Decorating with Meaning

I don’t know about you but I love me some home decor.  Whether it’s a vintage find at the local antique store or a distressed frame at Home Goods, I often find myself feeling like I’d be missing out if I didn’t buy it.  This, of course, is the typical mindset of the weakened consumer, it’s exactly where retail companies want you… We’re lost souls trying to find our way home.  We come across Aisle 27 and suddenly our eyes light up.  We still don’t know the way home but we could definitely use that 2-tiered mid-century modern candle holder… on sale for $12.99?!  YES.   *places item in the cart*  Wait. Where will you even put that thing?  Ahh, who cares, you’ll figure that out later!

Here’s the thing:  Purchasing home decor isn’t bad.  Loving to decorate isn’t bad.  The slippery slope comes into play with mindless purchasing.  How many times do you go to Target intending to buy laundry detergent, and leave with WAY more than that?  (I’ve even seen memes about this!  It’s almost everyone’s battle.)  We’ve become victims to sales, to great deals (I’m looking at you “BOGO”), to everything shiny and new.

We end up filling our houses with stuff that only gratifies for a little while, stuff that has very little meaning to our lives.  Many homes across America are filled with a ridiculous amount of clutter, and it’s because we aren’t more careful about what we bring into our homes.  We might not qualify for the the TV show “Hoarders”, but in a sense, that’s what a lot of us are.

How can we overcome this issue when it comes to home decor?  I’m still figuring that out but here are a few basic tips that have helped me:

  1. Try decorating with items that hold more meaning.  Support local artists at craft fairs or on Etsy.  Purchase decor when you travel.  Make your own home decor.  These items will bring you so much more happiness than any mass produced items you can buy on the shelf at a big retailer.
  2. Don’t purchase anything unless you have a specific plan for it.  Don’t buy that frame unless you already have a photo to put in it.  Don’t buy the wall painting unless you already know what wall it will go on.  Don’t just buy things because they look nice.  I know this is hard!
  3. Ask a family member or friend for help.  If you need to decorate a room, but feel like you struggle with interior design or can’t decide on specifics, browsing Pinterest might just overwhelm you.  Ask someone with “an eye” to help you come up with a plan, and be specific, write every item down.  Maybe even make a sketch so you can visualize where things will be going.

I hope those tips are helpful!  Before I sign off, I’ll leave you with a few photos of the decor I used in my son’s nursery.  I wanted a simple and clean look that still had lots of meaning and character, and I’m pretty happy with these details.

 

Vintage piggy (bear) bank, artwork from LittleLow on Etsy, gifted frame (the colors happened to go perfectly!) and a coonskin cap from a vacation to the woods.

 

Sometimes a few items is enough. Our good friend Katie painted that fox for us, and that pinecone I found on a walk.  I’m guessing Michael’s sells something like this for $5.99. Nature gave it to me for free. WOOT! 

 

There are so many talented artists out there! Supporting them by buying their artwork also allows you to decorate your home with more meaning. Those adorable deer are courtesy of my good friend Jyll of Lost Between Lands, and that gorgeous wall weaving was handmade by Leeleeyazz, a Native American mother in Arizona.  It was a birthday gift from my cousin Stephanie, who is ALSO a talented fiber artist herself! (Check out her work HERE.)

Most of these items were gifts to us.  Some are vintage, some are handmade.  The owl is from our trip to Big Bear before our son was born.  That green ribbon ring was a gift from one of my best friends Christine who is now teaching abroad in Vienna.  She found it on Etsy, and it’s a toy to encourage imaginative play!  (I may run around the room with it from time to time.)

 

 

The Battle Against Toy Clutter: PART TWO

In my last post, I talked about minimizing toy clutter, a topic which seems to resonate with several of my friends who have children.  I must say it feels funny, as a new parent with only one child, to write on this subject.  I’m no expert, by any means, on parenting nor minimalism, but I’m glad to hear my posts are encouraging to some of you.  It’s nice to know I’m not alone in the journey to simplify life!

Now… Let’s take another moment to think about toys.

We all know that playtime is important for a child’s development, and toys are excellent tools for fostering growth and learning.  In this day and age, there are countless toys to assist children’s language skills, motor skills, cognitive thinking, and social skills.  While having so many options can be a wonderful thing, it has proven to be a curse for many families.   Houses are looking less like homes and more like day care centers, toys scattered about, covering every surface of every room.  There may be a small percentage of people who prefer their house splattered in primary colors, and another sect who like stepping on legos – who knows, anything’s possible – but for the sake of this blog, let’s presume most parents don’t want to live that way.

If we want to tackle the issue of “Too Many Toys”, we have to ask ourselves a couple of questions:

  1. How did we get here?
  2. How do we find our way back?

These questions, while basic, are necessary if we want to reclaim our living spaces and simplify our lives.  Once we’re able to admit we’ve lost our way, we can begin to find our way back, using simplicity as true north.

How Did We Get Here?

We need to take a look at our motives.  I’m sure everyone has mostly good intentions when it comes to giving toys to their children.

  • We want to see them happy.
  • We want to help them learn.
  • We want to make sure they’re not bored.
  • We want them to know how much we love them.

