Monday 15 August 2016


When you are living your life, you often just view that as "normal". In many cases, you expect - give or take - that most people live a similar type of existence. Or at least your peers.

But sometimes a stray comment or two can make you see your life in a new light.

This happened over the weekend when friends from Sydney came to visit. One of them remarked how tidy our home was, and noted that it wasn't overrun with "stuff". She said that their house was filled with kids' toys and they were everywhere.

I haven't been to their current home, but I've been to many like it. The homes of other friends and people's places that I've visited during the course of my work as an interior stylist.

I've been to homes that have entire rooms dedicated to toys. I've sat on sofas surrounded by piles of plastic - figurines, cars, lawn mowers, bicycles and push-button games. All of a sudden last night I had a vision of all the plastic toys from all the people I know piled high. It would be a mountain, and it would just be a speck of dust in comparison to the rest of plastic toys the world over.

And while I don't have a big problem with plastic toys per se - some of them are made out recycled plastic and others, such as Lego or Schleich, are good quality and can be passed down from one child to another and even one generation to another - it is the quantity that people have in their homes that sits uncomfortably.

Even our removalist commented on how few things we had for a family of (then) five when we moved home last year.

While we have never been excessive consumerists, our desire to live with less has been something we have had to cultivate over the years. Even if we don't buy superfluous goods for our home, it doesn't seem to stop the rest of the world from bestowing them upon us. Whenever we go to the hardware store there are towers of balloons with plastic sticks that are almost impossible to walk past with a three or five-year-old. But just think of how many balloons and plastic sticks each individual store must go through, and then consider how many hardware stores there are across the country. And that's just this country. It's worth considering the damage balloons can do on the environment though.

Even a trip to someone else's birthday party sees us come home with a party bag of plastic toys. Often they are cheap, break easily and end up in the rubbish bin. As I have considered these issues over the years, I've always tried to provide party bags with something a little longer lasting. For example, at my son's recent birthday party I gave each child a ply letter of their name painted in chalkboard paint and some pieces of chalk to decorate themselves for their rooms.

When it comes to receiving gifts I have found that gentle requests on birthday invitations can help. Often I include a small comment "please no plastic toys" or "books or educational toys welcome".

And, funnily enough, I have found that with each successive child it has been easier to say no to plastic (or toys in general) and also cull them from our lives. So now we have a house that has one cupboard with two shelves of toys - for three children (the baby has a couple of soft toys, and that's pretty much it). And most of these are puzzles or boxes of Lego. Other than that, we have one basket with some musical instruments, and two baskets for each of the girls with stuffed toys. There are a few other items too - quality wooden pieces - such as blocks and bikes that can be passed down from one child to the next, and hopefully one generation to another.

But, as I was saying to my friend, the children don't really play with a lot of their toys that much anyway. The girls are in a "cutting" stage and have spent most of the past week chopping up pieces of cardboard from delivery boxes. And they have been creating "jail" from chairs and cushions. In the most recent school holidays they played with a couple of large cardboard boxes almost every day - they were cars, cubby houses, a rocket ship and a music play station. And our eldest daughter enjoys creating and curating collections - from feathers to seashells. Our son requested a Rubik's cube for his birthday and it was one of the toys he received, which he has been playing with. But other than that the main toy he plays with is a skipping rope. He's much more interested in using tools in the workshop now.

In general, the children much prefer to run outside and play in the great outdoors - "fishing" in the pond with bamboo sticks, creating fairy gardens or pretend fires from rocks and sticks. And there's a lot of playing with mud!

Of course, not everyone lives on 26 acres and is able to just let their children run free outside. But even when we were in the city, the children's preference was to do art and craft in the kitchen - mainly using a box of pencils, some scissors and a pile of paper. If they played outdoors in our courtyard, they enjoyed water play with a large tub and milk cartons. Or drawing with chalk.

Sometimes the hardest word to say can be "no". But the rewards can greatly outweigh the discomfort of saying it.

images the indigo crew


1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for your words here Natalie I really needed the reminder
    Being in a very small 2 bed apartment I always feel the need to de clutter and I'm getting better at it. Your a wonderful source of inspiration and for that I thank you for sharing so generously xx