Monthly Archives: March 2014

Our Toy Decluttering System

Pretty much all moms get frustrated with toy clutter.

I thought a group toy box under their bed and some additional personal toys kept in their own personal spaces would be okay, but we ran into a couple big problems.

(1) No one took responsibility for the clean up of the ‘group’ toys and (2) each hoarded so much in their personal space, they couldn’t fit it all in!

I’ve downsized enough that I did not want to get rid of more of their toys at this time. (Though maybe in a couple months…) However, I did need to remove them from the stress of every day!

A friend said she had taken away all but a few of her kids’ toys until they learned to be responsible enough to clean them up.

This seemed like a great idea. Here’s how it worked for us.

I taped numbered cards on the floor and let each child pick out his or her favorite 10 toys.

Here are pictures of the toys that they picked. photo 1

The top picture is of my 4 year old son’s toys.

photo 2Then my 3 year old daughter’s toys. Yes. She loves dolls.

photo 3Finally the 18 month old’s.

The rest went into a big box which I hid away in the basement.

photo 4


If the child wants a toy from the box, he or she has to trade one of his or her ‘special ten.’ The only one who has done this has been my oldest. The girls don’t seem to remember the other toys even exist.

I also took the opportunity to pick out a few car toys that stay in the car. This was a brilliant move! 

photo 5

In the last 2 months, my son has ended up with more like 20 toys. He’s proven himself responsible and always cleans them up. Since he wants to keep his 20 toys. the system has motivated him to be more responsible! My 3 year old still has about 10 which fit easily in her personal basket, and my 18 month old has about 7. Toy clutter has become almost nonexistent.


Beyond this I keep toy sets locked in two cabinets, but I’m the only one with access to them.

There you have it! This is the system that has worked for us!


Enjoying the Day to Day



Tucked in the middle of Leo Barbatau’s wonderful list “72 Ways to Simplify Your Life,” is the wise suggestion to sprinkle your day with things you love.

I think there are two types of pleasures that can dot our day – the ones we can do and the ones we can notice.

Pleasures we can do.

  • A friend lights a candle every day when she finishes cleaning her house
  • I enjoy a morning coffee (complete with real chocolate melted in!)
  • A chapter of a novel at lunch to escape the monotony of a workday.
  • A short nightly date with your loved one – even just to touch base – even for just a few minutes – to sit down and enjoy each other’s company
  • A brisk walk around the block
  • A fruity protein shake to break up a long afternoon
  • A set time to take10 minutes and check your favorite blog

But I think there are also pleasures each day that we need to notice.

We have so many moments in our day that we could enjoy that we miss because rather then live in the pleasure of the moment, we are thinking of the responsibility of the future.

Basically, stop to smell the roses!

Small children are amazing at this. My children delight in the simplest things. From waving goodbye to my husband when he leaves for work to going to Walmart to eating lunch. Everything is a pleasure. (well – unless they don’t like lunch…)

I think we as adults miss all the wonder that is around us.

  •  The serene silence on the way to work or the store
  • The crisp beauty of a winter afternoon.
  • The joy in our children’s faces as they chatter about their toys
  • The refreshing torrent of a hot shower
  • The combination of flavors in even a simple sandwich

I used to dread end of nap time each day. It was like in the space of 20 seconds the house could go from productive and brimming with potential to filled with 2 or 3 groggy and demanding little people – with eyes barely open yet already asking for things.

But I’ve finally started to notice a ripe moment to enjoy a pleasure when they wake.

It’s a great opportunity to get a free hug and enjoy one of my kids. Several months ago I started to say something  like “Hello! You are up! I’m happy to see you! Mama loves you!”


And while the mute hum of productivity may cease abruptly with the thump, thump, thumpity, thump of little feet, I am genuinely happy to see them. Just saying it, just pausing an extra moment to get a hug, (or even grabbing a 3 minute cuddle time!) has helped me recognize it.

The fact is we are blessed. God in His mercy has made the beautiful sun to shine on each of us. Sometimes we need to stop being so utilitarian and task-oriented that we can enjoy it.


Minimalist Wardrobe: Working Man

Working Man

I often think of my husband as a natural minimalist. Consequently having a minimal wardrobe for him is very easy.

My husband is a web developer who works in a business casual setting.

He doesn’t care for long sleeves so all his polos and casual shirts are short sleeved.

His core colors are blue, black, navy, grey, a little brown and khaki.

6 polos for work

(Plus he has one dress shirt with the company logo for client meetings.)

