As Marie Kondo begins to take over the world with her ingenious KonMari tactics, some curious folks may have taken things a step further than The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up and have begun to explore the world of Minimalism. The Mom and Dad fans are probably wondering how they can apply Minimalism to family life. In 7 steps we outline how to apply Minimalism to one of the hardest areas of your home - The Playroom.
Minimalism is an obvious next step from Marie Kondo’s method. You rid your home of the items that do not spark joy, and soon you see you have less items. Less to clean up means more time spent doing what you want. You may realize that living with less things brings you more joy because you have more freedom. This in itself is Minimalism - living with less to enjoy more.
Many parents may peer at the edge of Minimalism, curious about the idea of it but certain it wouldn’t work for their household, despite the fact that Minimalism has many benefits for families. Despite this, parents often think, “children can be messy.” Children love toys like Legos or blocks, with many parts that become strewn around a playroom or lost. A consistently messy and cluttered playroom along with kids who may just want to watch TV anyway, can further discourage parents from the path of simplicity and minimalism.
If you’re here, on this page, you may be looking for a start on how to create Minimalism when your life involves kids. Look no further. It’s possible to cultivate Minimalism in a household with children - including the playroom - and it will benefit them greatly.
Promise yourself you will not just move toys around, repositioning the junk and putting it in cute containers.
If you want to create a Minimalist playroom, you must be willing to get rid of the mess, the clutter, the toys your children never touch, and the ones you feel have no value when your children are playing with them. “More” does not mean better. And if you find your children are not interested in the toys they do have, it might be time for a change. Children feel stress just as much as adults, just in different ways. Too many options in a playroom can feel overwhelming. Studies have shown that when posed with too many options, children are less likely to fully engage with the choice they do make, including toys. When children do make choices when they have a plethora of options, they are less likely to fully engage with the toy they chose. Children feel distracted with too many options because they have not mastered the skill of control over their attention.
Ask yourself “Does this spark creativity?”
After committing yourself to not moving the playroom mess around to just look nicer, take a page out of Marie Kondo’s book and examine all that your kids have to play with. You may want to ask “Is this toy a good influence?” or “What will this toy provide for my child?” If your kids are older, you can ask them to participate. Ask your child, or children, to pick 5 items that they want to keep. In Zoe Kim’s book, Minimalism For Families, she stresses that kids may respond better to choosing what they get to keep, rather than what they must get rid of. In the spirit of wasting less, you can keep toys they choose to give away in the closet and rotate them with toys they chose to keep. That way, you can minimize spending on more toys once they tire, use up, or outgrow the toys they have. All parents have different values, so what one parent finds valuable for their children will be different for another. Generally speaking, following Montessori and Waldorf values, toys with too much stimulus should be avoided. This means toys with flashing lights, automated sounds, screens, or toys that don’t have an obvious single use.
If you have wooden toys, keep those! Wooden toys last longer than plastic toys, are safer, and encourage imaginative play. When kids have to be creative in playing with a toy, when the intended use of the toy is not obvious, they open their mind. Kids tap into their natural creativity and grow from it, fostering a deeper understanding of their own imagination. Not only are wooden toys great for the imagination, but many plastic toys have been shown to have toxic chemicals in them. Art supplies, wooden toys, and puppets are great toys to keep around. Plastics, flashing toys, and toys with an obvious intended use can go.
Get rid of the toys that have a lot of pieces.
This is an important one. If what you’re looking to get out of a minimalist playroom is less cleanup time, toys with many pieces will be the bane of your existence (unless that brings you joy?). Clutter causes stress and walking into a room full of small legos or blocks strewn everywhere can elevate that stress. Studies have been done to prove that coming home to clutter and mess can interfere with the brain’s ability to destress. Not only that, but humans only have so much willpower. One needs willpower to get out of bed and go to work, to eat healthy, to exercise and to cook after work. At the end of the day, you may be reaching the end of your rope as you think about cleaning up the playroom. Make it easier on yourself by reducing the amount of items that need to be put back in their place. Time spent looking for the pieces, putting them away, and finding lost pieces will eat up valuable free-time. Rid yourself of the responsibility of keeping those 100 piece Lego sets together and keep toys that are easily kept together.
Tackle the books.
Generally, keep the books your children love. Reading is important for so many reasons, and books are probably low on the totem pole of things that need to take a hike in the playroom. Books spark creativity, can inspire kids, can help them learn the difference between “real” and “make-believe” and more. If you value the books in your kids’ playroom, don’t get rid of them. If your kids have outgrown certain books or don’t show an interest in some, consider donating them. You can involve your kids in this process and ask them which ones they’d like to keep. You can donate or keep the books they’re willing to give away for another day, when they tire of the books they’ve chosen to keep. If there are books that were given as gifts that you do not approve of, such as the promoting of values you don’t agree with, get rid of those as well. There is no reason to keep around a book, or toy, if you don’t plan on reading it your child or suggesting your child read it themselves. If you’re following along with trying to create a Montessori or Waldorf-focused playroom, keep books about mindfulness, creativity, how to cultivate ideas. Some great authors regarding these ideas are Kobi Yamada and Andrea Beaty. See our blog post on books for kids for every age for more ideas.
Find a place for everything.
“A place for everything and everything in its place” is a common mantra among the passionate organizers of the world. Life works better when you know where things are. If your kids know where their toys are, they will have an easier time putting their toys away at the end of the day. By giving everything its own home, you are placing importance on that item as well and it will be taken care of better. If you’ve chosen to keep many books, do not get rid of your bookshelf! If you have extra space on your bookcase, you can store a bin of toys on a shelf. Group toys together based on their use and frequency of use. Art supplies go in one bin, wooden blocks in another. Toys that are used everyday should be easily accessible and toys that are for special occasions or used more rarely can go in locations that are not as easy to access. Remember to use what you have! There is no need to go out and buy matching bins or storage containers, unless that is something you value.
Show your children how to put away their toys.
One way to reduce time spent cleaning, is to have your children be responsible for the toys they choose to play with. Show them where things go, how to put things away, and why it’s important to put everything back in its place. When you teach them to take care of their things, their things will last longer. Another benefit of your kids knowing where thing are in their playroom, is when they want a new toy, you can ask them where they will keep it in the playroom. If there is no place to keep the toy, they may have to replace an old toy with a new one. It can be a good tactic to continue battling the accumulation of things.
You don’t have to do everything all at once.
Do not set unrealistic expectations for yourself. You can make small progress everyday on purging the playroom, organizing the playroom, and getting your kids on board with a more Minimalist playroom. They may be resistant of getting rid of their “stuff”, and that is to be expected. You can try and ease older children into the idea by assuring them that you will not throw out all of their toys, but rather save the ones you’re “purging” for a rainy day. Eventually, you’ll get there. Have patience and make small progress everyday.
For ideas on Waldorf toys, you can click here.