How to Angry Toy Purge Your Home

Lately, I have gotten Hulk Smashy a lot more frequently than I have in the past year or so and quite frankly, it’s because my house is a disaster. There are toys, with teeny tiny parts, all over the floor, in every room, and in every place.

I don’t even know how it happens.

I swear I constantly throw away toys and yet, WE KEEP GETTING MORE. And apparently, the only place to put them is ON THE FLOOR.

Just when I think I’m getting a grip on all our crap and stuff and have finally cleared out spaces in my house so it looks tidy and if not clean, at least neat, we have a birthday or a family visit or SOMETHING and BOOM! My house is exploding at the gills again.

Do houses have gills? That seems weird.

The front room looks like a craft store vomited a thousand bits of construction paper. (Boooooo on my kids being obsessed with cutting and gluing lately – I mean, ummmm… yay on creativity and non-screen time?)

Why do my children seem incapable of putting their crayons/markers/stickers/glue sticks/scissors in their rightful containers and instead, THROW THEM ON THE FLOOR?

WHY DOES GLOW WORM (4) CEASELESSLY TURN THEIR CHAIRS UPSIDE DOWN SO THEIR DANGEROUS CHAIR LEGS CAN BE HANDY SPIKES OF DEATH?

I have all these questions and no satisfactory answers.

I have tried culling and getting rid of markers and crayons and stickers but again, THEY MULTIPLY. Is there some type of asexual fission going on that I don’t know about?

And now, Glow Worm, bless his heart, is obsessed with all my expensive Taiwanese logic games and he takes them out and plays with them (not in their actual usage but I guess I should just be happy that someone is playing with them) but then he LEAVES THEM OUT SO ALL THEIR EXPENSIVE PIECES GO MISSING.

Ok, I get that he is four. And I do make them clean up after themselves. But quite frankly, we have too many toys. TOO MANY.

OMG SO MANY.

Clearly, the only solution is an Angry Toy Purge. In fact, the solution is multiple Angry Toy Purges.

And because I’m a giver and because I both hope that I am not alone but wouldn’t wish this verklempt on anyone, I have conjured up the instructions so that you, too, can have your very own Angry Toy Purge.

1) Become enraged at the thought of your home.

When the sight of your house in its current state makes you long for lighter fluid and a match because dealing with arson investigations, insurance, and possible prison time is preferable to being in your house right now, you have reached the point where an Angry Toy Purge is in your near future.

2) Emit an odd combination of strangled sputters of fury and unleashed bellows of cursing.

Indiscriminate throwing or kicking of toys is a bonus. Background weeping and cowering from your children is also possible.

3) Get several giant garbage bags. Start filling them.

One is for straight up throwing away shit. Because OF COURSE there are calcified fries in the DUPLOS box. Are there toys that are cracked and broken and missing pieces and cannot be salvaged?

Throw them away.

No, seriously. No one else wants that garbage either (and it is garbage).

You will be amazed at how with each damnable item you throw away, your shoulders will feel lighter and that clenchy feeling in your under parts (and not the happy clenchy feelings in your under parts) starts to lessen.

4) Give away all toys or books that make you angry.

I posted about this at length last year, but in short, any toy that makes you mad, GET RID OF IT.

I don’t care if your child weeps and gnashes their teeth. GET RID OF IT.

Okokokokok… perhaps don’t toss your kid’s favorite toy, but it really has to be an actual favorite. Like, there will be untold trauma and therapy bills in the future if you throw away their lovey.

Don’t throw away their lovey.

But, if your house is full of tertiary, quaternary, quinary, or even senary toys, PUT THEM IN THE DONATE BAG. (I am just super pleased to use quaternary in a sentence.)

GET THAT SHIT OUT OF YOUR LIFE. OUT OF YOUR HOUSE. OUT OF YOUR ZIP CODE.

Chances are, your kids may put up a brief protest because hey, they haven’t seen that toy in awhile. But after repeated cullings, your kids will wise up and gladly, nay, joyfully, throw their lesser liked toys in the sacrificial pyre as an offering to appease the Angry Toy Purge gods.

5) Give away (or sell) all toys, clothes, books your children have outgrown or no longer play with.

This is admittedly a little bit harder. After all, what if you’re not done having kids? Or what if you have kids in multiple age ranges?

Or what if your kids don’t play with these toys because you have too many other toys and they forgot about these toys?

