Do you ever feel the urge to purge?
I do. Every few months. And while we were sorting our house out before Hurricane Irma this month, I realised how much stuff we’ve accumulated in just a year.
Anyone who has experienced a hurricane or similar act of nature’s wrath will tell you how it throws into perfect clarity the things that are most important to you. If we had been in a situation where we had to get out of our house fast, I realised that there was only one material item I would run back for: the books I’ve been writing letters to my children in since they were born. Absolutely everything else is replaceable or – more so – surplus to requirements. In fact, having all this material excess seemed suddenly counter productive. Excess throws shadows. It clutters the mind. It is a barrier to joy.
Nowhere in our house was this more true than in my children’s toy collection. The toy collection had started to make me feel panicky, out of control. I could never find the things they wanted to play with in the moment and I had absolutely no idea what we had and what we didn’t.
So, after the hurricane and while they girls were out of the house, I started going through our boxes of toys and ruthlessly culling them (well, they went into a bag for donation to the church).
I had 2 criteria for keeping things:
- Do they reach for these things first (so, for the eldest one, her Barbies, ponies and dress-up clothes; for the littlest, stacking toys, magnetic drawing pad, wooden building blocks, stuffed toys)?
- Is this educational, and something I’d like to spend time doing with them (puzzles, board games, card games, crafts, etc.)?
Everything else: gone.
And boy was it therapeutic. And – guess what – weeks later the children still haven’t even noticed that over 50% of the toys have disappeared. In fact, they think they now have more toys, not less, because they can always find their favourites.
Although we did still end up with three storage boxes full of toys, I now know exactly what is in those boxes and when we would use it. If friends come round to play, the kids know where to find what they’re looking for, and it’s not complicated to tidy up after themselves when they’re finished.
As for the toys we did have left over, most of them looked a bit the worse for wear. So I was really happy to hear from Sophia Evans at Tidy London Cleaners SW3 with some great advice on how to get them looking brand new in a non-toxic way. Here was what she suggested:
- Plastic, non-electric toys, action figures and cars: Put them in the dishwasher. Mix 1 cup of borax, 1 cup of washing soda, half a cup of citric acid and half a cup of kosher salt for the cleaning solution. And voila!
- Plush toys: Throw them in the washing machine. To protect them put them in a mesh bag and wash on a gentle cycle. And always use a non-toxic laundry detergent.
- Wooden toys: Remember not to soak them in water. Instead, wipe them with a cloth dampened with a water and white distilled vinegar solution. If the wooden toy is unvarnished, you can sand it.
- Board games: Simply wipe them with a cloth dampened with a white distilled vinegar and water solution.
- Doll’s clothes: It’s best to wash them in the washing machine just like you wash your own clothes.
- Everything else: Make a sanitising spray to clean rubber toys and also the surfaces in your home. Sophia’s recipe is 1 cup of white distilled vinegar with 1 cup of distilled water, and 30 drops of essential oil (lavender, lemon, thyme, orange, etc).
I’m a product of my generation: I like to shop, I like to buy. I love new things, I love pretty things – I love things. But as I get older, wiser and busier I understand that – as with all things in life – my mum was right:
Less is more.