Aye – there’s the rub.  We equate toys with love.  Somewhere along the lines, we’ve come to believe that the more toys children have, the more we love them.  Everywhere we turn, we’re slammed with this message, not realizing the colossus known as consumerism is what’s fueling the fire.  Sure, toy companies want children to learn and grow, but mainly they want our money.  We’ve fallen victim to the consumption of goods in a way that’s exposing the roots of some detrimental issues within our society.  Furthermore, this misdirection – this addiction – likely has a greater affect on our children than we even realize.

Think about it. As parents, our job is to guide our children, helping them become positive contributors of love and light in this world, and teaching them about the things truly matter in life.  All the stuff we fill our homes with reflect our priorities, and our children, our little sponges, will soak up that information and carry it with them into adulthood… And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my son to grow up thinking that material possessions are means to happiness or success… that the more he has, the better he is.  Unfortunately, this is a lie many people have accepted as truth.

If you’re a parent reading this, I want to invite you to come on this journey with me… Let’s create change.  Let’s fight for simplicity.  If not for our own sake, then for our kids’.

BUT HOW?

The answer to this question will look different for each person, but it starts with taking an honest look at our lives.  We need to re-evaluate our homes and ask ourselves, “Do we NEED all of this stuff?”  It IS possible that our kids could not ONLY survive with less, but thrive with less!  The imagination is a powerful thing.  Walt Disney once said, “The greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.”

For many of you, the road to simplicity and a clutter-free home is going to require a substantial purge of toys.  This will take time and energy, two things parents worldwide constantly lack, but take heart – Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Here are a few easy tips to get you started:

  • Grab a bag or box. Actually, grab TWO.
  • Take 10 minutes out of your day to go through ONE little area – a closet, a toy chest, a wall of cubbies, wherever.  If your child is old enough, invite them to join you. This is a great chance to teach them about giving to people in need.
  • Fill one bag/box with items to donate.  Fill the other with toys that need to be tossed.
  • Toss (or recycle) the one box and find an organization who will accept the other.

Do this now!  Don’t wait until tomorrow.  Don’t wait until this weekend.  Take 10 minutes right now and get it done.  Then you can get back on Facebook and talk about how much better you feel now that you’ve gotten started.

Once you’ve taken that first step, consider taking 10 minutes of each day (or even just once a week if that’s all you can do) to sort through all the toys.  Slowly but surely, you’ll start seeing the floors of your house again; a sense of tranquility will fill your home as the clutter vanishes.  And then… low and behold… buried under the pile of minions, furbies and Star Wars figurines, we’ll finds our minds that were once lost in the chaos.

donations

Click this photo to read a great Forbes article called “Charity Begins at Home”.

P.S. BecomingMinimalist.com offers a helpful guide for decluttering toys.  Might be good to save it as a bookmark on your browser. 😉

The Battle Against Toy Clutter: PART ONE

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TOYS. TOYS EVERYWHERE. DRIVING US CRAZY.  BURYING US WITH ENDLESS CLEANING.  DIGGING DEEP INTO THE SOLES OF OUR FEET.

How many toys does a child need?!

As first-time parents with a toddler, this is a new challenge for Mitch and me.  We obviously don’t have all the answers and would never claim to, but I’ve been doing some reading on the subject, trying to figure out how to reconcile a lifestyle of minimalism with raising children without feeling like we’re depriving them of joy.

WorldAtlas.com says U.S. parents spend an average of $371 (per child) each year.  The article I read explained the issue very well: “Every year, children and their parents are bombarded with advertisements announcing the latest and greatest the toy industry has to offer. Toy manufacturers try to convince parents that their children absolutely need these new toys, just as they are convincing children that they need more for themselves in order to not fall behind their friends.” (Full article HERE.)

I have a couple blogs lined up on this topic.  For this first one, we’re going to keep it practical, organized and easy to follow.  A beautiful little list.  I love lists.

Here are some practical ways to fight the battle against toy clutter:

  • Invest in more multi-use toys. Things like blocks and legos can be used in many ways!  Encourage your child to use his/her imagination.
  • Have a list of ideas on hand to help your child with these multi-use toys, and then guide them through the fun!  Sometimes they need a little help to get their creative juices flowing. 🙂
  • Consider doing a toy rotation every week or month.  Storing some toys away and rotating them into your child’s play area will help keep things fresh for them and prevent you from feeling like you have to buy something new. It also means less to clean up on a regular basis! My parents actually did this for me and they said it worked really well.
  • Set up some concrete toy rules for your household (and enforce them.)  Toy rules can help set your child’s expectations and keep you from folding like a chair whenever their googly turned puppy dog eyes get the best of your wallet. Rules can be things like:
    • 1) No new toys unless it’s a special occasion (birthday, holiday, special achievement, etc.)
    • 2) No toys from (such and such store.)
    • 3) No toys with batteries.
    • 4) If you get a new toy, you have to donate one toy.
  • You might have to ask certain friends or relatives to cut back on the random toy giving.  They’ll probably think you’re a cruel human being but you’re the one who has to deal with the mess at home, it’s okay to be firm in your requests.  Let them know if they really want to give your child something, experiences are preferred over toys.
  • Remember: The less you have to clean, the more time you have to  actually play with your kids.  Less clutter, more quality time.  It’s a win-win for everyone.