we can borrow less than the banks let us and buy something that we can actually afford (even on one wage, allowing for unforeseen circumstances).
We can buy new flashy furniture and accessorise our houses and upgrade to new electronics or we can make do with second hand, saving up for new pieces when we can afford it. We don’t need to buy in to the new technology just because it’s new. We can reduce the amount sent to landfill and environmental impact.
My husband and I often feel envious after visiting beautiful homes. We can’t help but stare at modern, open plan kitchens (ours is old and wooden), gorgeous bathrooms (we have a purple bath and penguin tiles) and outside entertaining areas (we have a tiny deck and no undercover area). We have to remind ourselves that maybe one day we can have this, but it’s not our time yet.
We are choosing to live within our means. We avoid lifestyle creep by setting our own agenda about where our money goes. We decide what is most important for our family and stage of life.
We want to be around more for our children, spending time not money on them. We have less disposable income but are happy to go without some of our wants.
It all depends on who you are comparing yourself with. Are you comparing yourself to the professional couple on a double wage, with a six digit income? What about the single parent living on welfare, struggling to make ends meet? Someone homeless after a relationship breakdown or job loss? A family in desperate need of food, suffering in a time of drought and living in a single room hut with dirt floors? A refugee who has escaped a war torn country, living in a camp?
If we are only associating ourselves with those who are wealthy, or seeing influencers on social media show off their life, our world view is skewed a certain way. I am privileged and have much to be thankful for. I don’t have everything but have everything I need.
Do you feel that there is pressure to keep up with the Joneses?
The longer I’ve been parenting, the more I’ve realised that by reducing the clutter, it brings more calm. The less inventory we have to manage, the happier we feel. Although my name highlights being savvy with money, if you’ve been around here a while you’d know that it’s not all that I’m about.
I’ve been on a journey of minimalism over the last few years. When I became a mother five years ago, I was suddenly aware of how stuff bothered me.
How it would stress me out. Distract me from the task at hand. Overwhelm me. Make me feel anxious. Dominate my time. Steal my joy.
Speaking to many parents, I’d hear a common response- ‘you’ll get used to it.’ The gist was that kids just come with lots of stuff. It comes with the territory.
Learn to live with it because it ain’t going to change in a hurry.
However, not all responded like that. Some were like a breath of fresh air.
‘It doesn’t have to be this way.’ You can be a parent and have less stuff. You don’t have to spend your days picking up after your kids. You don’t have to have constant washing baskets all over the house. You don’t have to have toys scattered everywhere. It doesn’t need to be this hard.
This was a relief to me. It made sense to me. It was permission giving and empowering.
By learning how to live with less, I started decluttering what we didn’t need or love. This reduced the excess in our home, helped us to focus better and freed up space.
Selling the excess allowed me to fund better quality, open ended toys (think duplo, Lego, train sets and Connetix tiles). We have less stuff that gets played with more often.
We utilise the local toy library. This helps us to have a fresh rotation of toys, games and puzzles as often as we like. It keeps our boys engaged and reduces how much we need to own ourselves. Toy libraries reduce our carbon footprint and impact on the environment by not creating more items and also disposing of less.
I have more space in my house and less items to manage. This means less furniture to store toys on, less baskets and boxes. My children focus better on their play and use their creativity and imagination. They don’t get as distracted from what they are playing with because there is less choice. Packing up doesn’t take as long as it used to. I no longer spend my evenings tidying up and sorting out all the things. It means I can be more present in the daytime too and actively play with my boys, rather than stressing about the mess and cleaning up after them.
Becoming more minimal has improved our financial situation. We avoid shopping centres and junk mail catalogs that tell us we need more. We unsubscribe from pesky emails alerting us to new products and items on sale. It saves us money and means relatives don’t need to spend lots of cash on presents. Whatever we don’t use or love, we sell to fund toys that we will. We get outside more and enjoy free activities, or pay for fun experiences instead of lining shelves with more toys.
