About a year after I adopted minimalism, my friend Becky stopped by for a visit. My triplets were 4 years old at the time, and I’d worked steadily the previous 12 months to rid my home of excess stuff.
“Where are all your toys?” she asked, a bit shocked.
Becky hadn’t seen my home since the kids were babies, at the height of kid clutter, when every visible surface was filled with baby swings, bouncy chairs, and the like.
“It feels so much bigger in here!” she exclaimed.
Funny. I’d kind of gotten used to it.
I’d reached my first minimalist plateau and felt, for the first time since my kids were born, very comfortable in my house. My main living area was no longer a minefield of colored plastic, ready to explode. I could finally sit in my living room without feeling cramped and anxious about all the stuff.
To help you understand my living space, let me give you a brief tour of our little story-and-a-half cape cod.
The front door opens into the main living/dining area, which also serves as my home office. Past that is the kitchen, and off to the left are two bedrooms and a bathroom. Upstairs is a half-story master suite and downstairs is a partially finished basement that my husband uses as his man cave.
The entire space is roughly 1,500 square feet.
You may have noticed that I don’t have a toy room, a space I used to consider a necessity of the modern family. I remember visiting friends’ homes for play dates and being ushered into rooms filled exclusively with toys. I always left feeling cheated and even more frustrated at the kid clutter breeding in my living room.
But since embracing minimalism, I’ve come to question the toy room trend.
My house was built in the 1930s, a time when most people didn’t consider building rooms for their kids’ toys. (Historians believe they may have called the toy-housing facilities “bedrooms,” but further research is needed.)
Think about it. Having a toy room is roughly the equivalent of having a room to accommodate the hobbies of each individual family member, in which case I should have both a reading room and an exercise room, and my husband should happily kick back in his video game room. Unless we strike it rich–and simultaneously abandon our minimalist ideals–these types of rooms are mere fantasy.
So why do many of us reserve rooms to house our children’s toys? (Hint… most of our kids have too many toys.)
A home is a place for a family, and shared living spaces should be just that–shared.
My living room should accommodate my kids’ developmental need to play as well as my need to relax with a magazine and a coffee. Partitioning my kids off into a separate room to play would not only not work (even at 9 years old, they still often prefer to hang out with their parents… and believe me, I’m milking that as long as I can!), but it also sends the message that their play is not a vital part of our family, that it is something to be done separately from the business of living and sharing together, which is untrue.
Children’s play should co-exist within the hubbub of family life.
Now, I’m not against rooms for recreation, but I’d urge families to make these rooms accommodate the rec needs of the entire family, including activities for adults and older kids, like exercise equipment or board games. I don’t think anyone would find it shocking that families spend less time together these days. Perhaps our oversized, over-divided homes are partially to blame.
Remember how I said the first room of my house is the living/dining room? This is the main living/playing/eating/working area of the home. And it is one room. It used to be the disaster area. Now it is my zen space.
Here’s how I’ve incorporated toys into this room without having a toy takeover.
This simple cube shelf houses all the living room toys. (And in case you’re wondering, I used clear luggage tags to label the bins with pictures… a leftover practice from before my kids could read!)
Yes, my kids do have more toys in their bedrooms, mostly Legos and stuffed animals. But this is the majority of toys in our house.
So if you’re struggling with toy clutter, I want to give you hope. Toy clutter is manageable, and you don’t need a separate toy room to do it. In fact, I actively encourage you NOT to have one.
Instead, why not simply reduce the number of toys and incorporate them into the flow of family life?
Because as I’m sure you know…
Your children want to be with you more than they want to be with their toys.
And truly, that’s the way it should be.
Rose Lounsbury is a writer, speaker, and coach who helps others live better lives with less stuff. After blogging about her personal journey to minimalism, Rose–a former middle school teacher–was inspired to help others find the freedom that comes from living with less. She authored the Amazon bestseller Less: Minimalism for Real in 2017, and currently coaches students both in-person and online through her Transform Your Home courses. Rose is a regular guest on Fox News Good Day Columbus and has also been featured on NPR, Good Morning Cincinnati, and Living Dayton. She lives in lovely Dayton, Ohio with her husband and their wild triplets. You can find her online at roselounsbury.com or on Instagram and Facebook @roselounsbury.