The Path to Joy: The Great Toy Purge


Not to downplay all the joys of being a mom, wife, and in-de-pen-dent wo-man… but sometimes, you just need to vent!  Life is stressful, especially when you’re balancing everything associated with raising a young family.  Plus, not only does it feel good to air your grievances and revel in comradery, but you never know when the advice you get in return will be a real game changer.

A couple weeks ago, I was out to dinner with my dear friend. The topic turned – as it often does – to the various light-hearted gripes associated with being the mom in the house.  At the time, I was stressing out because I felt like my house was overrun with kid stuff.  My daughter had just had her fourth birthday, and even though we had great success with our GiftAround registry, we still experienced a big influx of new toys and miscellaneous doodads into the house as part of her celebration.  It all just added to what was already a maximum capacity situation.

At that point, I was constantly picking up toys, rearranging art supplies, and kicking blocks out of the way.  A giant cardboard playhouse, gifted by my lovely sister-in-law over the holidays, haunted me daily; it took up a huge amount of precious real estate in the kitchen and had become a terrible scribble-covered eyesore.  Same goes for the zillion pool noodles that my husband bought, with the intention of creating a cabin with life-sized pool noodle Lincoln Logs.  (And yes, I had warned him ahead of time that those noodles would wind up everywhere, ahem.)  Old wigs and jigsaw puzzle pieces and whiffle balls, overflowing their bins; toys that hadn’t seen the light of day in months, collecting dust and dog hair in the recesses of the storage bench… I could go on and on and on…

We don’t have a big place, and the open-floor concept means that it’s nearly impossible to ignore the gaze of a crazy inflatable bouncy horse (another gift from my sister-in-law… hey…) sitting in the other room.  Beyond the annoyance and stress of clutter, I felt really gross and guilty about partaking in the over-consumption of material goods.  I never want my kids to think it’s normal to have so much stuff!  I was starting to feel like they were developing toy ADD, and we were all suffering for it.

I had vented to the right person.  My friend mentioned that she had just finished reading professional organizer Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. The gist, she said, was that if something does not “bring you joy,” you should get it out of your space!  I listened, nodding along.  Oh boy, I thought, sounds a little out there.

But a few days later, sitting in my palace of disorder with my kids otherwise occupied, I decided to give it a shot.  I found an old box, and started sifting through the cabinet.  Item by item, I picked everything up one by one.  Anything that stressed me out (with exceptions for toys routinely used or beloved by my kids) went into the box.  One cabinet turned into four.  I filled the box, then another, and another.  I ventured into their closets, and dove under their beds. Before I knew it, an hour had flown by, and I had the equivalent of six garbage bags (eek) worth of stuff ready to go. I moved the cardboard house to the back yard (so liberating), and put the pool noodles in a storage closet for when they’re older and hopefully neater.

It was like the clouds had parted after a long foggy season.  The air seemed crisper and clearer.  I felt calmer, happier… more centered.  My home had been restored to working order.

That afternoon, I dropped everything off at a local Salvation Army.  When my kids got home, they noticed that the cardboard house was outside (which they loved).  But otherwise, they didn’t miss anything!  It was pretty remarkable and only reinforced that we had been overdoing it all along.  It’s now been a few weeks, and I still feel great about the Purge.  Next up, my own closet and home office!

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Lorrie lives in Cupertino with her husband, two small children, crazy dog, and obese cat. Originally from the Chicago area, Lorrie headed west in 2010, and hasn’t looked back. She loves exploring the Bay Area, and finds that even after six years, there is always something new to discover. Lorrie is a licensed and practicing attorney in both Illinois and California. She is proud to represent employees in all manner of work-related disputes, and partners closely as Of Counsel with Caffarelli & Assoc. Ltd., a Chicago-based firm. When she is not working or chasing her kids around, Lorrie likes to tinker with home improvement projects, walk around on sidewalks and trails, zone out on the internet, and “Netflix and chill.” She also likes to run, and aspires to one day make it to a yoga class.


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