The Toys we Tossed

by Kari on October 1, 2014


Ok friends, I mentioned Monday that I’d share some details from our Simplification Process. First off, the most unruly of areas: KIDS’ ITEMS (toys & books). Since stores already have Christmas decorations up and toys on strategic low-level displays, this is a good time to do a clean-sweep, and to set the simplicity standard before the holiday onslaught of stuff.

Kids’ items

Payne suggests reducing kids’ toys by 75%! That is, they keep 1/4 of their total toys. He suggests taking a day, alone, and doing this revamp without children there to declare their undying love for every chintzy piece of plastic in the bin. I didn’t have the luxury of an alone-day, but I did undertake “Operation Shawshank” (remember how Morgan Freeman sneaks out the dirt as he digs his way out of prison?) for several weeks. “Shawkshank-style,” I snuck out boxes and boxes of less-than-stellar toys and books, keeping only a few of the favorites. Per Payne’s advice, we personally tossed:


  • Broken toys:  It’s amazing how many one-armed figures get lost at the bottom of the bin. How many puzzles with missing pieces, how many items you keep set to the side “until you can replace that broken piece.” Forget it, unless it’s one of the most precious and dearest toys, toss it. We tossed a lot of broken toys straight into the trash.

Games-Disney Infinity

  • Conceptually “fixed” toys (i.e. Movie-themed toys): I’m inevitably going to lose a lot of friends here, but per Payne’s advice I tossed all movie-themed toys (gasp!). We had actually been headed this direction for some time, wanting the backdrop of our kids’ childhood to be nature and imagination and classical stories, not Disney or Nickelodeon characters. A whopping ninety-seven percent of American children six and under have products based on TV shows or movies. Again, not that those items are evil, but they “point down a road of commercial possibilities,” with the newest and latest products, sequels, additions.  The obsession is to get “the next” … whatever. Please hear my heart in this–not judging, just choosing for our own family. Payne asks, “Whose imagination is being celebrated: Hollywood’s or the child’s? “
  • Annoying toys (i.e. most anything with batteries). Here Payne says to get rid of toys “purchased by someone who doesn’t have children, or who knows they’ll only be visiting for a short time.” Ha! That is, if it makes you crazy, toss it!
  • Toys that inspire corrosive play. Ok, so here’s more fightin’ words: I tossed out the guns. I totally understand that boys will be boys, and they will turn a banana into a gun. It seems boys’ pointer fingers and thumbs were made to turn into guns! I’d never put the kabosh on guns, but Payne made a great point that imaginary weapons are harmless, but “fully detailed plastic assault rifles are a step beyond.” The overarching point of this is to foster imagination.  So, a pointer-finger and thumb will do just fine. My exception to this was a real sling-shot that Jeff got Dutch at a farm store. We keep it out of reach and it’s used only for Daddy-Son times. The second was Dutch’s dollar-store bow and arrow set. As long as he practices at inanimate objects, I’m happy.  Payne also explains this is the “you know it when you see it” toy. The kind that always ends in fights. Toss it.

Payne also suggests tossing toys that are developmentally inappropriate for your child’s age, toys that “do too much” and break too easily, high-stimulation toys, toys that claim to give your child a developmental edge (that feed that gnawing hunger to push push push your child, toys you were pressured to buy (and vow to never buy a toy because your child whined long enough), and toy multiples (i.e. one stuffed kitty is special, 8 stuffed kitties are overwhelming).

What did we keep?  Legos (out of sight in under-bed totes), the most beloved stuffed animals, “army guys”, animal figures (including My Little Ponies and Littlest Pet Shop), and our favorite puzzles and games.


When Payne started talking about tossing books, I was ready to toss his book. I love my books. We’re all voracious readers and you’d better have good reason to start clearing my shelves. Payne did. He made the great point, that to truly know and absorb a good book is better than merely consuming vast numbers of them. (Interestingly, I had just made a personal plan to focus in on repeatedly reading a few of my “life-book” favorites, really knowing them and absorbing them, rather than just consuming more and more.) He reminds us that repetition is a vital part of relationship building for children. So, he suggests using the same criteria for books as we did for toys. Although I thought it’d be painful, it was freeing. After tossing all the movie-themed books, annoying books (you know, the ones you always hope your kids don’t ask you to read!), books that  inspire corrosive play or poor attitudes, or just poorly written, low-quality books, we were left with … well, we still had a lot of books, but that’s ok. Then we organized them into bins, because realistically children cannot slide books neatly into a bookshelf. We separated them into:

This way the kids can quickly and easily pick up all the books and sort them. In a house that has lots of books, this system has helped immensely!

The result

From the very first day I noticed the kids actually playing with the few toys remaining. They were more focused, enjoying their things more.  The same with books–after reducing the stacks dramatically they have gravitated toward a few favorites more. We’ve seen a few surface as particular favorites, ones they didn’t even notice before. Dutch read Classic Starts The Odyssey and The Iliad each through twice! By only surrounding them with things I want them to read and play with, it sure makes homeschooling easier! :)  I can’t say enough that less is more is actually true. Now, if only I had the courage to do this to my book collection …

{Yikes! I’d better take my own advice and write fewer words. I’ll try to be more succinct next time. :) Happy toy-tossing; Thanks for reading!}



On Anne Ortlund and the simplified life

by Kari on September 29, 2014


“I don’t shave my legs, I cream the hair off …”

You have to love Anne Ortlund. Those are her words. Maybe you don’t know her, but she has been an inspiration and mentor of sorts to me, although we’ve never met. Every few years I pick up Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman and re-read it again. I first read it at 18 and instantly fell in love with this woman almost 60-years my senior.  I’ve always wanted to meet her, and several years ago I remember googling for several hours trying to track down contact information. I knew she’d be in her late-80s, and I wanted so badly to thank her personally for so touching my life, before she left this one behind for the next.

