In Which I Get Rid of Our Toys

by | Feb 28, 2014 | February, Lent, Liturgical Living, March | 29 comments

Don’t adjust your screens ladies and gentlemen (mostly ladies), you read that correctly. I am getting rid of our toys. WITH MY KIDS’ BLESSING!

Last year’s big toy closet organization scheme helped. But the playroom is still a major source of heartache and tears and shouting in our home. We had a family meeting and the kids agreed that it would be a good experiment to get rid of the toys and see how we like life without them.

When my now big kids were all little, they were supposed to keep their toys cleaned up, but mostly I did it. We lived in a much smaller house, we had fewer people, and fewer toys. But now? I no longer have the time or the inclination to clean up the kids’ toys and keep them organized. I have nine people to feed, and four people to educate, and thousands of people to regale with stories about horse baby food (‘of’ not ‘for,’ unfortunately). And books about confession
don’t write themselves, people.

And where we used to have one or two bins of toys, we now have . . . twelve. And that’s AFTER the big Lent clean out last year AND a small Advent purge.

The big kids resent having to clean up messes they didn’t make, and the new little kids aren’t any better at cleaning up after themselves than the old little kids were. Something’s got to give.

I haven’t been able to get this post out of my head since I shared it with you a few weeks back. But I’ve been scared to pull the trigger. Enter . . . LENT. That’s my favorite thing about Lent. It gives us a chance to try something for a set amount of time. If it makes our lives better, we’ll stick with it. If it doesn’t, the toys can come back.

We’re not getting rid of EVERYTHING. We’ll keep books and board games and Busytown for Frankie
and the dress-up box and art supplies and (some of the) Legos and dolls, which is already an unheard-of amount of stuff for pretty much any era or place other than the one in which I live. And we’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted.

And now for the rest of what Lent’s going to look like around here . . .

Things the Whole Family is Giving Up

Toys. See above.

Sweets. We always do. I always hate it.

TV, Video Games, & Radio. I can’t say screens, because I’ll still blog, and the kids will still do some school things on the iPad. But we won’t rely on screens to entertain us.

This is the reminder that lives on our kitchen door during Lent:

For more (including our Lenten Sacrifice Beans), see:


Things the Whole Family is Taking Up

Eating simple food: especially eating up what’s in the pantry and freezer. I plan to use some of Haley’s recipes!

A Family Game Night: because Lent doesn’t have to mean no fun. Since we won’t be watching TV or playing video games, and we’re taking a break from the toys, I’m going to make sure we have some fun family time. I’ve always meant to have a game night.

Weekly letter writing: Grandparents and Great Grandmothers and Godparents and Godchildren around here are going to get some letters.

Daily family rosary: because we know how, but we keep not.

Things I am Giving Up

Yelling. Who else wants to join me on this one? We are keeping our rules and our family culture and I’m still going to always mean what I say. I’m just going to mean what I say in a normal speaking voice. And I guess I’m going to have to get up and find people instead of bellowing orders from across the house.

Spending. Every Lent I limit spending to food and absolute necessities. Which reminds me of a couple of things I need to get
before Wednesday.

Things I am Taking Up

ALWAYS getting to the things I always mean to get to (but sometimes don’t) each day:  Morning offering, Rosary, Mass, Angelus, Examination of Conscience.

Getting blog posts written at least 24 hours before posting them. Editing is good for all of us.

Keeping the car clean. I am as bad at this as keeping my purse clean. Probably you guys don’t all want to clean out your minivans with me on the internet. Right?

Things We’ll Do Once During Lent

Decorate for the season. To see what that looks like, see:


Do our Lent (Spring) Cleaning:

Clean out the closets and donate clothes we don’t need.

Clean the chicken coop.

Aaaaaand . . . Some Thoughts About This:


So, those  are OUR Lent plans so far. What are your plans for Lent? Need some more ideas? Sixty-six more ideas? Have I got a blog post for you!

Lulu and I are off to the Behold Conference! If you’ll be there please come by and say hello. Happy weekend!


  1. Adrie @ A Little Wife's Happy Life

    Those are great Lent sacrifices and goals! And I especially like the posters for around your house- I know that I would forget without reminders.

