Interestingly, parents aren’t actually the main source of the toy tsunami — friends and family are. Regardless of how you feel about buying your kids more toys, you face an uphill battle when it comes to getting others on the same page with you. I say it all the time, but let me reiterate: Children don't need to be bombarded with stuff to be joyful. The bright and beautiful child's room pictured here is actually rather diminutive, but it's airy, inspiring, colorful and well organized. It's more than large enough for dreaming, drawing, reading and imagining, yet it's not bursting at the seams with toys!Change Your Attitude Toward ToysEarly on I requested that my friends and family not buy my daughter any toys or clothes for birthdays and holidays. She had more than she could ever need, thanks to the many well-meaning people in my life.I’m a big believer in hand-me-downs, since kids grow out of everything so quickly. It's really important to me, and yet people always felt compelled to buy brand-new things. I always felt pressured to accept the gifts, especially since many were fairly pricey. Nothing worse than a gift wrapped in guilt! Every single birthday and holiday, presents continued to pour in. I know it came from a place of love, but it was truly frustrating. We lived in a studio apartment with less than 500 square feet shared between us. I literally had no room for the things she would receive. A lot of times, those gifts were donated to children far less fortunate. We were living at the poverty level, but there were people living in much worse situations, and it felt important to share with them what I considered an abundance of things.I’m not saying we never kept anything, because we did. I'm far from a minimalist! However, when something new came into the home, something much less loved went out. We worked hard at not hoarding toys, books and other kid-related items. I have yet to meet a family that isn’t suffering from too-many-toys syndrome, and yet it's all relative. Some folks show their love through material things. I get that, but that's the last thing kids need when it comes to love. A toy never takes the place of story time, baking together or just plain being there.Rethink the Train TableIf there is one thing that continues to confound me, it’s the train table. You know the one. In the homes of my dreams, everyone has a beautifully spacious and organized playroom. The train table is but a blip on the landscape
there. But not everyone has that kind of space, and a train table ends up being that giant thing taking over a third of the room — not to mention the trains, cars and other toys that live on it, underneath it and strewn around it like a million tiny landmines. Seems a week doesn’t go by when one of my clients is trying to find room for one, get rid of one or buy one. I’ve started to believe that they're actually all the same train table, multiplying and recirculating until the end of time.What’s interesting is that I’ve never seen a child actually use a train table for its intended purpose, and it’s the parents (not the kids), who exhibit symptoms of withdrawal when it’s suggested that maybe it’s time to let it go. While this ideabook isn’t really about the train table, it’s the largest example — literally — of kid clutter that parents invite into their homes.Ask These 3 QuestionsAs with all the adult things you bring into your home, ask the same three questions of your children’s things: Do they love it? need it? use it? Ask your children to answer the same questions but help them understand what those questions actually mean. Define “need” as something that helps them get through their day, like a jacket or a toothbrush. Define "love" as something they adore above all other things, like a blankie or a favorite doll. “Use” is often the same as “need,” like socks, or paper to do homework on. But how many pads of paper or pairs of socks are actually necessary? It’s not about having less or having nothing, it’s about having things that matter in those three important ways. It’s difficult to stay on top of all the things that come from birthdays, holidays and visits with family, and it’s hard to say, “No, thank you.” Setting the precedent ahead of time can work wonders.