Today I looked her up again. She’s with Jesus.disciplines

Precious Anne Ortlund 1923-2013, floated into glory last November. It might seem ridiculous that I have tears as I type this, but truly I have come to love this woman. She wrote seriously and light-heartedly about following Jesus and living for Him in the practical nitty-gritty details of daily life. She and her husband Ray Ortlund (also with Jesus), in my estimation, were one of THE most faithful and noteworthy couples of the last century. Jim & Elisabeth Elliott are more famous, but Ray and Anne are right up there and both of their words have guided Jeff and me countless times. Their son, Ray Ortlund, Jr now writes and pastors and carries the baton of faith. His life is a testimony to his mother’s faithfulness.

But back to shaving or creaming our legs.

She wrote about everything from shaving and creaming to praying to goal-setting to prioritizing to disciple-making to organizing. It’s true, her practical advice may be a bit dated now. No longer do we cream our legs or keep our paper calendars next to the telephone. Nowadays our calendar IS our telephone. When I read the list of her streamlined, simplified wardrobe I had to look up what a “street-length” outfit was. She would probably be appalled at my uber-casual apparel, but nonetheless I so appreciate her commitment to streamline and simplify in order to really focus on what matters most in life.

It’s interesting that I re-read her book just after finishing Simplicity Parenting. Apparently every Divine roadsign in my life currently reads:

  • Simplify!
  • Streamline!
  • Focus!
  • De-clutter!
  • Prioritize!

The point of all this is to reduce unnecessary areas of stress, subconscious daily energy-drains that deplete us and leave us spiritually lethargic or worse … apathetic.

So we did it. Simplicity overhaul. It was about a month process (and of course ongoing!) but I cannot say enough about how much it has helped. So since I keep mentioning this concept, I thought it’d be fun this week to just give a little detailed overview of exactly what we simplified, what that looked like, and how it’s helped. One thing I love about her book is how she shares the real, detailed, nitty-gritty bits of life that help me see what all this looks like in real time. Many of you mentioned in this post that you liked that as well.  Chances are you’ve already gotten a handle on the things we’re just now nailing, but maybe some little tidbit here or there could be helpful. So here’s what we’ll do:

  • Wednesday: Kids’ Items & Clothing
  • Friday: Schedule & Meals

Again, I’m not an expert on these things, I’m just your Jesus-loving girfriend who’s stumbling along at your side, and thought it’d be fun to share our recent journey. I’d love if you’d also share what successful secrets you’ve discovered in simplifying life so you can focus on what really matters.

{See you Wednesday. Until then, perhaps pick up a copy of Anne’s book and check it out for yourselfThanks for reading.}



Not what you had in mind …

September 26, 2014

I really just wanted to get out of the house … alone. It was a great day, really. No complaints. But those littles woke up (why?!) at 6am and we’d been going strong for more than 10 hours and this Mama Just. Needed. A. Break.  The library had a book I’d put on hold for […]

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When your day is hi-jacked …

September 24, 2014

Finally, the day I’d been waiting for. The first day of fall. A firm believer in drinking every last day-drop of summer, we held off on homeschool until fall officially arrived. We beached, played, swam, and goofed until the very end, and by the time the whole thing wound down I was ready for routine. Please, […]

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When you need more energy…

September 22, 2014

It all began with that ridiculous poop post.  I can’t pass a piece of trash on the sidewalk without remembering this: A man was walking along the sidewalk just as a flashy sports car was pulling up at a traffic light.  The man in the car finished his soda and tossed the empty can out the […]

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Today’s Amazing God-Story

September 19, 2014

So I’m sitting here at Starbucks on the Oregon Coast with my little squirrel-daughter sitting opposite me, sipping a kiddie hot cocoa … and we are both marveling at God’s love for us.  Sometimes you just have to share “God stories” right? We know God moves in our mundane but sometimes we just need to share […]

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Unearthing wonders

September 17, 2014

We heaved over the heavy blue vinyl and drained the last bit of summer straight out. I watched the water soak down into the soil. “The next time we set up this pool they’ll be 6 and 8.” Not sentimental by nature, but this was the eve of Retreat Season. The last real night of […]

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I don’t wish you were anyone else…

September 15, 2014

When we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  ~ The 8-foot long aircraft carrier USS Nimitz stretched across the back yard. Bent over the top were Jeff and Dutch–Dutch holding the electric sander while Jeff guided his little hands, carefully smoothing out the wooden top of the massive battleship.  For days Dutch had been begging his […]

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When your God-dream is dying…

September 12, 2014

Now, as several years have passed and I can see this story in the rearview mirror of my mind, it makes sense. The surrender and the beauty of God’s fulfillment and timing. God DID resurrect His dream in our hearts and made it all come to pass. It’s so crystal clear now. But then it was cloudy. Confusing. […]

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Missionary Mama

September 10, 2014

{Today we welcome Laura M. Thomas, a fellow blogger with a passion for glorifying God in the midst of the mundane. I pray her words resonate with and encourage you today…} ~ From the ages of 19-25, I traveled to 20 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East just to share the love of […]

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