As I’ve continued to declutter our home, I’ve had more energy and brain space to begin some side hustles. This has turned mere hobbies into income streams.
Reducing our stuff has helped me thrive in my season of motherhood. I am more happy and present, able to live in the moment. I feel more calm. My children play better together and argue less about which toy is theirs. Being a mum doesn’t mean it has to be hard or have your days spent managing all the things.
Money, Minimalism and Motherhood is so closely intertwined for me. I can’t help but write about each of these things because one affects the other.
I love seeing women embrace and thrive in their stage of life (especially if you’re in the season of motherhood), manage their money well and live with less.
Thanks for being here and being part of this wonderful community. I’m so very grateful for you all.
It’s the most wonderful time of year, right? For many of us, this season is far from that. We may feel lonely or isolated, grieving those who are no longer with us, struggling with health issues or dread the awkward family gatherings. For some, the added financial pressure is extremely stressful. We often place high expectations on ourselves to perform and impress others or create an unforgettable time for our family.
There are some things you can do earlier in the year to help set you up for a less stressful Christmas season. Here are ten tips.
1. Have a sinking fund. Start saving early for Christmas. Figure out how much you’ll need: presents, food, travel etc, then work backwards about how much per week or pay cycle this equates to. Open up a separate savings fund and nominate a figure to be transferred into on a regular basis (eg. $50 every fortnight). Christmas can feel like it comes faster every year but it isn’t an emergency. Don’t let it creep up on you and stress you out! Make a plan and stick to it. Little amounts throughout the year add up!
2. Kris Kringle. This is popular in many work places and families. Rather than everybody buying a present for everybody, do a simple draw to figure out the one person that each person buys for. Set a limit (we do $30 in our family) and create a wish list of ideas for that person to choose from. This is a great idea for buying for children too – they really don’t need that many presents!
3. Set limits. Be realistic about what you can afford to spend and what you actually want to. Have a conversation with family earlier on in the year and put your concerns on the table if you feel the spending is too high. It is ok to have boundaries for presents throughout the year too. We have $30 for close family, $20 for other family, $20 for kids and $10 for children’s parties. Write down your budget, figure out what you can buy with this money and keep a record of what you buy throughout the year. It’s easy to forget things that you may have bought, and then overspend when you purchase more things closer to Christmas.
4. Write gift ideas. This is especially important for children. Most relatives want to be generous and buy an exciting gift for their child, and want the wow factor. To help avoid excess in your home, try creating a wishlist of ideas. This can be on a website like Amazon or simply a list emailed out with prices and links to the shop. Include a mixture of toys (focusing on open ended or good quality), clothes, books and experiences (eg cinema, bowling or swimming vouchers). See my post on How to declutter your children’s toys for good for more tips.
5. Buy second hand. I love op shopping (or thrifting). Most of my children’s clothes, shoes, books and toys are bought this way. I always encourage relatives to buy things on marketplace or from op shop if they want (eg get a bulk set of Fireman Sam toys for $30 rather than one new truck). I only buy second hand for others with their permission (eg. would you prefer five gorgeous dresses second hand or one new one for your two year old?). This not only reduces cost for people, or gets more for their money, but it also reduces the environmental impact.
6. Limit wastage. Writing lists and doing Kris Kringle can help limit excess presents but how about food? Discuss and plan meals with family, organise who brings what, try not to go crazy at the grocery store before hand. Make salads to go with leftover cold meats, cook veggies in a creamy cheese sauce, make yiros, soups or platters. Use it as a chance to have a few days off cooking. Jamie Oliver has some fabulous ideas for this in his book, ‘Save with Jamie.’