    As for the minivan… I don't have one of those (car, though!), but I'm pretty sure I'd just be posting more pictures of used tissues and a random rock. Actually, I'm definitely sure about the used tissues. WHY? Just, WHY?

  2. Micaela Darr

    I think it's official: we spend a lot of time together. Did I tell you that we're considering giving up toys for Lent too??? Still on the fence, and I've got to get the kids on board, but I bet we do it. Because I want to, and when Mama's happy…

    Dep breaths. I will not holler, I will not shout, I will not yell.

  3. Bonnie

    How do you give up toys and screen time? Do you foresee your kids playing outside a lot more? Maybe I just can't wrap my mind around this because you have older kids and I don't.

    • Kendra

      Yes. Absolutely. I think it would be really hard with all little kids. The things I'm keeping are the things the big kids actually play with (dolls, Legos) or do (art, dress up, board games) and Frankie's favorite (Busytown). The rest of the stuff they do play with occasionally, but mostly it just gets made a mess of.

      And with screens, because the big kids are doing school, and the TV is in the same big common room where we work, we often don't turn the tv on for days at a time anyway. My little guys have big kids to entertain them. TV isn't part of our daily routine for the kids now, but it absolutely was when I didn't have big kids.

  4. Amelia Bentrup

    I gave up yelling for Lent last year. I wrote about it here. No More Yelling

    It was a wonderful exercise, but I did sloooowly start backsliding into my former yelling ways. I'm giving it up again this year….but starting a bit early now! I wrote about it in my post today…but thanks to the flu, I can't yell, so it's a perfect time to stop yelling!

    As far the other things to give up. We always give up sweets to. Everything else, I'm undecided. My next blog post is going to be called "What to give up for Lent when you already gave everything up."

  5. Renee

    When it comes to toys and several children, you have a situation where different types of toys don't work with each other. So you end up with a few bins of pieces of full sets that don't make sense. There is no way a five year old can properly 'sort out' and organize these items again.

    Mu children can organize books, legos, and even stuff animals, but when you several different types of toys and a toddles type set getting mix up with something for an older child, no one really is getting the benefit out of the toys.

  6. Lisa

    My kids are 6, 3 1/2 and 18 months and we got rid of our toys about 8 months ago. It is wonderful, and I will never go back. Since the kids are little, I didn't really discuss it with them and I just took them and put them in a box in a closet one afternoon. They never noticed!! Like, seriously, nobody said anything except my 6 yr old who told me it looked so clean in their room! 🙂 Like you, we kept art supplies, Legos and dress up clothes. They make believe more, color, play outside and look at books.

  7. Anonymous

    I would join you in cleaning out your van. My HHR (named Puddles) gets to be a complete mess during the winter. Between the salt and the snow and the frigid temperatures (street parking is fun!), it goes uncleared out from November to March.

  8. Anonymous

    No toys! Yes! We did this and it was awesome and while they have trickled back in a bit here and there, the kids are totally cool when mom says, "Ok, these all need to go back up in the attic now!" Our toy purge happened almost a year ago – so good. We basically did a keep pile (those things that they've outgrown but youngers will love eventually, things they play with, etc), a donate pile, a sell pile (made lots at that garage sale!), and of course a trash pile for the broken stuff. Once our keep pile was manageable, it all went in the attic. Each kid was allowed to keep 2 things of their choice out. They are allowed to trade out or to bring down additional items if they have friends over, but eventually we get right back to our 2 out rule. It has been AWESOME!

  9. Tia

    Giving away the toys is genius. I read somewhere that young kids only have the mental ability to clean up a relatively small number of objects, so it's basically is impossible for them to clean up the massive stockpile they amass in modern life. Also it seems like the more toys, the more fights about toys, which is counterintuitive but somehow plays out often. Plus, the fewer toys they have, the more they value each one and can learn to take care of the items.

  10. Jamie Jo

    Coming here through Colleen (Martin Fam. Moments)
    I love your ideas! I think you might be a new favorite blog to read! (because I need more blogs to read)

    Nice to "meet" you!