By all means, don’t donate the high chair if you’re still using it. Or the bouncer. Or whatever it is that is useful and needful.

However, be honest.

I have about eleventy-million teething rings that not a single one of my four children played with. I am only just now, giving them away. I also have rattles, baby toys, crinkly toys, stacking toys, and who knows what else that somehow survived my previous Angry Toy Purges. I can only surmise that they are still here because we ran out of garbage bags the last few go-rounds or that they were buried somewhere and only recently unearthed.

I also felt guilty about purging toys my oldest played with all the time that my third child rarely played with because he leveled up to what the older kids were playing with and that my youngest child will NEVER get to play with because I am selling it as I type.

This doesn’t even include all our trains.Case in point, after years of debate, I am finally letting go of our train set. I have spent close to $900 over the first few years of Cookie Monster’s (~8) life collecting trains, tracks, and special pieces. I got most of them used and second hand so I can’t even fathom how much this would have cost if I got them new. (The $900 includes a ride-on train and train table, too.)

The only thing that pains me is that I’m selling them at a deep discount because my children ruin everything and have broken things and played HARD. Also, I want them to exit my house with great expediency.

Is it an end of an era? Yes? But truthfully, these train tracks have been sitting unused for at least 3-4 years. Wouldn’t it be better to free up the space and let other kids enjoy these toys? Haven’t we learned anything from Toy Story 3?

Again, be honest with yourself.

Are you actually going to sell this? If so, TAKE A PICTURE NOW AS YOU ARE PURGING AND LIST IT.

Otherwise, you are just delaying the inevitable and lying to yourself. Get it out of your house.

6) Include your children in the process.

First, to have them feel as if they have agency and choice in which toys will be among the soon departed. This way, you take into account their feelings (OMG WHY DO THEY HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS?) and spare the toys they love (and they’re ever so grateful so MILK THAT).

Plus, you might be surprised by the toys they are willing to forego.

This year, over the course of many purges, Gamera (6) and Glow Worm (4) told me they no longer wanted any princesses, dolls, dollhouses, or My Little Ponies. Gamera came to this conclusion earlier, but she allowed for Glow Worm to keep them because he wanted to play with the dolls. He has since moved on.

Second, I involve them because THEY MUST EXPERIENCE PAIN.

Yes, I am a petty, petty person.

I don’t know WHY I am such an asshole, just that I am. But whatever the reason, I want them to experience some loss and super minor suffering.

Granted, they are practically immune to the pain because we have so many toys that they really aren’t giving up anything precious to them.

So, you see. I have not only built up their resilience, but I have inured them to future hoarding. #parentinggoals

7) Remove these items from your house ASAP.

Throw your bags away. Take your bags to the thrift store. Put it on the curb for those curbside charities. Drop them off at your unsuspecting friends’ doorsteps. (NO! Don’t do this unless it would bring them joy. Otherwise, you’re just spreading the anger. Don’t do that!)

8) Somehow, magically accumulate more shit you don’t need until you explode once more. 

It’s inevitable. It makes me sad, but it’s true. I mean, I still have Christmas presents from at least 2-3 years ago that I still haven’t given my kids. This is in addition to the toys I already bought my kids for Christmas.

It’s a vicious cycle.

The only way to truly break it is to not buy any more things. But until I commit to that, Angry Toy Purge will have to do.

Now, go! Angry Toy Purge away and come back to post before/after pics and tell me all about it.

How to Get Your Kids to Play With Their Toys

As many of you know, my house is a mecca of toys. Is it educational? Is it a logic puzzle? Does it involve building blocks or wood or MAGNETS? Is it a Lego? Or crafty? If so, I probably own it.

I’m a sucker for anything with a magnet. Or logic. Or building.

But the thing is, my children NEVER played with these toys. They were obsessively on their iPads. Otherwise, they were busy using each other as meat punching bags and smacking the crap out of each other with Minecraft foam swords and axes and plastic pointy light sabres.

So, all that money I spent on real wood blocks and Magnatiles and Magformers, etc.? All wasted.

What really upset me was that they LOVED to play with these toys at other people’s houses. Just not mine.

Jerks.

But these past few weeks, since we got back from Taiwan, things have changed. And I think I know why.

Despite this being only a few weeks implemented, I have a feeling the changes will stick. (Possibly because most of these tips are things I have read before. I never said I was re-inventing the wheel, people!)

