Are Your Children Part of the 3%?


Thanks to Karen for alerting me to this People article.

Gotta love People magazine for boiling down a book into a few points.

The book Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Families Open their Doors examines modern American families through the lens of household material culture – the things we own and the ways we use our home. People magazine had a very short piece on the book titled “The Clutter Problem” a few weeks ago. Couldn’t find a link to the article but have a picture of it above from the Rookie Moms website – thanks Rookie Moms!

I’m fascinated by this book because it was the same one referenced in the New Yorker article on Spoiled Children that was the inspiration for Amy’s guest post on unspoiling your children. I looked through the preview pages on Amazon and a few of the chapter headings jumped out at me:

  • Material Saturation: Mountains of Possessions
  • Vanishing Leisure
  • Plugged In

From reviews and descriptions the book appears to be more academic in nature but includes coffee table worthy photos documenting modern American homes. I’m intrigued but not quite ready to pull the trigger on buying it. Maybe it will show up in our local library.

What really jumped out for me in the People summary is the statistic on toy consumption.

America has 3.1% of the world’s children but buys 40% of the world’s toys.

Yikes. I read that and instantly felt some guilt about our recent toy purchases: a Melissa & Doug instrument set, a Bob the Builder home and a puzzle. Did we really need it? Couldn’t I have fashioned some new toys or instruments out of recycled yogourt containers, cardboard and homemade glue?

Of course, I then countered with surely we are not in the same bracket as the 3%? We have a lot less toys than the average family we know.

Living with less is a negotiation. The longer we’re on this journey the longer I see that for us it’s not about absolutes, it’s about trying. Our new home is a bit bigger than we’re used to but it was a great fit for us for reasons above and beyond the square footage. I try and keep our son’s toys limited to two boxes and his train table and I try and buy used when I can. I try to find ways that living with less works for us instead of comparing ourselves to others.

Does that toy statistic shock you? Do you think that of the 3% it might be a lot smaller percentage that actually has most of those toys? I’m interested to hear from American families on this. Is it really more like 1% of the world’s children have 35% of the world’s toys?

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  • Thank you, thank you. This is so important! From the response I’ve gotten on my toy posts I know Americans (and others) feel like they’re drowning in toys. Even people who may not purchase many material things for themselves, justify toy purchases because it’s for their kids, will help their learning, or will enrich their childhood.

  • I have just fallen over your blog and have been going through your archives! I love reading what you have achieved, I’ve been simplifying for about 3 1/2 years now and am still going. I live in the UK so I wanted to say hello!
    The article looks very interesting! My children have very,very minimal toys, to the point that I worry that if my older girl has friends over I am not sure what they will think because of her lack of ‘stuff’. I’m not sure what to do? My children are very happy and play lots ( they are 99% TV free) but I do worry if they start comparing themselves to their peers, they will feel ‘hard done by’ in the future? Any advice?

    • We didn’t have a lot of toys growing up, and almost no TV too. I am so thankful for that! The only downside is that my siblings and I get overwhelmed with clutter! I had to learn how to deal with it and that it is ok to pass gifts along and get rid of anything we don’t need.

  • I’m a bit embarrased to admit that it doesn’t shock me, because we are in that 3%. My husband grew up obsessed with toys, him and his family don’t think there’s such thing as too many toys. My family only got us toys on special occasions (birthdays, holidays, getting all A’s at the end of the school year). I’m sick of the amount of toys we have, and all the kids do is make a mess, they don’t even play with half of them! I recently announced that for every new toy that comes in an old one is going out, and the influx of gifts has cut down dramatically. But it’s really hard to reduce when your spouse isn’t on board. Any tips?