    This big toy dump has me really really thinking. It's funny, because we have way too many toys too but when I talked to my husband about which toys we'd (hide) get rid of, I was like, "Oh, the puppies, Simeon loves the puppies." And my husband was like, "Yeah, to throw them all over the floor." I was like, "But I like the kids to have toys in their toy room, to be able to play and be creative." Funny, because it was me that brought it up to him and I was trying to talk myself out of it.

    We have 2 big containers of animals…sea creatures, zebras, horses, you name it. I could easily take those away and put them out of sight, but leave them out for the few times they do play with them. It's silly really.

    It's really a matter of picking what they play with most and what they don't.
    I'd personally love if you showed us what your toys looked like before and after…would you?

    • Kendra

      Thanks Jamie! Yes, I plan to document it. I wonder if I'm not more attached to the toys than the kids are. I think it will be an interesting experiment.

  11. Anna

    I love these suggestions. Many of them we implement in some way during Lent but the no toys one is a new idea. I don't think we'll do it all the way, but putting several toys into an extended time out might be worthwhile.

    I would love a post discussing simple meals. What makes a meal simple? What are some specific things you do? Spaghetti and sardines is the ultimate simple meal for our family but I'm trying to get away from carb heavy dinners. I feel like a lot of my meals that are simple in terms of ingredients are actually complex preperation-wise (ratatioulle for example). We go meatless on Wednesdays during Lent, in addition to Fridays, and that is a good sacrifice for us. Any other concrete ways that you simplify?

    • Kendra

      That's a good post idea, but the short version is that I mean kind of Amish style cooking. Mostly from scratch, just a few ingredients, whenever we have meat I throw the bones in a bag in the freezer, so I make a lot of stock-based soup, served with bread and salad. And beans and rice. And whatever I have accumulated in the pantry and freezer, even if I don't feel like eating it.

  12. Camilla

    We pared down the toys years ago, and it has been lovely. I've confessed to being an organization freak, but now my kids are hooked, too, and they love being able to keep their things so easily in place and organized and cared for. Even the toddler catches on…because it is the world he was born into. We keep: Legos (and I NEVER step on any), 20 Hotwheels each (if they get a new one, one goes) and a track that configures 10 different ways, an epic set of wooden blocks, a dress up chest (various animals and super hero/ninja things), art supplies/coloring books, board games, puzzles, books, and each boy has one ottoman box with a lid for their personal toys–and these are not even 1/4 full. Just special items–like a remote control car, or a flashlight toy, or an action figure they received as a gift. My daughter is a teen now, but when she was younger, she kept 4 baby dolls and their accessories (REAL babies–to practice mothering), crocheting, knitting, sewing, and embroidery supplies, good books, AWESOME dress-up (real prairie and glamour clothes bought from thrift stores and I altered them to fit her–80s prom dresses make amazing floor-length gowns for little girls!). She spent a lot of time drawing and writing–writing plays with her friends to go with her dress up. It has been years of growing together and continual attention and exhortation to these matters, but my kids' rooms are always clean and organized. They can get everything in the house out and play–forts, blocks, cars, legos… but they can put everything away in a short time, back in its place. No jumbled pieces, lost pieces, broken pieces. They read more and draw more. But my favorite thing? They PLAY TOGETHER more. (Oh, it helps that Wii and iPod times are limited to 30 min. each, 4 days a week, no exceptions).

    Anyway… my point is, blessings and kudos on your toy elimination. I think it's a healthy and blessed thing for children. It teaches them wisdom and detachment (from material things) and good stewardship, organization, creative play, and cooperation. I can't think of one helpful thing my young daughter would have learned from dressing and undressing and role playing with sexy adult dolls. And that "collectible" mentality–not good for the spiritual health of any child.

    Umm. Yeah. Sorry. I'm all over this one.

    • Kendra

      That's a really good point on "collectibles." Wanting more and more of something just to have it can't be good for you.

      I'm feeling so inspired that there are so many of you who have done this!

  13. Elizabeth

    If you want to make a family rosary easier, I highly recommend Holy Heroes' rosary mystery CDs:

    They recorded the rosary with appropriate background music for each mystery, prayed by their children, and with a Bible verse before each Hail Mary (basically reading through each decade). Each decade takes 5 to 8 minutes, a little longer with the Bible verses, but we only do a decade a day. I also pull up beautiful artwork with Google Images for each decade for reflection and switch the picture periodically to a different interpretation or piece of art on each decade.