So, without further ado: How to Get Your Kids to Play With Their Toys:

1) Get rid of your toys.

Now, unless you already were some minimalist or just amazing (and therefore, I kinda hate you but want to be you all at the same time), you probably have way more toys than you need or want and they’re just pissing you off.

Way back in the end of February, my friend, Danielle Faust at OkDani and FitNoire wrote a post about how she threw away all (or almost all) her kids’ toys.

Now, when I read her post at the time, I agreed and thought, wow! That’s amazing! But I could never do that at my house because so many of my toys have already been culled.

I was wrong. So wrong.

And four months later (what can I say? I’m slow.), I threw out a bunch of my toys. In fact, I threw away or got rid of any toy that pissed me off – no matter how educational or age-appropriate or “good” the toy was. If it made me angry or cringe, it was out.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I still have a lot of toys. I am not getting rid of expensive toys that I love. But I did get rid of 6-8 bags of toys that I HATED.

It was a joyous and beautiful day.

2) Have a place for every toy.

I know. None of this is the stuff of genius. We read about it all the time in those organizing articles.

But it’s true.

If there’s a place for the toy, and the kids know where it belongs, then they know where to put it back when they’re done with the toy. (And the answer is NOT the floor.)

It helps if the place is a clear box so they can see what toy is in which box (especially since my kids can’t read English). I also have painter’s tape on each box with Chinese/zhuyin and English on the label so the kids and Hapa Papa know what belongs in that particular container.

About two years ago, I had an organizer come in and buy appropriate shelves and storage things so that I have plenty of space, I just need to keep them OPEN.

Sometimes, the problem isn’t so much a lack of enough organizational materials as much as a lack of space. If lack of space is a problem, confer back to point 1.

The arts and crafts center. It’s not at all neat, but it will serve.

One shelf with toys. Some have been pulled out for play.

Another shelf filled with toys.

3) Take out 2-4 activities each day.

So, I have had a pretty organized home with toys and activities for months, but STILL the kids wouldn’t play with the toys. They instead would reach for their old standbys – the swords and sabers and then proceed to beat each other to a pulp.

I was annoyed. I mean, other than the toys looking so pretty in the boxes, what’s the point of having them if the kids won’t play with them?

That’s when I remembered what our home-based preschool teacher, PW would do at the start of each class time. She also has lots of fun toys in her house, but instead of having them all put away, each class period, she would take out 3-4 activities and put them on the floor for the kids to explore.

That didn’t mean she didn’t let them play other things, but it did mean she gave them direction.

Because if you think about it, having lots of choices can be overwhelming unless you are one of those people (and by those people, I mean people such as I) who always order the same things at restaurants. Otherwise, you end up paralyzed by all the choices.

Same thing with the kids and toys.

In the face of so many toys, they go to their easy standbys and don’t even consider the other toys.

So, now, either the night before or the morning, of, I take out 2-3 activities and put them on the floor. I usually take out:

a) one type of building activity (blocks, Wedge-Its, Magnatiles)

b) one type of sorting/sensory activity (a big box of rocks, fuzzy balls, plastic dinosaurs, glass beads, etc.), and

c) one type of puzzle or other game.

And then I go against every instinct and let them keep those three activities out ALL DAY.

In fact, I far prefer this to “rotating” toys. Mostly because I don’t really have to think about “storing” toys and then remembering to “rotate” them. I hate extra work and brain power I need to exert.

4) Limit screen time.

I hate this suggestion. It’s really Captain Obvious and judgmental and self-righteous.

But it’s true.

Kids really can’t play with your toys if they’re glued to a screen.

Keep in mind, I don’t care how long your kids are on the screen. I won’t judge. My kids spent the last week in Taiwan entirely on the iPad. Like, from morning til night. For a week. Blowing through $1,000USD in Airbnb rent just like that.

I don’t judge.

However, like I mentioned before. It’s difficult for kids to play with toys if there is no opportunity for them to actually play. So, limiting some of your screen time is probably necessary.

For us, my kids are limited to 2 hours of screen time where they actually choose what they can watch. Then, I will likely add Chinese science videos or TF Boys (their current obsession) on top of that because I’m a sucker and I don’t mind.

That has made a huge difference at our house.

