The four areas Payne focuses on for simplifying a child's world are:
- Environment (reducing the number of toys, books, clothes, drastically, to reduce choices and visual clutter).
- Rhythm (establishing rhythms and inserting predictability in a child's day).
- Schedules (reducing the amount of time spent in scheduled activities to allow for lots of free time for unstructured play).
- Media (reducing or eliminating exposure to media and adult conversations in order to preserve childhood, and not cause children stress about things going on in the world that they have no control over).
A lot of what Payne recommends makes common sense--for example, a lot of visual clutter causes me anxiety, so why wouldn't the same be true for kids? And, whenever we do a major clean-up (and clean-out) of toys, they all seem to settle down and play in the new open area; rediscovering toys they forgot existed because they were just part of the "pile." I also have to admit, I love any child care advice that runs counter to prevailing notions--like choice. Every magazine or book you pick up on parenting says give your toddlers and small children lots of choices so they feel in control. Payne says, giving them too many choices makes them feel overwhelmed.
However, what Payne makes sound so easy (pile up all your kids toys, then take away half, then half again), like an afternoon project, could take weeks or months (how do you even find all of your kids' toys?). I did do (another) major clean-out of the boys' room, filled up a box for Goodwill, took some big toys that they don't really play with but that I don't want to part with (my old doll house, the wooden barn) down to the basement, filled up three boxes of books for the library book sale. But still, there's a long way to go, and it will be the work of more than one afternoon. So, I'm going to take simplifying area by area, room by room, moment by moment over the next few months.
I'll be back Monday with my first Simplification project: The Mudroom. I'd love it if you joined me. Please chime in in the Comments and link to any posts you have about simplifying (whether Kim John Payne style or not).