A Simple Approach to Living With Less

How to Break Your Child’s Attachment to Stuff

Cluttered rooms.

Stuffed closets.

Overflowing toy boxes.

Games. Gadgets…and more

Does that describe your house? It certainly described my house not so long ago. Unfortunately I didn’t discover minimalism until my three kids were firmly attached to their toys. I can’t hardly blame them. I was attached to stuff too.

So, what’s my #1 tip on how to break your child’s attachment to stuff?


I’m a big believer in going cold turkey, ripping off the band-aid, and jumping in with both feet.

Overused analogies aside, when it comes to breaking your child’s attachment to stuff I think it’s better to just go ahead and remove the excess. Younger children don’t usually know how much is enough and how much is excessive. It’s our job as parents to determine that for them.

So cut down the Barbie doll collection, weed out the Hot Wheels and the Legos, and pack up the piles of games. Keep the favorites. Pack up the rest. You don’t have to trash the extras yet, but explore the reality of “out of sight, out of mind.”

At the same time you remove the excess, insert a distraction. The distraction serves to pair a positive reaction with the removal of their stuff.

Some distraction suggestions:

  • Play outside together
  • Go on a nature walk
  • Bake cookies
  • Play a family board game
  • Break out the craft supplies
  • Read stories out loud to your kids
  • Have a family movie night
  • Go on a family camping trip
  • Let your kid explore a new hobby or interest

I’ve found that without the distractions or opportunities to do something new together, our kids want to fall back into their old habits. The main thing is to help your child see that getting rid of things they don’t use or need can be a good thing. You don’t want them feeling like they are missing out on something.

Now it’s your turn: How do you help your kids break their attachment to stuff?

If you’d like to read more about minimalist living for families, please consider reading my book, Family-Sized Minimalism or  sign up for updates. Thanks so much for reading!

Don’t forget that A Minimalist Family Christmas is still on sale for $0.99. If you’re looking for advice and ideas on simplifying your holidays you should check it out.

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Article originally published on 11/09/2011

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  1. BerniceWood says

    Your kids may “think” they love their toys and have to have them, but in reality what they crave more than anything is time and attention from you, their parent. If you can put away a portion of their toys over time, and increase your interaction and encouragement to do more creative things such as art or reading, they really won’t know the difference. I would not, however, get rid of their favorite toy. Be sensitive to their feelings. But most kids would not even realize you have removed 30-40% of their stuff as long as you leave their favorites!


    • FaithJanes says

      I totally agree, Bernice. As long as the most loved items are kept out, they most likely won’t miss the rest. I’ve tried that experiment before where I’ve removed several items and then challenged my boys to tell me what was missing and they had no clue. @BerniceWood

  2. Minimalist Mommi says

    I’ve always sort of limited toys, but I still feel like we have WAY TOO MUCH! Thankfully, the boys are still young, so it’s much easier. Although, our 3.5 year old is VERY attached to certain toys. He has learned that he can give toys away to “kids who don’t have toys” and even did so yesterday, getting rid of about 10 more things. My issue is with the big toys…how many are too many? I actually just posted on this topic yesterday begging for advice lol!

  3. SimplyBeingMum says

    My number one counter attack is that I leave the art/craft stuff out at all times on the kitchen table – I have a ‘Clutter Corner’. The kids will make things, draw, write – and even if I’m not sitting with them and am pottering then we can still talk about what they are doing, or just general chit chat. It’s the focal point of their activity. I know it’s not very minimalist to do this – but it works for us. My daughter calls it her Art Studio. In fact I photographed my entire kitchen today when I posted <a href=”http://simplybeingmum.com/2011/11/09/can-a-family-kitchen-be-minimal/”>Can a family kitchen be minimal?</a> This shows the clutter in all it’s glory!

  4. “Younger children don’t usually know how much is enough and how much is excessive. It’s our job as parents to determine that for them.” Oh, if only I’d thought of it this way when my older two were younger! Sometimes I need to see/hear it from someone else to be reminded. Thanks!

  5. We didn’t buy toys that had to do with tv. My 2 daughters didn’t have Barbie or fashion dolls-only baby dolls. Our 6 children only had one stuffed animal each. We didn’t buy Disney products. We home educated 1985-2011. We only bought from mostly 4-5 catalogs-Abeka(science,history,health,spelling,penmanship, art,music,etc.) Christian Liberty Press(preschool,kindergarten readers, educational games, math,etc.), keepersofthefaith.com, Rod & Staff(Crockett,KY catalog),etc.(we used Seton testing). Now I follow the same rules for our 5 granddaughters. Years ago, we lived in South Florida and our house didn’t have a basement or garage(only a carport). The attic was too hot to use. When we moved back north I didn’t clutter the basement, garage or attic. At the end of every school year we had a homeschool give-away box that we put books,DVDs, CDs, games,etc. in.

    • Faith Janes says

      As a fellow homeschooler, I recognize those catalog names. 🙂 Eliminating TV commercials was a big help in curbing the constant requests from our kids for new toys. Keeping the clutter at bay is a great tip as well. Thanks for commenting, Taryn.

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  7. Thank you for good site.
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