Sustainably Single Parenting

Making the most of life's journey alongside my three!!!

Toy Cycling Update January 16, 2013

I began cycling the girls’ toys out this past July. They had so many toys in their room that it was impossible to keep things tidy. There just isn’t enough space for everything to fit comfortably in our condo. It’s a big change from the ample amount of space we had in our Illinois home, but I realized that even if I could find a way to make things more organized the girls would still be surrounded by too many playthings.

There were so many toys on their floor that they no longer liked to play in their room! There were so many options of what to play with that they often chose to play with anything other than their various options. I fought the urge to spend money we didn’t have on new toy purchases, and decided to take a contrasting approach. I gathered most of their things, and took them to our storage unit.

In the beginning I allowed them to choose three sets of toys and three noisy/random toys apiece. Sets were things like their bin filled with Dinosaurs or their bucket of insects. Noisy/random toys could be anything from their keyboard to their jacks. I’d kept for them the dress-up clothing, puzzles, board games, and books. The plan was to keep the same toys for a few weeks and then to go back to our storage unit and switch out old sets for new ones.

Things started off wonderfully. We went to our storage facility every few weeks and the girls were excited about toy cycling. They enjoyed having enough space to play in their room and we were able to keep it clean much easier. When school began in September it became more difficult to make it out to the storage unit for what we’d titled “Switch Day.” Sometimes we’d get to our storage unit and the girls would not see anything that was worth switching for a current set. To avoid this I’d take them out to get new toys before making them choose which they’d be trading in, but oftentimes I’d then forget to take the old sets back and the girls would wind up with far too many items in their room again.

Things got even worse around the holidays. I’d brought home extra sets of toys so that the girls wouldn’t be bored if we got stuck in the house for awhile after Hurricane Sandy. I increased their dress-up clothing stash substantially after Halloween. Also, when the semester was drawing to a close I was so busy that I didn’t take the girls to our storage unit for nearly 7 weeks. Christmas toys just added to the overflow, and it gave me one more thing to include on the list of items that I always keep in their room: their new dollhouse.

Just this week we’ve gotten back on track with toy cycling. They still get to choose three large sets and three noisy/random toys, but now I’m also keeping a list of the sets they’ve chosen and the date we’ll switch again. Knowing when the next “switch day” will occur keeps the girls from begging me to go to our storage unit every afternoon. Also, having the list of which sets they’ve chosen somehow helps them to better understand their boundaries while pickings their toys.

So far it has been wonderful. Today, the girls played peacefully and creatively for over an hour with a set of knights and dragons. They hadn’t seen those toys in nearly two months, so it was a really exciting game for them to play together. I still have plans to go through everything that they never choose and donate things to charity, but I’ve been way too overwhelmed to handle that mountainous task.

I am still so very happy that we began toy cycling and that the system still works.


‘Tis the Season to go Rummaging August 3, 2012

Filed under: Simply Sustainable — B_Momof3 @ 9:57 pm
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Summer just isn’t summer without yard sales. My motivation for going out today, since we really didn’t need any more toys to add to our cycling schedule, was to find dining room chairs.

We have been without dining room chairs for an entire year now. The girls seem not to mind dining at their Disney Princess table and I make do on the couch with a TV tray, but eating in separate places really takes the family bonding time out of dinner.

I’d been looking for the right deal, but between starting graduate school, caring for my two children, and riding the roller coaster of my marriage I hadn’t actually done much looking. At last, I found six old wooden chairs — for a total of $30 I could not find enough reasons why I shouldn’t take the dive.

I don’t know anything about refinishing wood, but there should be enough internet tutorials available to make me capable. Maybe I’ll finally put to use the “Do it Herself” handy-woman book that I received as a gift several years ago. I am determined to make this bargain beautiful.