Sit down and figure out what is most important to you and ask your kids what they love the most. Is it Christmas carol events, Christmas lights, visiting markets, sitting on Santa’s lap (or the socially distanced version), snuggling up watching Christmas movies, baking honey biscuits or decorating gingerbread houses? Pick your favourites, schedule them in and create times of rest and togetherness at home. We don’t and can’t do it all. ( The art of saying no.. )
8. Everyone contribute. Discuss with family what you can all bring to ease pressure on the host. Divide up meat, veggies, salads, dessert, drinks and snacks (even bonbons, serviettes and declarations can be brought by someone else if they come early to help set up. It shouldn’t be organised and paid for by one household (in my opinion).
Two years ago, I had a baby on Christmas Eve. I went home that night and made it for Christmas lunch at my parents and Boxing Day at in-laws. Whilst I don’t recommend doing this (😂😂), they made it simple for us. I pre-bought and packed drinks and nibbles, and contributed some money towards food.
9. Limit alcohol. This is one area that can add up really fast. If you enjoy drinking, especially at this time of year, look out for specials the month or two leading up to Christmas. Put some boxes aside (and try not to drink them!) to reduce costs closer to the festive season. Mix up drinking alcohol with water, soft drink, juice, soda stream, flavoured milk or hot drinks if you can.
10. Return or regift excess. People love to give women hand creams or bath lotions. It’s a lovely gesture but how much can you actually use? I regift these items unless I really love the scent. If I take the time to create a wishlist with my child (or on behalf of young children), and the relative chooses to buy a noisy plastic toy that will not last (or clothing that is the wrong size), I don’t feel bad about exchanging this or regifting (unless your children really love it or are old enough to make their own decisions).
This may be seen as ungrateful, but isn’t it worse to open the package, let the kids play with it a week before it breaks or put the clothing in a drawer never to use? It might seem harsh at the time but if you do it quietly, and buy something else with the money for your child, surely that is a better solution.
Ultimately I choose what comes into our house and stays there, as I am the one to pick up and organise all the things. Last year, our boys got so many toys for birthday and Christmas. I took some to my local department store and asked if they sold it and whether they would let me return it. One shop took most and gave me $120 in credit notes. I used this to buy clothing they needed and some toys they’d wanted for ages.
In closing, despite the expensive season that Christmas can be, you can have a say in how prepared you are and how much you choose to spend. Take some time to plan ahead, set your budget and gently communicate with those around you about these plans. Brainstorm together about some changes you can make that will honour the family traditions whilst respecting your financial situation. It’s ok and healthy to have boundaries. We don’t have to do what we have always done.
I hope that Christmas for you this year will be special and with those that you love. ❤️
One minute you have your home that you share with your other half. You know the one; your stuff, their stuff, your combined stuff. It’s pretty manageable. And just how you like it.
And then you have a baby.
Suddenly your house is out of control. Formula, bottles, teats, sterilisers, breast pumps, breast pads, breastfeeding pillows. Maternity clothes, feeding tops, nappies, baby wipes, bassinet, cot, linen, bouncer, rocker, mobile, board books, dummies or pacifiers. Baby clothes, pram, capsule, muslin wraps, blankets, sleeping suits, wraps and carriers. Baby toys, bath toys, teddy bears, pram toys, foot rattles. High chairs, baby spoons, bibs. Walkers, activity centres, ride on bikes.
You have a lot of stuff and then the kid gets Christmas presents or turns one. Throw in hand me downs, op shop bargains and well-meaning aunties and grandparents. More stuff. Colourful, noisy, plastic things everywhere and more clothes than days to wear them.
As they get older and more siblings come along, the clothes and gadgets and toys often get out of control. More toys than we can handle.
Don’t get me wrong. Most parents are so grateful for these things as it shows us that people care and it saves us money on buying it all ourselves.
However, this level of stuff is overwhelming. For many mothers, the clutter stresses them out and they aren’t able to manage it. We are already feeling behind with the washing piles and unwashed dishes, the what’s for dinner dilemma and what birthday cake to cook, the piles of paper on the bench, the unread emails and messages, the dirty shower we never get around to cleaning and the empty photo albums we need to one day fill.
There’s already so much going on in our brain, too many tabs open. When we see toys spread over the floor and chaos surrounding the house, it can be the tipping point.
