Saturday, March 16, 2013

Simplify by Radical Reduction, an Experiment

I thought I might make it a facebook survey, but then I decided to trust my gut and make it a personal experiment instead:

Hypothesis: one leading cause for my three-year-old's perpetually messy room is that he simply has too much stuff to successfully manage
(Upon consideration, the same could probably be said for most of us)

Hypothesis #2: by radically reducing the number and variety of things in Landon's room, he will enjoy and appreciate his belongings more

I have no idea what is developmentally appropriate as far as how independently this age should be able to put away their things without needing to be
asked again
poked and
to do such a thing.

In the end, I start to feel like I'm stuck in a revolving door-- unable to move into the room of "Success" or out into the fresh air of "This doesn't matter to me."   But before you think me a woman of unreasonably high expectations (we are talking about a three-year-old, after all) I just don't want to put myself in dangerous peril simply walking across the room. Most of all, I don't want the task of tidying up his room (with or without his help) to feel like such a momentous project.

I mean really, should the heights of my achievements on a daily basis be, "Wow, we got Landon's room up to normal living conditions, yet again.

So today, we began The Experiment.

What would happen if we reduced his bedroom possessions by at least 75%?
(We have a play area downstairs that we didn't address)

If a bedroom should be a peaceful haven--a place to read yourself to sleep and good dreams--then shouldn't it  feel peaceful and uncluttered?

Process:        1. Reduce everything by as much as Landon can joyfully accept.
                     2. Don't second-guess any of his decisions. If he wants to part with the animal I would have         chosen, let him.
                     3. Celebrate the spartan new room and observe results.

Here's what that looked like for a few areas:

Matchbox cars: Landon has a large collection.  When I asked him how many he wanted to keep, he chose 12.  (woo hoo- bonus that he doesn't count that high yet!)

Crayons: He could furnish a classroom with crayons.  We chose his best 12 and bagged the rest.  (Stifling creativity? We'll see.)

Stuffed animals: A well-loved menagerie lived on his bed. (or under it and around the room) I suggested choosing one for every year of his life and letting the others take a vacation together.  I was stunned when he went with this idea.

Art Supplies: no longer a suitcase he will be allowed to take out any any time, night or day.  (In hours of insomnia the crafty bug gets him and we'd wake up to find his room looking like several aisles of Hobby Lobby had exploded in it.)

Paper and pen supplies: reduced his paper supply from a full ream, plus 3 years' worth of Bill's old paper planners, to what can fit in a file folder and a few pens and pencils in a ziplock bag.

Books: every shelf needed at least 6-12 inches of breathing space.  Weeded them until that was true.

Bed blankets: he's such a big "nester" that it is several loads of laundry to wash his bed linens.  We removed three of the blankets.

Even typing this out is making me uncomfortable.  It sounds rigid and spare. Who doesn't want to have 24/7 access to a suitcase brimming with supplies to make both messes and magic?   Who doesn't want to have dozens of cars to sort, count and align?  And only one shade of purple? Is that even right?

But here's the thing:
I'd like to spend more time enjoying our time together and less time on Tornado Recovery Patrol in his room. I want more intentionality and less random chaos.
I'd like to see more gratitude for what he has and less "What else?" on his mind.
These are mindsets I'd like to nourish in myself, as well.

Disclaimer: None of his stuff got thrown away, merely relocated to an inaccessible box.  He knows that we can rotate in his animals, coloring books, and cars.  He knows he can get more crayons, markers and paper as needed. And he knows that he can ask for that suitcase and work at the table just about any time I'm awake.

So what do you think?  I'm not sure, either.  I'll be sure to post a follow-up regarding the outcomes of this experiment.

I'm hopeful.
And curious.
And happy to peek in on my sweet sleeping boy without having to stifle pseudo-expletives as I step on parts and pieces strewn across his room.


  1. I think it's a good idea from my perspective. He can be just as creative with less..he won't be distracted away from "what else is there".
    Love you!

    1. We'll see, Sue! And I love you, too, dear firefly. : )

  2. Richard Foster calls this the spiritual discipline of deaccumulation - that we're freed from our materialism as we unclutter regularly. He goes further in the realm of just getting rid of it all, but understandably your sweet Landon will remember exactly all 15 of his stuffed animals that are hidden and that other shades of purple do in fact exist. So the box is likely the perfect solution for this experience in freedom. Great perspective as always, I so love your heart and skills as a mama! Kristi C