Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Great Kiddie Bedroom Purge

 "I wasn't nervous. Maybe I was a little bit 'concerned' but that's not the same thing."

Image: Hyperbole and a Half
In an effort to follow the simplification process outlined in Simplicity Parenting and to run forth with our Plan to Get the Hell out of Here, Spazzy and I spent her Spring Break purging her room like madwomen. Each day during Babydactyl's nap, Spazz and I took our trusty garbage bags to her room and chose a project to work on.

On Sunday we tackled two toy bins, cutting the number of dolls and doll accessories she has by half and eliminating many broken or outdated toys.

On Monday, we pulled everything out from under the bed and sorted it, getting rid of anything that wasn't important and putting away anything that was. I also finally talked her into getting rid of her Dora talking house. And by "talked her into," I mean I pointed at the house and her Barbie castle and said, "Time to choose. They both take up a lot of space. Which one stays and which one goes?" She put up surprisingly little fight and the Dora house is now sitting my living room, ready for the yardsale.*

Tuesday we tackled the Pet Net, which was bulging with stuffed animals despite a major purge for a yardsale less than two years ago. Last time I let her keep two animals for every one that she let go. This time I did the opposite, and we cut the number of animals from 78 to 26. Granted, most of the ones she kept are larger, but I know that most of them are friends she truly, truly loves. I feel good about our progress.

My little Spazz is very attached to her stuffed animals. She carefully hugged and said good-bye to each animal as it went into the trash bag, and asked several of them to please do their best to make another child smile. She nearly had me in tears. She projects a lot of emotion onto things, especially stuffed animals, and I had to try my best to help her understand that the people who gave her the toys are not going to be hurt or upset with her for purging them. She loved and enjoyed them, and then she outgrew them, and that's okay.

We also hit her stack of books. We got rid of anything that was too young for her, with the exception of one book that was signed by the author, and two that were gifts (one from a special teacher and one from her high school mentor last year). She kept the series that she hasn't yet read or will re-read, and we made a small stack of books that she's okay with parting with if she can please read them first. I'll keep that stack in my room, and she has until school starts back next week to finish them. Then they go in the yardsale pile.

Wednesday, after a lovely walk 'n talk with my friend Sarah and her precious new baby, Spazz and I attacked her clothes. We went through the dresser drawers and the closet, cutting her wardrobe in about half. The top drawer is now divided into two sections—socks and underwear, and accessories. All of the winter things that might still fit next year have been moved to storage, save for a few pieces for the chillier spring days, and the summer clothes are easily accessible and have been tried on for fit. All of the crappy, store hangers have been pitched. It's a much more streamlined set-up. We had to get past some of the, "But Kara got that for me on vacation when I was four!" items, but I think I finally got her to understand that Kara (or whomever) does not expect her to keep too-small t-shirts for the rest of her life, just because they were gifts. She did really well, and I'm proud of her.

Far fewer games and storage items. And half the clothes that were hanging were dirty, so I threw them in the wash. ???

Thursday we decided to tackle the art supplies. The bottom two drawers of her dresser are dedicated solely to her crafty and artistic pursuits, and they needed some whittling. We went through every pencil, every piece of scrap paper stuffed in those drawers, and carefully decided what was worth saving. She still has tons of art supplies, but since art is her favorite hobby, I'm fine with that. And her stuff has a home, so that's what matters as far as organization goes.

It doesn't look like a magazine photo, but that's because we own things that are not beige, white, and pale blue.

Friday we took a break, but Saturday we finished our purge. Anything that hadn't been sorted and organized yet was, including the tops of her dresser and bookcase and her locker. I think all told we cut her possessions by at least a third. But probably closer to half.

It's a much more impressive pile in person. Every bag is hella full.

Go ahead. I know you're thinking The Thoughts. Let them out. "OMG, Jen, Spazz has a tv in her room? Why do u let yer babys to watch tv???!!!111 U probly are'nt as good as a parent as MEEEEEE!!!!1111"

Simplicity Parenting advocates purging without the child present, and I do see value in that. Believe me, I plan to go back in and do a fresh sweep of my own this week while Spazz is back in school. But I think as parents, we also have to be careful to respect our children's space and to know what works best for our kids. Spazz needed to be involved in this process, and I think that despite the emotions, it was good for her. She is a kid who needs to be shown the process of purging, because I could totally see her becoming a hoarder if we don't carefully set a good precedent. So I try not to let her feel powerless and I make sure to give in on one or two things so she feels some sense of control.

If it were up to me (okay, technically it is, but you know what I mean), I'd go in with boxes and garbage bags and pick the place dry. I'm not a pack rat. I have a few things that are probably more sentimental than practical, but I am very adept at separating emotion from things. I love the people who gave them to me, and that's enough. But my child is not like that, and I have to teach her responsibility while also respecting her space and her feelings. It will be different in every home and for every child in every home.

One of the ideas that stands out most to me in Simplicity Parenting is that, "Your child has better things to do than to be a walking advertisement for mall stores or brands." It's not that I'm going to throw out all of my daughter's t-shirts just because they say Old Navy or Justice on them somewhere. But the idea of buying items that serve only to further advertisers' agendas is very disturbing to me. So in our purge, one of the things I kept in mind while deciding what items held value for Spazz and what didn't came down to the ways she could use them. If she has twenty t-shirts, all well-fitting, and four of them just say, "Old Navy" across the chest, why keep that? She's not a billboard. I looked at her toys the same way, and it was very empowering.

Spazz is very excited abut the idea of helping with the yardsale and keeping the profits from whatever she sells. The child is surprisingly excellent with money, always carefully saving until she has enough for whatever it is that she wants, plus some left over. She doesn't ever like to be completely broke. And she carefully weighs her purchase decisions. I'm sure I've mentioned at some point that she saved up and bought her own Kindle.

So anyway, it's been a big week for us in terms of bonding, simplifying, and learning some valuable life skills. I'm immensely proud of my little Spazz, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the effects of having a more calm, relaxed, efficient bedroom will play out for her temperament and her ADHD symptoms.

Spazz in her newly purged and cleaned up room.

Is anyone else undertaking any major organization or purging projects this spring? How do you involve your kids in the process?

*We're having a yardsale with our neighbors on 4/14 or 4/28, depending on the weather.


  1. So inspiring, Jen! And I love the pictures. And I love how you did this with so much love. Good job, you two. :)

  2. Thanks! I feel like once it's all out of my living room this weekend a huge burden will be gone from the house. I feel like less stuff begets peace, you know?

  3. That is a big deal - you guys did a great job. My Girl is also very attached to her stuffed animals and her craft supplies. These are the things overfill her room...and my living room...and basement.
    I used your story about Spazz's Kindle to inspire my Girl - she has been begging me, bugging me, nagging me to get her a Kindle. Now she appears to be inspired to buy her own. So, thanks for that.