A couple of years ago, I realized my living room was completely monopolized by toys.
Most of which none of my children had touched in years.
Clara was three and a half, and well beyond many of the squishy blocks, feel-y board books, and rattle-eared stuffed toys that still dominated the toy bins, but I’d held on to them out of a sort of parental denial that refused to believe she was really past babyhood…even past toddlerhood. And that maybe I was past the stage of motherhood where the living room really needed to be Toy Central, anyway.
It was a surprisingly earth-moving realization.
I described the feeling in the introduction of my book Beyond Baby:
“For years, I’d passed those toys from child to child, keeping them in a central place in the house so I could go about my business and still keep an eye on the Baby Du Jour while he or she played. Many of these toys had made it through all five of my children, and they were a part of the backdrop of my day-to-day life for well over a decade.
No wonder packing up those toys and taking them to a donation center felt so significant! It was as though that simple act had marked the end of an era: the Official Completion of the Baby Stage, my much-emptier living room reflecting the space that was opening up to create a new life for myself.
Recognizing that I was now Beyond Baby felt freeing – and sad. Exciting – and bittersweet. Brimming with possibility – and a little scary.
After all, for so long I’d self-identified as a mom of little ones, a baby on my hip or a toddler clinging to the backs of my legs. If I wasn’t a mom of tiny people, then…who was I?”
Even if you aren’t officially “Beyond Baby” just yet, my guess is that there are plenty of playthings floating around your living space, the play room, or your child’s bedroom that are long outgrown…even if you can’t quite believe it just yet. (Yes, that might even include that bead roller coaster that looks so great on the coffee table.)
It’s time to take baby steps beyond those outgrown baby toys, so that you can create some space in your life – physically and metaphorically – for more grown-up pursuits.
Today, I want you to fill one bag with toys that your child has officially outgrown. I’ll leave it up to you the size of the bag: a leftover Target bag, large paper grocery sack, or full-sized trash bag all count. The point is to take a close look at the toys that are still taking up a significant amount of space in your home, and evaluate how appropriate they still are to the life you and your family now live.
If you have younger nieces, nephews, or children of friends who regularly visit, I know you might have a legit reason to hang on to some of those old favorites. But let’s be selective, here: just because a tot might come over who might enjoy every single rattle, teether, and push-toy your child ever owned, does not mean you’re obligated to have every one out on display at all times. Consider saving just a few true gems, and putting them into a special box or basket you can pull out only when a tiny guest is actually in the house.
What should you do with your bag once it’s filled? That’s up to you. I donated ours to Goodwill, because the last thing any of my family and friends wanted were more toys. You may know somebody who’d appreciate them, or if more babies are not entirely out of the question for you, maybe you’ll want to hang on to them for a few more years.
But culling them from the “active” toy area will not only help your space feel less cluttered, but will help you start to envision a future space that’s more family-centered than baby-centered. And maybe, a space that leaves some room for the more grownup decor that you may have packed away during the baby and toddler years.
How did it feel to fill a bag with outgrown toys? What will you do with them?
Tell us here in the comments, or discuss in the Beyond Baby Facebook group!