    • Ask your husband if he is OK with you taking control of moving clutter out. When he says yes, do it and rejoice! :)

  • This is a great post! We are an American family. We celebrated my daughter’s 2nd birthday this weekend. At first, I didn’t want to have a party … spare the expense, not accumulate more TOYS! Then I felt guilty. We ended up having a small gathering at our house, just 4 close friends and encouraged “no gifts, please.”
    Before the party, I wandered the toy aisle at Target. “I have to buy her something for her birthday, right?!” But as I looked at all the plastic and tons of small parts and generally short lifespan of everything on the shelves, I wondered why! Why did I feel obligated to buy a cheap piece of plastic to celebrate my daughter on her bday? The best present is spending quality time together, right?! I ended up buying some new sidewalk chalk, since ours was almost gone, and we had tons of fun drawing outside. I’m getting better at taking a step back at the store and really considering my purchases. Do we need this? Will my kids enjoy it and get a lot of use out of it? Is it worth it?

  • Yes, thank you so much! My husband and I are trying to refrain from purchasing so many toys for our three girls and our culture is constantly trying to make us feel like our children are deprived if they don’t have a DS or an American Girl doll. I do think there is a percentage inside that 3% that is getting even more, but I couldn’t tell you what it is. What is really sick is when people purchase these high end toys and they are still in debt themselves. Also, I agree that people buy some toys with the excuse that they are for “learning”. It’s sad, but I do see some other people trying to change their mindset, like we are, so there is hope! We are also trying to hold back on putting our children in so many structured activities. There’s the whole “worry” that your child won’t be able to play a sport when they are older because they aren’t putting the time in already in the early elementary years. My daughter had friends (7 year olds) that were in both soccer and softball at the same time, plus doing other activities during the day. It’s insane. Anyhow, I really enjoy your blog and congrats on the new baby! :)

  • This stat is really interesting. As American parents, my husband and I struggle so much with the urge to buy new toys for our 16 month old to “enhance her learning.” She has many books which we read often and three small bins of toys, yet compared to other families we know, this is paltry. Primarily, I worry that I’m stunting her ability to learn by not purchasing new toys or books every two months. Yet, she seems perfectly content with what she has. And I think a lot of this concern stems from marketing.

    So much of the obsession with buying more toys/books, I think, is because families want their children to be intelligent. They believe that having new items will provide novelty and new learning. What I constantly have to remind myself of, so that I don’t get sucked in to this mentality, is that the most important factor in my child’s well-being and ability to learn is simply being with her, meeting her needs, showing her love, interacting, talking, reading, playing, taking walks and enjoying new experiences together. And when I see how much more advanced linguistically she is than the kids with a million toys, I realize that perhaps we really are doing it right.

  • I’m not really shocked by the statistics on toys. Most of the children that we know have what we think of as far to many toys. Of course it makes me wonder, what do they consider a toy? Is it each block individually counted as a toy, or the set of blocks as a whole? If it’s each block then we have more than 139 toys. We are moving at the end of the week so I’ve been packing up the toys for the 3 children. The wooden toys fit into a 18 gallon storage container and then we have 2 30 gallon black trash bags of stuffed animals.

  • As the mother of 4 children ( born in the span of 5 years) I can tell you that the best “toy” you can give your children is a sibling!! I have never bought intothe idea that I had to keep buying toys…. I told my kids that they should make up games amongst themselves . This is not to say that I have not bought them any toys or gadgets, but I do try and keep it to a minimum. My kids have embraced my decision to become a minimalist and now find themselves “unnerved” when they go to someone’s house that is full of “stuff”.

    Something I have always noticed is that boredom is the mother of invention with kids !

      • I know your mother and to hear her say it, the greatest gift she gave her children was talking to them. I think this is what many people don’t understand. Interacting with your children, asking them questions, describing what is going on, talking to them is the most important thing you can do. I know I struggle with “being too busy” but just finding the time to be with my kids is such a huge positive for them and is equally if not more rewarding for me. Forget the toys. Go to the park and throw a ball or have a swing and see what your kids think about the sky being blue or grass being green.

      • Rachel, this made me smile. Because your mom, like mine, cheated! A twin is like a super-sibling! lol Still my best toy ever. :)

  • I saw this and immediately thought of you and all the help/guidance you have provided our family!!!