    I always thought we would never, ever manage a family rosary. I was never good at rosaries on my own. My husband and I were not raised Catholic, and the rosary felt so out of our "style", I guess. I know this isn't your problem, but I am amazed at how we now regularly pray one or two decades a night with the Holy Heroes CDs. It's such an easy goal with kids, and they often beg for more decades once we get started.

    And I love your Lenten ideas! I am seriously tempted to try the toy one too :).

  14. Kim

    I have realized the more kids you have, the unnecessary toys are. They really just play with each other…like jumping, running chasing-oohhh the chasing games give me head aches lol. The thing is though, ppl see a big family and kindly keep donating us toys to be nice, but its too much. As soon as I clear out more come somehow… Other than a few dolls, a ball and legos you really need nothing. I never would have believed this as a first time mom but you don't need toys. And we have that busytown set too.

  15. Anonymous

    I admire you for giving up Facebook for Lent. I thought about it, but I need it to simplify wedding planning. I am planning on drastically limiting it because it is such a pathetic crutch. I just wrote about my plans for Lent, too.
    If you were anyone but Kendra I would be amazed by your plans. But, I kind of just expect greatness from you at this point. 😉 Have fun at your conference!

    • Kendra

      Sorry, that looks very misleading. I don't have plans to give up Facebook this Lent, I just have thoughts about that icon and the controversy surrounding it!

    • Anonymous

      Ahhhhh, understood. It was late (for me) last night when I read that. Haha. After reading the actual post about that icon, I think my reasons for giving it up would be good- but I am not ready for a commitment like that for my first Lent. Perhaps next year?

  16. Kathie J.

    I applaud parents who willingly minimize the kids' toys to just a few; we did this last year (my kids are 10, 3 and 16 months) and to echo other moms- the kids don't care. We have their toys whittled down to two mediumish storage crates that are in rotation (wooden toys out for 6 weeks, legos and plastic toys take a turn). I actually want to whittle their toys down even further to one crate and get rid of stuffed animals. Any ideas on how to do this? Oh, and we got rid of our tv last year and when the 3 year old watches a video on the computer- there is a definite personality change!)

  17. Anonymous

    These are great ideas. We've pared down our stash of toys so many times…and they multiply like rabbits!! Hoping to put away more this week…

    I'm hoping to simply simplify (haha) our (read: my) life this Lent, and focus on blessing my family with the things we do, eat, read, etc. As a homeschooling mama of 5 kids, 3 schooling… (you can relate)…life isn't always simple! But I yearn for peace and simplicity, so Lent is my time to *try* to make it happen.

  18. Anonymous

    Definitely go get the immersion blender! You will use it for lots of your "simple lenten meals", and if you ever find your own need to make horse baby food. I love mine!
    Your ideas are great, and I like that I am not the only one who wants to give up, and take up, and do lots of different things. Again… I want to be like you when I grow up.. oh wait that supposedly already happened.

  19. Hevel Cohen

    #3, eating simple foods. This has been a pet peeve of mine all my life, when, in the name of meatless Lent, lots of recipes usng expensive ingredients and luxury items (for the given region) are used to create meatless Fridays. I don't know, but unless one hates lobster, eating them for Lent is hardly a sacrifice. Of course if these seafood items are common to the everyday diet, it's a different matter. My family used to eat a lot of trout, because it was cheap and available. I wouldn't eat it for fast days now, because they are a pretty much a luxury item for where I live now (and when Jews fast, they don't eat anything).

    Letter writing is a favourite activity in my house, because I let the kids pick out their letter papers from my stash. They love that! And they get to write with fountain pens. And colour needle markers.

    Hevel from

  20. Lauren @ Breaking the Mold

    Wow, what a thorough plan! I think my favorite was your sign with all the "should/should not/if bored" items. I would think it's a great deterrent from a whiney peanut gallery, if you know what I mean. Also, letters to grand and godparents! Love it.

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

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