Now, with all their newly freed up time, and seeing all the toys I have pulled out, my kids actually play with their toys. And somehow, it’s as if a mental block was pulled from their brains. As if they remembered all the other toys our home possesses.

Not only do they play with the toys I “suggest,” they also pull out their other toys. And since I usually have most drawing and art materials out on the table, the kids use those more, too.

Before, I would force the kids to clean up right away. But now, I am a little more relaxed about it. Instead, if the floor gets dangerous and too full, that’s when I make them clean up. And then I definitely make them clean up before we go upstairs for bed.

I don’t mind the extra mess as long as the toys are used and the kids are playing with each other and not a screen.

Anyhow, I realize that nothing I suggested is mind-blowing or new. But hopefully, still helpful. And not only helpful – applicable.

Let me know what you do to get your kids to play with their toys. (Or maybe you don’t have this problem at all!) See you Friday!

Joyfully Saying No and Goodbye

goodbyeEvery two years or in this case, three, my house gets purged from top to bottom and cleaned before each new baby appears. (It’s pretty much the ONLY time my house gets cleaned so yes, we pretty much live in filth or half-assed “cleaning” the rest of the time.) I don’t know what’s going to happen when we stop having babies after Baby4 makes their appearance, but I guess I have to figure out a new plan.

I have become a different person.

Ok. Not different than who I really am, deep inside (a Failed Type-A), but different than how I have been since I got pregnant.

I got my first glimpse of who I can be (and who I used to be and who I become again during portions of my pregnancies) back in mid-May when Hapa Papa’s hotel room got broken into and his wallet was stolen while he was traveling.

Hapa Papa woke me up with a call at 6:30am and I had to get immediately moving on canceling credit cards, ordering new insurance cards, finding out how he was going to be able to make his flights and check into hotels without ID, and finding him short term housing because it turns out TSA will let you through but Hilton won’t let you check in without ID even if you’re a Platinum Member and have a police report stating that your wallet with all your ID was stolen.

(Thanks to all my ATL friends who considered and offered housing to Hapa Papa that night and a SPECIAL shout out to Hotelier who DID open her home to my poor husband who all accounts told, had a super shitty day.)

Anyhow, this super long preamble is just to say that recently, I have begun the Manic Phase of my pregnancy (which thankfully coincides with preparing for our Taiwan Trip) and now, I am a woman on a mission.

And lists.

Lots and lots and lots of lists. That cross-reference each other and may or may not also have sub-lists. (Because like I said in my last post, that’s how you know you’re an expert list maker: when your lists cross-reference other lists.)

After all, without lists, how will I know how I’m failing?

But the best thing about my lists is that I have been really good about executing them! And even better – many of my lists have inadvertently had the side benefit of getting rid of shit in my house.

Funny aside (as if my posts aren’t entirely composed of asides), a college buddy of mine recently texted me saying that he and his wife were expecting their first child a few weeks before Baby4 is due. I asked if they were registered and he, being polite, also asked me if I were registered.

I couldn’t stop laughing.

I told him that at this point, I want to get rid of shit – not get new shit.

In fact, I’m thinking that for subsequent babies, instead of people bringing gifts, they really should come to my house and take shit away.

Anyhow, what has really been different this round of Manic Pregnancy Phase is that I made a life-changing decision: I was going to get rid of any toy or book or thing that made me angry.

It’s kind of different than Kondo because I’m not necessarily keeping only the things that give me joy because quite frankly, few things give me joy and if I did that, I would be living in an empty house with no people in it. (But goodness, it would be pristine!!)

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has made even a brief acquaintance with my person, but lots of things get me angry – and toys with lots of parts and pieces are high on the list of pissing me off.

But I always felt guilty about hating toys like stacking rings, puzzles, or educational toys with lots of moving parts because aren’t these good things? Good toys? And aren’t I having more babies? Shouldn’t I keep baby toys?

Welp, not this time!

First, I gathered all the flotsam toys – you know the type. The Happy Meal rejects and party favor crap and random shit your kids get in their dentist goody bags. Miscellaneous toys that are all collected in a junk box that your kids don’t play with but when they do, they toss out every single fucking thing all over the floor and then when you try to get rid of it, they beg and plead and say it’s the funnest stuff ever.

This time, I started as I normally did. I sorted. But then, half way through sorting, I realized, I don’t want this shit in my house.

So, I got a plastic bag and dumped the entire box into the plastic bag.

It was amazing.