  • I’m not surprised at the least bit. And I do think that even the poorest of children in America still tend to have quite a few toys compared to children in poverty-stricken countries. I’ve helped out doing toy donations for underprivileged families and often find it strange how the “underprivileged” families tend to own more toys than we do! The thing is- toys are SUPER cheap at places like Goodwill. You can get 5 small toys for $0.99. Plus with half-price days, etc. its easy to see how low-income households can amass great quantities of toys. So I think that statistic is pretty spot-on. I’m looking forward to the book to see if their studies are causal or just correlational. Either way, it’s research that’s needing to be done!

  • Hmmm… no kids here, but I’m willing to bet that a tiny percentage of the world’s cats own the vast majority of the world’s cat toys! :-)

    Seriously though, when I was still working and busy all the time I used to feel terribly guilty if I came home from the pet food store without some new toy for them. Then one day I spent about 15 minutes standing in the toy aisle trying to find some catnip mouse or ball or dangling thing that they didn’t already own. It suddenly occurred to me that given the choice, my cats would have vastly preferred having those 15 minutes to play with me than any new toy. I left the store and went straight home and played with them. That was 12 years ago, and I have seldom bought a cat toy since.

    I think the same holds true for kids. People feel guilty, so they try to substitute things for time and attention. I can’t help but think that if everybody took all of the time they spend shopping for toys and working to earn money to pay for toys, and cleaning up toys, and throwing away broken toys, and de-cluttering toys, etc., etc., etc., and actually spent that time playing with their kids – well, I think we’d all be much better off.

    • I think it may be guilt for some, but distraction for other parents. I find that on the rare occasions I do buy things it’s to keep them busy because I don’t WANT to entertain them. There was a good discussion awhile back on Rage Against the Minivan about how a lot of mothers feel bad that they don’t like actually playing with their kids. Toys are a substitute. I wish it were more like the “olden days” where kids were allowed out to play with other kids. I think that would be the best win-win solution: less toys, parents don’t have to give so much attention, and kids get attention (just from other kids).

      • Wait a minute… you mean to tell me that kids aren’t allowed to play with other kids these days? Seriously? Perhaps I am a creature from the dark ages after all!

  • Thanks for posting this. I am so glad I read your ebook about having a baby with less stuff. We don’t have kids yet, but it has really helped change my mindset about stuff and childhood.

  • Just wanted to drop a note that the other blog post that you linked to a while back about the 5 basic toys kids need. That and getting our house ready to put on the market inspiried me to really pare down our toy collection, so we separated our toys into three piles, and we kept the smallest one and it fit right in line with that article. The other two piles went to my parents house and my in-laws.
    Multiple times, my sons have commented on how much better they like having less toys. I’m so glad that they’ve come to that realization. We still have more than enough, but they can manage getting all of them out and putting all of them back on their own.
    Turns out that we aren’t moving, but we are planning a “downsizing sale” for September.

  • I wish this statistic shocked me, or sounded too high. An American here (from Virginia), not surprised at all that we account for so much of the toy purchases. How depressing.

  • I feel like my daughter falls into that stat easily. We are the last to have kids on both sides of our family, so she has a lot of hand-me-down’s from nieces and nephews. Plus,she has my favorite dolls from growing up and an equal number that have been given to her. We don’t actually buy her new toys very often though, maybe 1 at Christmas and 1 for her birthday. The rest are hand me downs or gifts or bought 2nd hand, and she is just as happy with the 2nd hand and hand-me-down’s as she is a new toy. We tend to buy her the bigger “toys”, wagon, tricycle, etc… or books.

    Trying to reduce is difficult because I actually have the same problem, but for opposite reasons to Kika. My hubby grew up with very little in terms of toys and being the oldest, what he did have his younger brothers often destroyed. He wants his kids to have what he didn’t have and he felt his friends did have. So while I want to purge, because I’m tired of picking up the toys (my daughter is 2, she helps, but it’s not terribly helpful) getting him on board is tough.

    I do go through her toys every so often and weed out the “Happy Meal” caliber toys and throw them together in a small bag for camping/car trips/plane rides, since I don’t care if she loses them or gives them away.

    I also have 3 bins I rotate to keep the everyday clutter to a minimum and the activities and skill building fresh.

    When she outgrows items they go to the basement (since we plan on having another child) and once they are outgrown for good I’ll let them help me sort through what goes and hopefully he’ll be fine with what they choose to let go.