When there is mention of clutter and children, it is often an assumption that the two go together. It’s just how it is. Children come with stuff. You just have to learn to live with it.
I disagree. While of course you will have a certain amount of stuff when you have children, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Over the last four years, I have learnt that the less toys that are in sight, the calmer I feel and the less mess that is able to be unleashed. Too many toys equal a child being overwhelmed at the choices he is presented with. His brain cannot cope and too much is vying for attention. He will pull something out, play with it briefly, and then do the same with the next one.
My top tips for reducing the toys:
Give away all noisy, battery operated toys (unless your child truly loves and plays with it). Source open ended toys that encourage imaginative play. Your child should be the boss of the toy and tell it what it is and what it can do. This makes for a quieter environment for you and your children and less cost and hassle for you to replace dead batteries.
Less dress ups. Children love to dress up as their favourite characters and heroes. They don’t need actual dress ups to do this. Fill a box with various scarves, hats, jackets and fabric. Ones with different colours, textures and sizes. Sit back and watch your child use their imagination to become whoever they want to be.
Less plastic, more wood. These are more beautiful to touch, lovingly created and much better for the environment. Where possible, opt for high quality toys with good craftsmanship. They feel nicer and often get played with more because of how they grip to each other. These will last the test of time and a better investment for your money.
Model getting rid of your excess things. Regularly go through your clothes, shoes, jewellery, books, kitchenware, nick nacks and paperwork. Talk aloud about how you don’t need this anymore, you already have two, I don’t really like this now, I prefer the pink ones, etc. Children long to imitate us, so demonstrate how you like to keep your things to a minimum.
Toy rotation. Most likely, your children will have more toys than space to store them. They also get bored with the same things. Start by selecting a few key toys to display on your cubes or shelves, and make sure you have a few different types (ie. Blocks, magnetic tiles, scarves or dress ups, animals, cars, trucks, train tracks, dolls, puzzles). Put the rest away in a different room or hidden from view in a cupboard. Some favourite might always be out and that’s ok (for us, matchbox cars are always displayed and played with). Have a regular time every week or so to switch these around. I find it best to do this once my kids are in bed.
Get kids involved. Let them choose what to donate to the op shop and which ones they would like to sell. Teach children the value of money by asking them to choose a price (within reason!), take photos to upload, collect the money from the person, under the doormat or letterbox. My three year old loves this process and happily runs to put his earnings into his jars.
Make gift giving intentional. Part of decluttering toys is making a plan to avoid more coming back in to your home. Create a list of gift ideas for your son or daughter’s upcoming birthday or Christmas. This could include ideas of clothing pieces and their current size, toys that you have wishlisted or seen in a store, money towards a bigger item (such as a trampoline) or an experience (to the movies, zoo, drive in, waterpark, bowling, etc). This doesn’t mean people must get something off the list and it won’t work for all families. However, if you have taken the time to put ideas together, and people insist of buying annoying plastic toys, I give you permission not to keep it. Quietly exchange it or regift to someone else. You get to choose what comes into your house.
Fiver parties. If you are hosting a party and are freaking out about the huge amount of gifts about to come in, consider writing in the invite if they could bring $5 in lieu of a present. You could mention that your child is saving up for a bike or lego set, and would love if you wanted to contribute to this. Always stress that this is optional, but many parents jump at the chance to spend less on presents and not have to go shopping for another party.
Utilise the toy library. Join your local toy library. Memberships cost around $35 a year depending on where you live. This enables you to borrow from a huge range of toys, puzzles, dress ups and more. I go into detail about toy libraries here.
I hope these give you a few starting ideas about how to declutter your children’s toys, and more importantly, stop more from coming in. Know that you are the keeper of your home. You have to clean, organize and maintain the house so you get to decide what and how much enters in.
Start with ten minutes a day, walking around with a box or bag and grab anything that you no longer love. Make regular trips to donate them or list them to sell.