Life with young children by definition means living with, and trying to process, a lot of mess.

We sweep the kitchen floor at least once a day, sometimes several times, and the pile of stuff that gets rounded up sadly reminds me of trash you find washed up with driftwood and foam on the beach.


ooo – Isn’t that dead poetic, how I’m drawing parallels between the micro and macro, the domestic and the global ?!



But the kitchen floor is the tip of the ocean/house garbage flotilla metaphor…..

The toys used to be catalogued roughly and stored in plastic bins.  Inevitably everything returned to chaos.  A mix of puzzle pieces, ripped parts, beads, bobbles, craft stuff, pen lids, dolls clothes, figurines, blocks, fridge letter, happy meal toys, ad nauseum.

It became unbearable.  We were wading around in this junk and it was infiltrating every corner of the house.

Enough! we threatened – Why can’t you tidy up and put it all away?? we begged.  The situation reached a tipping point –  All the toy boxes were tipped onto the floor…


Several bags of soft toys (admittedly most of which had come from an op shop in the first place) went back to the op shop.  About 5 large containers of scrambled toys and random bits went down to the garage.

Being a bourgeois, paranoid, middle class, organic mother – I worried that unless the children had access to a wide range of toys at ALL TIMES, then I was risking leaving holes in their synapse development by removing these toys.  I waited for the howls of protest, for some sort of revolt.  

I was ready to stand my ground and dish out a satisfying lecture…. 

Do you know what happened ? They didn’t even notice!  They just picked up whatever was lying around and continued to play doggy and master, pestering for snacks and pulling all the cushions off the couch in a bout of sofa-nastics* and fort building.

They seemed utterly un-scarred and perfectly psychologically and developmentally OK

What I am trying to say is that kids don’t need all this stuff.  We know this deep down but we still pass out the party bags with disposable yoyos and bubble containers, the kinder egg with the plastic toy parts and the $2 shop ‘bargain’ which snaps after 4 minutes.  I still do this and I feel guilty about it and I don’t want to do it anymore.

As Susan Powter said several times in the 90s… we have to ‘Stop the Insanity!’.  Stop buying cheap, badly made crap and pretending our children are getting some sort of benefit out of it.  The truth is they are probably overwhelmed and unable to process the sheer volume of toys they already have…

Footnote: Despite a 80% reduction of toys in the house (which are now just cluttering up the garage) are we living a minimalist dream?  Not quite.  Children will always manage to make a hell of a mess.



*apologies I can’t recall who coined this great term which refers to using couches as gymnastic equipment.

2 thoughts on “Detritus

  1. Yoodles

    When my daughter got sooooo much stuff for her 5th birthday (lovely to get the generous gifts, not complaining!!), I hid half of it in my cupboard to avoid the overload situation. I dole out the gifts one at a time, choosing something appropriate for the day (i.e. a fun game-for-one for a rainy afternoon, some glitter pens and a lockable diary for a recent plane trip). It has saved me from even more clutter and has the added bonus of being exciting for both of us (sad but true).

    1. Liberty

      great idea – Novelty is everything! You can even get away with hiding old toys and springing them out again months later. Or I’ve heard of another policy where anything left on the floor is ‘removed’ from the house forever. zero tolerance!


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