  • My daughter definitely thinks less is better when it comes to toys. She is known to refuse an offer of a free toy, or to go into a toy shop. Last Christmas, about half way opening her presents (which were not terribly many to begin with) she firmly announced: “This is the last one!”. A few times she has wanted to give away a toy (and once almost all her toys) to “other kids”. She has two favorite plush toys and a stroller for them, she mostly plays with. The rest of her favorite toys are not toys at all, but boxes, handkerchiefs, string, pieces of paper… you know, junk :) There is a doll house too with tons of little stuff -it was here at my dad’s house when we moved in -that she plays with (and all the kids who visit love it too).

    She used to have many more toys but we lost everything due to a bad mold problem. It didn’t seem to faze her much. We replaced a few of her favorite books and her very favorite plushie cat (though she doesn’t know it was replaced). She even saw us give away her stuff and she really did not mind.

    I think she is a natural minimalist like myself, but I think parents can do a lot to encourage or discourage tendencies. I’m such a minimalist and I still have to veto her wish to give away her toys haha 😉 But we have been talking about giving to other the things we don’t need, and she sees me cleaning out my dad’s house and hears me say that we don’t need so many of these, we can give some away to others, and so on. So she has been listening. She is growing up with this message and it is natural to her.

  • Vappu, that is inspiring!

    I think we have plenty of toys. I wouldn’t say too many, but almost…and everyone who comes over is amazed at how FEW toys we have for our 19 month old daughter. We aim to spend 2+ hours outside with her everyday. She loves washing dishes. She likes dancing. She takes a nap. We eat snacks. We sing songs on the potty. We pet the cat. That is her day. And she is content and happy and a joy to be around!

    Whenever I even begin to think that we are “neglecting” her future by limiting her possessions, and ours, I remember that Laura Ingalls Wilder had almost ZERO toys and she turned out to be a well-rounded individual who is still a famous author!

  • A few years ago, we were known by all of our friends as the house with soooo many toys. Lots of hand me downs, very generous relatives, and I’ll admit, we contributed too. I used to laugh it off, but after a while it became really embarrassing! I have been steadily decreasing our toy collection as well as the number of new toys and hand me down toys they receive. My oldest (7) used to be extremely sentimental and attached to every single toy he had, but now he tells me “I like it better with less toys. We need to give away more toys. It’s more peaceful in my room now” :). We have a 7 year old, 6 year old and a 1 year old. The 1 year old has 80% less toys than his brothers did at his age, and we are all much happier. We still have a long way to go with our clutter but we are moving in the right direction.
    I wanted to reply to Kristina’s comment about not overscheduling her kids with activities. We agree with that idea too. The only activity our children participate in is soccer in the spring and the fall. Other soccer parents ask me what else my children are in (baseball? gymnastics? swimming? tennis? piano? art?). Most of the other kids are in 2-3 activities minimum at any given time. I have found that my kids need a lot of down time, or they get very cranky! Although they complain of boredom at times (don’t all kids?), they PLAY a lot more than other kids we know. And even though it seems to me that I have to tell them too often “go find something to do”, I’m willing to bet they are able to entertain themselves better than most of their friends can too.

  • My neighbour just lent me that magazine and I saw that book and I asked our library to order it in! Hopefully they buy it!

  • In Kim John Payne’s ‘Simplicity Parenting’ (really recommended) he says that the average American child gets 70 new toys a year. That’s the AVERAGE. That really shocked me. My kids get something for their birthday and Christmas and honestly, that’s all. I keep them well stocked in art supplies and they are very happy, creative kids.

    • I just read this recently. Love this book. I particularly like the example of being bombarded by adult information and conversation. A lot to think about in that book.

      When we were buying Christmas presents last year it felt like our girls were getting very few items, but come Christmas day there were PILES under the tree. Thankfully, it wasn’t as much as it looked and they got about 4 toys each, plus, dress up clothes. They get one toy each for their birthday’s.

      I’m a big fan of the well stocked art cabinet.