The sale did not totally revolve around our new chairs. I got a few things for the girls that I wasn’t looking for, like life jackets for one dollar apiece; the girls brought money from their piggy banks and found new assets as well. Terra chose dress up attire, a ballerina Barbie, a flashlight with multiple attachments to create images on the ceiling, and a water gun which wound up being broken. Amara chose a castle set with battling knights, rolling dragons, and flag-clad horses. She also chose Littlest Pet Shop and Harry Potter sets; she knows nothing of either series, but each came with lots of little pieces and that’s what she’s most fond of lately.


Overall, we enjoyed a wonderful summer day. We got sweaty, drank lemonade, spent a bit of money, and all came home to clean our new things and start playing. My chairs may take a while to finish, but I’ll be sure to write about their transformation. I’m so excited to finally have them, especially to have bought them so inexpensively. Soon, we will eat dinner as a family. I absolutely love yard sale season.


Toy Cycling July 20, 2012

Filed under: Simply Sustainable — B_Momof3 @ 11:36 pm
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Our house in Illinois is spacious; built in the 1930’s, two stories, and ample space for storing rarely used things. Our condo in New England is about 1/3 the size of the home we own (though we pay more than twice our mortgage to live here) and there is absolutely no space for things that are not needed daily. Unfortunately, when we moved in I was not the one to handle the unpacking, and as I was busy with the beginnings of graduate school I just became accustomed to the way my husband had arranged things.

Since our separation I have begun going through each room and reorganizing, removing what is not vital, and making the space livable by simplifying our surroundings. I saved my daughters’ room for last. Their room was a scary beast that I was unwilling to wrestle with on the little strength I’ve been able to manage between my normal mothering responsibilities, our to-do list, and the never-ending pregnancy nausea and fatigue. Today, I won the battle, but what a battle it was!

My daughters have been absolutely refusing to help put their toys away for the past four days. Usually I kindly encourage them, let them listen to music while they’re working, or break the cleaning up into toy groups and after each group has been put away they get a prize. Sometimes I’ll put on a wig and use a southern accent and call myself Missy Lou; I tell them I’ve taken a break from my farm work to help out, and after the room is clean I always throw some type of party (painting, reading, play-doh, baking), they love this bit! Today I let them play, had them do pages from their learning workbooks, and let them use their V Tech V.Smile.

Their room was a disaster zone, but it was not only because they haven’t cleaned it. They have so many toys to choose between that it’s nearly impossible to keep everything clean. They cannot access a good amount of the toys in their room because they are blocked by other toys, and they cannot play with the toys they have access to because their room is so cluttered there’s no space to enjoy them!


I started with a deep clean of the entire room. Once everything was back where we usually put it I took almost everything out. I thought it through and had the girls each pick three sets of toys that they would like to put back in their room. I already knew I would keep their books, puzzles, and board games.

Amara choose the Strawberry Shortcake set, the Little People set, and her bin filled with small animals. Terra choose Elefun (a toy she rarely plays with, but maybe only because she could not access it before), a jar of multi-colored cookies, and her babydoll with select accessories. I let them each choose three noise-making toys, one backpack, and a selection of friends to keep in the hammock in the corner of their room.

I didn’t take away any of their dress up clothes; the bottom two drawers of their smaller dresser are completely filled with dress up clothes. They come up with the most elaborate costumes and play with the items creatively every day, so I figured they could stay.

I didn’t really take anything away. I’m just removing it from their room and our small condo. I’ve told the girls that once every few weeks we’re going to take a trip out to our storage unit to pick out toys to replace those we’ve been playing with. They know that their things are safe, and they have both given their approval for the added playing space.

My plan is to actually start getting rid of some toys after a few months; those they never choose to play with, forget about, or I deem inessential. I wouldn’t do it without telling them, in fact, I want them to be a part of our donations. I think it will be a good experience for them to learn the value of giving, not for the sake of getting something back.


I hope that cycling out their toys will teach them to respect the space they have, foster the creativity necessary to play with the same things in different ways, ease the cleaning process since there’s not nearly as much to take care of, and help them to appreciate the newness of old objects once they’ve been out of sight awhile.

Their room feels so much more peaceful now. The battle is won, but the journey has just begun.