After that, the bandaid was pulled off so to speak and I began to throw away or give away things with abandon.

Those educational toys that I bought used and in bulk but never took out because there were too many parts and who am I kidding anyway I don’t educate my kids? I put them in the donate pile.

Those toys I never cared for or my kids never played with – even if they were educational or if whenever I took the toys out to be purged my kids would all of a sudden LOVE the toys finally and play with them and weep and cry and thus convince me to keep them but then they never touched the toys ever again until the next time I took them out to be purged? I got fooled a few times (to the tune of several years delay) but this time, I was onto them.

I was mercilessly unsentimental.

I tossed stuffed animals my father and mother had given ME when I was a kid, but I never played with them and they just gathered dust and my kids never played with them and it just filled my house with stuffed animals that got in my way and other visiting kids would throw all over my house and piss me off.

I tossed baby toys that despite my expecting Baby4 in the fall, I got rid of anyway because they piss me off.

Yes. Stacking rings piss me off.

Why? BECAUSE THE RINGS ARE NEVER STACKED AND ARE ALWAYS ALL OVER MY HOUSE AND I’M A COMPLETIST AND THAT DRIVES ME FUCKING CRAZY.

deep breaths

In fact, I got rid of lots of toys that despite being educational and useful, the sheer number of parts that were never collected and therefore wont to go missing or showing up in random places (like conveniently under couches, behind furniture, under dining tables, under beds, and/or in every fucking corner).

I got rid of toys because I remembered that even though I might have paid a lot of money for them, or they would be age-appropriate for Baby4, neither Gamera  or Glow Worm ever played with the toys because they only wanted to play with the toys Cookie Monster played with and they sure as fuck weren’t baby toys.

I threw away all the bath toys that grossed me out but I never tossed them because I didn’t want to waste the money I had spent on them in the first place. (That meant I threw away most of the squeezy ones that can suck in water and squish water out. Can we say mildew and mold breeding grounds that my kids then soaked in and played in? Ew.)

I tossed two garbage bags full of maternity clothes that I inherited because I was never going to wear them because I hated them or they fit weird or I felt guilty for hating free clothes but fuck it, this is my last pregnancy and all my friends are done being human incubators and I was the last stop so BYE BYE clothes that took up space and made me sad to look at and wear!

And soon, I will be purging baby/toddler clothes with glee.

I got a lot of clothes as hand me downs that I always felt guilty about giving away, but quite frankly, even though a lot of the clothes were cute and adorable, I hated putting my kids in them because they were too much effort. FFS, my kids lived in PJs the first 3-6 months of their lives. Babies do NOT need socks or shoes. EVER. Unless they can actually walk and by then, they’re not babies anymore.

And now, because this is my last baby, as soon as Baby4 passes a developmental stage or clothing stage, I will be donating ALL OF THE THINGS.

I did mention that I’m not a romantic or sentimental in any way, right?

I can’t wait.

And then, Friday night, I made a startling jump in my thinking.

I had been stressing out about Cookie Monster and Gamera’s homeschooling classes and schedules for Fall 2016 because that’s what I do: I plan and I worry and like things tied up neatly in a bow ASAP even when it’s implausible.

But as I was driving home after sending out a bunch of emails trying to get a bunch of different classes to fit and worrying about all the sports Cookie Monster enjoys and also squeezing ballet in for Gamera, and then squeezing in some music and calligraphy classes for them both, I suddenly had a thought.

My kids don’t have to take these classes.

And the more I thought about it, the more it appealed to me.

After all, I’M HAVING A BABY MID-FALL.

WTF AM I DOING signing up my kids for all these classes that they enjoy but don’t necessarily love or need or want?

WHY am I doing this to myself?

So I said, “No.”

I emailed the teachers and told them I changed my mind and I felt as if a huge weight had been taken off my shoulders.

Now, I still have my kids in a bunch of classes, but it is considerably less than I have this year (even though I have one more kid in school). And now, I have time to work on things individually with Cookie Monster and Gamera.

I am ecstatic.

And actually looking forward to the new school year. (Yes, I realize that summer vacation just started. But I did mention that I’m anal retentive, right?)

So, this is all just to say, that the lesson I learned from homeschooling in February finally sank its way into my brain and I actually applied it to my life.

May you, too, experience the joy of jettisoning the things, whether real or hypothetical. Have a fantastic Monday!