  • My house is most definitely in that 3%. No question. Not shirking any responsiblity here, we are to blame. Especially at christmas. However a lot of the toys come as gifts from my husbands large family. Even one gift from each person results in 25+ new items. When the kids show an interest in something, like Skylanders for instance, it gives the family ‘permission’ to get him ALL of them. ALL. He does not need 32 figures (plus special characters) to play the game. Since the kids already have ‘everything’ the family latches on to any new product with a collection. As the kids get older (you know, 8) there’s nothing left to buy for them, and now they are getting money!
    Yesterday my 8 yo daughter and I, along with two cousins and their daughters took a trip into NYC to American Girl. My daughter has one doll (that she purchased with birthday money last year). She was cranky on a couple of occassions during the trip becauase her cousins were buying dolls and she wanted to also. After finally coming around to the realization I was not getting her a new doll, she let go of the attitude. In the end though I spent more money on clothing and nail polish stickers and a bag to carry it all in than I would have if I had just bought another doll. On the train ride home? She didn’t even remember what she had bought. insert giant head slap here. I am fully awake now!

  • I first read this the day you posted it, and kind of skimmed through as I was convinced it didn’t apply to us. Ha! I have just spent an hour going through my (nearly) seven year old son’s bedroom and bagging up anything he doesn’t play with any more. how is it that one small boy can amass so much plastic rubbish and STILL complain he has nothing to play with?

    The bags are in the garage waiting to see if he misses any of it. Me, I’m looking everywhere for advice on what will keep a seven year old only child’s interest during those times when Mum isn’t available to play and all he can think of to do is watch TV or play on the computer (and sulk when Mum says no, which she usually does). Yes, the point about siblings is a good one but we’re not all in the position where that is an option! Friends (and their toys) are always more interesting and fun than home and Mum, but I’d like to be able to find a viable alternative without filling the house with unused plastic!

  • I’m not sure how we compare with other families. I feel like we do have a lot of toys, but I am completely fine with that. My son plays with them all on a regular basis, and it delights me to watch him. I think lifestyle is a big factor. My son isn’t sent to daycare or preschool, so I supply the toys he plays with rather than sending him someplace else to play. However, since we live close to several schools and city parks, we do not have playground equipment in our yard. I invest in classic, high-quality toys that we will keep for future kids and maybe even grandkids. Sometimes we give things away to cousins. Yeah, I could make things out of cardboard, tape and glue, and while they would be just as fun, those homemade creations do not last long, they are not as nice to look at, and it’s not always possible to recycle them when finished. I don’t feel any guilt about what we have or how we live.

  • What a great post–and the statistic don’t shock me at all! I’ll have to take a look at that book next time I am in the book store.

    We live in the U.S. and have 4 kids ages 15-6. As a minimalist at heart, I am always secretly happy when my kids have gotten older and advanced from the big Tonka trucks to the tiny Lego’s (which of course are many pieces but smaller and easily contained). We do, however, have too many toys still, even as I consistently weed them out. At holidays I find myself giving more books and fun clothes and one special toy. Thanks for the good reminder of how much stuff we all have!

  • There is an amazing book that came out many years ago called “Material World”. It had average families from all around the world display ALL their possessions on the front lawn. It is interesting to see families that just own a few cooking pots to a typical American or European home. My daughters, who are now in college, use to look at that book by the hours and I used it as a lesson for them about materialism. Peter Menzel, the author, also did a book called “What I Eat” about the average daily and weekly diet in countries around the world. The difference between cultures is amazing. The book being review reminds me so much of these books. So check out these facinating books. Although they were published in the ’90″s they are still some of my favorites.

  • Wow. I am shocked by the article. We have a three-year-old and he doesn’t have near that many toys…but he could, had we not donated as he has grown. What I find is hard is when I’m “saving” toys in-case we have a new baby. And that’s not even planned, yet. I tend to be fairly minimal, but things like that just…not typical for me at all!

    • Adding to this…I also find it really strange how for quite a few people, unless they can profit from it financially, they will not part with their items. Even if they have no use for it – especially if they spent more on it. For instance, my aunt has a garage sale every year and at the end, anything that she didn’t sell gets boxed up for the next year. She had my cousin’s (her son’s) football cleats on her sale for nearly ten seasons until she sold them for the price she wanted. I see this with other people, as well.

