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Here’s Scientific Proof That You Shouldn’t Feel Bad About Tossing Out Your Kids’ Crap

Young girl with toys and box prepare to donate it
Image source: Thinkstock

In my house, I have a special little tradition I like to practice from time to time. It’s a detox of sorts — a way of realigning the energy in my home and mind as a peaceful practice to evoke harmony and balance into our lives once again.

Just kidding, it’s really just me going on a rampage through my house tossing out all of my kids’ crap.

I have to admit that part of me has felt guilty in the past about getting rid of brand new toys that my kids have already forgotten/broke/left abandoned to impale me in the middle of the night, but I am vowing no more. Because now, even science is backing the time-honored mama tradition that says that fewer toys equals a happier family.

According to a February 2018 article in Infant Behavior and Development, researchers found that having too many toys actually reduces the quality of play in toddlers. The study explained that child development experts wanted to test the hypothesis that an environment with fewer toys would actually promote higher quality play for toddlers. Lo and behold, that’s exactly what they found.

Researchers found that with fewer toys in their environment, toddlers not only played with their toys for longer periods of a time, but they also were more creative in their play and engaged with their toys in more ways. At the end of the study, the author’s conclusion was that “when provided with fewer toys in the environment, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively.”

BAM! There it is.

Finally, scientific proof that all these years spent secretly getting rid of my kids’ toys have not been in vain. In fact, they are just proof that I am, at my core, a loving and wonderful mother who is focused on creating the optimal loving, healthy, and creative environment for my kids. And if that means tossing their junk, so be it. A mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do.

The truth is, I am relieved by this study because I have known for some time now that I get downright cranky if I have too much clutter in my house. The clutter could be toys or school paperwork or all the “crafts” my children like to do independently (their latest being iPhones created out of cardboard because they are the only kids in their class without them). But whatever it is, if there’s too much of it, I feel like I’m drowning. It’s like being a mom is hard enough on a daily basis, but add in cheap plastic toys that break right out of the package and puzzles with missing pieces strewn about, and it suddenly becomes too much to bear.

I am totally one of those people who lives by the rule that cleaning is pretty much a free therapy session. There’s something completely refreshing about purging, sorting, and organizing that makes me a very happy mama. And as this study proves, it’s not just me; less junk is better for our kids, too.

Still, it can be challenging to keep a handle on toy accumulation. It’s hard when you’re the only adult in the house who believes in purging. It’s even harder when you have four little people who love to craft and are enormously proud of the treasures they create and present to me. I’ve been forced to perfect that poker “I don’t know where that toy you are asking about went” face because somehow they always want that one toy that I finally got around to throwing out after they hadn’t touched in years.

In the end, it’s all enough to make us feel like the motherhood equivalent Sisyphus, fighting an uphill battle against clutter, stepping on LEGOs along the way.

But mamas, we now have science to back us up and remind us that we are doing this for our kids’ benefit and well-being. The fewer toys they have, the better they will play; it’s just basic science. So, grab that black bag, swipe on your war paint, and get to decluttering that massive pile of toys in your kids’ rooms.

Our kids can thank us later … you know, once they’re done asking for that random toy we threw out when they weren’t looking.

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