2 nice jeans for work

2 pair casual pants (switched with shorts in summer)

4 casual shirts

3 dress pants for Sunday (khaki, navy, and a wool blend for subzero days)

7 dress shirts (4 short sleeved for summer and 3 long sleeved)

5 ties

Hunting gear in the basement

A dress shirt for our home business

2 pair pajamas

Undergarments and Socks

Nice boots which he wears every day in Winter.

Comfortable, heavy duty dress shoes which he wears every day the rest of the year.

German House Shoes (like slippers)

A suit for interviews and when he preaches at church.

That’s it. I didn’t have to pare down much either. He’s a natural.

Jeans and pants don’t need to be washed every use so there is enough clothes for him.

That’s his wardrobe. Working men’s wardrobes will vary of course by their occupation.


Shopping with Toddlers!

Shopping with small children seems to get a range of reactions when I talk to other moms. Some hate it. Some love it. Some do it multiple times a week. Some have a single shopping day.


I used to dread shopping with my kids – especially when my most challenging child was in the terrible twos. (And legitimately some kids are simply hard!!)

However, now it’s become A LOT easier to shop with my kids. Here are some tips that have helped.



  1. Make a list according to the lay-out in your grocery store.






Green Pepper


Frozen Juice

Frozen Vegetables

Chocolate Chips



2. Shop at their happiest time

My kids are morning people. Melt-downs are diminished by 95% if we can get to the store by 9:30 AM and home by 12:00 PM.

I feel really bad for moms who have no choice but to take their kids after work when everyone is tired and grouchy. If I lived closer, I’d completely watch your kids for you!

3. Avoid tough places (ie: toy aisle)

We do go to the toy aisle if we need to get a present for someone. We did today actually), but if we don’t have to, I push the cart by there fast – wouldn’t you if you had a cart full of toddlers??

4. Have a plan in place for if they want a toy.

That said: here is how we deal with toy-wantiness.

A. I tell them to put it back with its friends, and they are required to obey.

Most of the time, it is a non-issue. However, if there is a melt-down, I’ve come to realize that we all have had those moments.

No one should be judging me because everyone has either had kids or is clueless about the reality of what kids are like.

Therefore this meltdown is NOT about our audience. It is about my child.

Therefore it is:

- an opportunity to help my child work through a character issue by kneeling down at his or her level and talking it through with them until they can gain victory over their covetetousness.


-A time to push the cart away fast, get over my embarrassment and deal with the child later – once they’ve cooled down and the temptation is not right in front of their face.

B. If it is an item that I’m okay with them getting, I will give them an option to buy it themselves.

  1. They have to come back with their own money. (Which they earn doing jobs for me). This often means they need to save too. Since most toys cost $8-15, this means it will take a couple months to earn that much. Two times now, my four year old son has put in the work to earn some special toys, the rest of the time, he forgets about it.
  2. They have to remind me later. (and 95% of the time they forget.)
  3. They have to get rid of a SPECIAL toy at home. My kids are down to just 10 toys each besides stored play sets. They carefully selected these out of the mass of toys to keep while the others were toted away. When it comes to some enamoring object in the store or one of their beloved favorites, they rarely abandon their favorites.



5. Punishments in Public

Shopping with me is a privilege and with every shopping trip comes privileges that can be lost.

1. Buckled: If they are in the auto cart, I let the older two stay unbuckled so they can jump down and grab items for me, but if they are not listening, they lose the privilege.

2. Auto-cart: They LOVE the carts with the cool seats! However, we only use them two thirds of the time. If they don’t obey well, the next week, I get two carts and push one and drag one.

3. No reward

I do almost always get them a food item as a reward for being good. Bribery? Kind of. But I think if a small child is good for a tempting shopping trip, they deserve some tangible form of positive feedback.

Usually this is a $1 cheeseburger or a fun (EASY) lunch item so they are fed and ready for a nap when we get home.

If they misbehave – no reward.

4. Discipline at home

Sometimes (like hopping out of the cart and jumping around in the paper towel rolls or racing away while Mama yells to come back or a tantrum from an older child),  there is some form of punishment at home – after I’ve cooled off and where we can deal with the issue face to face.

6. Bring a snack for the check-out

Check-out is when everyone is most grouchy and where the rotten stores have put toys and candy right at kid-level.

If there is one place to have a snack – this is it!

6. Have any coupons ready ahead of time!

If I have an infant, they are usually DONE and ready to eat about check-out so it’s either balance baby and rip out coupons or have them pre-ripped.

That’s it! I can’t say our shopping time is painless, but at least I don’t dread it!

I hope these tips help!