  • These stats don’t shock me, even here in Australia we are consumer mad. It’s my daughter’s 1st birthday soon and i am already freaking out about the amount of toys she will receive, i am trying to think of ways to deter the gift giving by well-meaning family and friends. I already try to stress the fact that she very rarely plays with the toys she gets as she much prefers to engage in what we are doing and just wants our time and affection. It’s definitely a myth that children need special educational toys as our daughter is apparently advanced for her age and all she has for learning would be books!

  • Not shocked at all by the stats. However, I’d guess we have about half the “average” amount of toys for our five children. We’re probably about right on for books, though. Probably a bit heavier in that area due to home schooling.

  • vappu – we lost our house in a wildfire last year – and we’ve gone the same way as you. My daughter was 3 at the time of the fire and while a few things were important to be replaced, the majority of it we really didn’t care about too much. Living in an RV for 8 months and having very little space (she did have her own room though) definitely reinforced the notion of less.

    I’m sure a psychologist would have a grand time with me and others from the fire (Texas Labor Day fires – so LOTS of families affected) because I went from a point of having a hard time with clutter to going to the other end of the spectrum. My daughter now has a 2 piece play kitchen, a little table with 2 chairs with a small doll house and parts on it and an 8 cube cubby. Nearly all of her toys fit into that space (not counting the shopping cart and stick horse) and we have a rule – if it doesn’t fit it doesn’t stay. 3 of the cubbies are for books, one for hats (she really likes hats), one for coloring stuff, one for things with wings and wheels, one for dolls and one for random bits.

    She knows that she has enough, routinely tells me that, and we take stuff, both hers and mine, to the donation center/thrift store ALL of the time. It’s just become part of the routine – dress doesn’t fit? We’ll give it to someone else who needs it.

    Of course, the flip side to this sudden shift (probably a bit of PTSD) is too much not wanting. It makes shopping with her hard sometimes and she’s really concerned about getting stuff for Christmas. I’m having to now help her out on the idea of sorting out toys/clothes after Christmas that she doesn’t like that much so that she has space for a few new things. A balance is key and while I think we’re far closer to that point now than before, we still need to work on finding a healthy middle ground. I don’t want her to be either freaked out about stuff of have too much stuff either, and now is the perfect time to try to teach that, even as I myself learn, too.

    Oh, and for people like Jen Spends, who save toys for grandkids… don’t. Tastes will change and odds are good that toys that are amazing now, even if they are high quality, won’t be seen in the same light in 30 years. Besides, the cost of storage of said fab items, moving them several times… it all adds up. I too, saved my daughters toys for the “just in case” next baby – and lost ALL of it. All of the toys, baby clothes – everything. All of that could have been used by so many others while it sat in a storage shed in bins playing host to spiders and other critters. Now that I’m expecting the next (and last) baby and having to literally start over I’ve realized I’m going to be OK. Used kids stuff is easy to find, pretty cheap and fun to shop for. Sure, I miss my old crib, but my new used one is nicer anyways.. The best part of this baby? (Aside from finally getting pregnant?) is not feeling like I have to keep anything after she’s done with it. Once we’re done with one size of clothes – off to the consignment store it goes. No storage concerns just sharing with others and trading for the next size that she’ll need. It’s really liberating actually. Probably the single best thing that came out of that horrible fire…

  • As a child who had a room that looked like that picture – it was a very stressful environment. My parent couldn’t understand how I couldn’t pick up my toys and keep my room clean. I think you’re doing a great thing for your kids by helping your children keep their toys at a manageable quantity. I used to be envious of my friends who had less because their rooms were clean (and easy to clean) and there was room to play with their fewer toys. (And they had such great ideas for games to play with them!)

    • I wanted to say thanks for that comment. I always had trouble keeping my room picked up when I was a kid and when I think about what was in it, that really does explain a lot. Thanks for making that connection for me. I also looked at those pictures and wondered how on earth a child could let their brain fall into a relaxing sleep with all that stuff everywhere.

