real life

"I make my kids follow the '20-Toy-Rule'."

There he was, sitting on his bed with tears in his seven-year-old eyes.

I had just got through yelling at him, again, to clean his bedroom. I was tired of the mess and I was tired of telling him to clean.

“Just do it!” I would shout. How quickly I forget how overwhelmed I feel when a mess is staring me in the face.

This was not the mother I wanted to be.

You forget how overwhelmed you can feel by mess. Image via iStock.

As I looked at my son and I looked at the mess, I realised we were both overwhelmed. It was too much—it felt like too high a mountain to climb.

It was then that I knew we needed a change. My sweet boy needed a mum who wasn’t so stressed, and I needed a boy who didn’t feel defeated before he began.

That was that day we decided on a very simple rule that would become the foundation for how we would live: Fewer things, more peace.

The less we have, the less overwhelmed we feel. And the less overwhelmed we feel, the happier we are. (Tweet that)

It was with that philosophy in mind that I said, “Buddy, we are going to get rid of some things today. We can throw some things away and give some things away, but at the end of it all, you are only going to have 20 toys left.”

We called it The 20-Toy Rule.

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Sarah felt at ease when her son had less toys and less mess. Image via iStock

20 toys sounds like a lot… or maybe it doesn’t. But you’d be surprised at how many things children can accumulate. I was shocked when we began moving towards 20 toys each. We don’t spoil our children and I already had been pretty strict about the toy situation. But when I sat with my son in his room that day, I had to face the fact that we had allowed in too much stuff.

At first, upon hearing my idea, his eyes got big and a look of worry came over his face. But once we started, he really got into it. He was sorting and getting excited about giving things away and even selling things in a future yard sale. He was, believe it or not, actually having fun with the challenge.

The more we got rid of, the lighter I felt. And the anger began to disappear. There we were, getting rid of stuff, and we were happier.

We don’t need stuff, we need peace. We need to feel loved and safe and okay with what we have.

I want my children to learn contentment and joy where they are and with what they have. I don’t want them falling into the trap of always needing more and better things. Learning to have less helps them to be free. And I want them to be free.

To be fair, keeping toys to a minimum has taken work. I have had to train my three children to be okay with not having something. And yes, it has been training.

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"You’d be surprised at how many things children can accumulate" Image via iStock

For example, every time we would go into Target we would immediately pass the dollar section of the store filled with bright and beckoning things that call to children (thanks for that Target). I used to think, “What’s a dollar? It’s no big deal.” So my kids would each get something nearly every time we entered that store. I decided that would be one of the changes I made right away, no more dollar toys. I told my children before we even went in the store what to expect, and they all nodded their little heads of understanding.

You can imagine the shock when I actually followed through. “But mum!” No buts, baby. We are doing this. We are learning to live content. After a few times of whining and crying and me not giving in, they stopped the fussing. Now we go into Target and they don’t even ask. They know it wouldn’t make a difference anyway.

The point is, we had to put rules in place, and we had to stick to them. It’s hard at first, but if you stick to it, it gets easier, I promise.

You can do it. You can help your children be free.

It’s worth it.

This post originally appeared on becomingminimalist.com.

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