  • I just discovered your site — how fantastic! I love this post in particular, and I’m curious if you or your readers have any advice for getting grandparents on board? In editing my kiddo’s belongings recently (which we try to do monthly), I realized how much STUFF had been given from her loving, but distant, grandparents. I’ve tried explaining to them our aversion to stuff, but it only shifts the focus from large items to smaller ones, and only temporarily. I’d appreciate any advice!

    • We’ve made our wishes known and it has helped us get fewer gifts for our son. Of course, we still get a lot of things we don’t use or need. I donate those things as soon as I can.

  • I have been so naive. We are definately minimalists in the area of toy ownership (but I’m always feeling like we still have too much), however I am almost finished reading the above mentioned book and I am BLOWN away by how universal (family size, house size and income aside) having WAY TO MANY TOYS is. I had no idea. I’m starting to understand why parents are so overwhelmed. (It also took us a great deal of negotiating with family members to figure out what would really work as far as gifts goes…I would say we’ve gotten it just about right and my oldest is almost 11…be patient, it’s worth it!) Families reported a 30% increase in what they owned when adding a child to their family. YIKES! There are so many little things that one can do, but I can attest to the fact that my three children (3-10) are perfectly happy with having just a few things. In fact, having space to play has always been more important to them than how many toys they have.

    I also wanted to add that I appreciate your view on what you really need when expecting a baby (I think mine got MUCH smaller with each child, although I’ve never been convinced that you need much). I recently read another “simplicity” baby supply list and was completely overwhelmed!

  • You made some fantastic points! Yes, our kids have too much stuff and expect it to be given to them. It’s pathetically sad that a 13 yr. old expects to get a new “toy” at every stop that’s made during a weekend visit to Grandma’s. That same kid is sick of a Christmas gift within 24 hrs. There is no joy in getting something after saving and working toward it. Thanks for this piece!

  • I’m curious why you have a soda machine advertiser. It seems to be something that you would suggest we NOT purchase. Should we just “Do as I do, not as I advertise?”

    • I’ve posted before about why I have ads on my blog. You can read that post here.
      I spend a lot of time on this blog and answering reader email. It is nice to earn a little bit for my efforts.
      Of course, if I wanted to earn a decent wage I would not spend my time blogging. There are much easier ways to earn a lot more money. But I really enjoy writing here and the community and discussion that goes along with it. So I do have some ads on this site as a means of income.

  • I think some kids and even parents might feel sorry for my kiddo, cause he has nowhere near the amount of toys and STUFF that his friends have…but I think it is more than plenty!!

    In his room he has a train table with two drawers…one drawer contains his trains and tracks and one drawer contains his wooden building blocks (when things are put away, the top of the table is clear). He has a three drawer organizer in his closet that contains his play dishes and his costumes (currently he has a Yoda costume and a pirate costume…with associated lightsaber, blaster, and sword)…as well as some toy musical instruments and construction vehicles…and the top drawer contains a rotation of small kids meal type toys. He just had his third birthday, so he got a small workbench with toolbox full of tools, a hardhat, and an apron…which is also in his room. Some stuffies, a container of Duplo, and a case of Matchbox/Hotwheels rounds out his indoor toys.

    For outside he has a couple Dollar Tree hoops, a hand-me-down scooter, and a sand/water table…we also just got a stand alone slide for him off of Freecycle. Some occasional use items are a larger plastic train set passed down from neighbor kids, a playhut that has seen better days, and a new tent from his Granny that will replace the playhut soon. All this is MORE than enough for him and he has had a lot fewer toys in the past. We regularly go through his toys and cull them down when we feel like they have grown to a point where they cannot be easily contained.

    Here are some pics from a few months back…so no workbench at that time in his room… (this one and the next four in the set).

    • I forgot to mention that he DOES have two partially full shelves of kids books in my room as well as a small basket of the more durable books in his room. He does have and will more than likely continue to have more books than I keep on hand for myself!!

  • 3 YO has a bed, small dresser, and a toy box with a few toys. Very minimal. The room stays neat and no toys are in sight. Love it! Easy to clean. He plays with his few toys ALL the time.

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