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Friday, 16 October 2015

How many is too many? Books, that is...

All of a sudden all the bookshelves in our house were crammed and overflowing.  It became a really fun game for the two little ones to pull out all of the books from their bookshelves (this could happen incredibly quickly) and jump around on them.  Not ideal. I kept coming across the name of a book through my scattergun searches on the internet called 'Simplicity Parenting' by Kim John Payne. Finally, a few months ago I requested it from the library. It was a revelation.  I felt that he was giving me, personally, permission to make a few (fittingly) on the surface of it, simple but profound changes.

These are the changes that I made:
1. I went through the bookshelves of both my son and daughter.  Anything that was too young was put aside and either given to charity, one of my sisters who is expecting a baby, or friends with babies.  If they were truly loved to pieces, I put them in the recycling.  This was only the case for a couple of books.
2.  Conversely, anything that was better suited for when they were older,  was also set aside, and stored in the attic.  I do however, think that children can appreciate books that might seem like they would be better for older children- for example, both of my children love Ritva Voutila's illustrated edition of 'The Selfish Giant' by Oscar Wilde.  So, I just used my own discretion with that.
3. Anything that was tied in with a product or poorly written was also donated to charity.  For example, we had some books of a popular tv series that is aimed mostly at boys, that to be honest, I don't think are very well written.  They are basically just transcripts of the episodes and my son actually wasn't interested at all, even though he does enjoy watching the actual show from time to time.
4. Once we had culled the books,  I put a selection back into the bookshelves.  The rest are stored in our hallway cupboard in two plastic containers and are rotated every few weeks.  If there is a book or two that are regular favourites, they stay out.

This book has beautiful illustrations- a fitting accompaniment for a beautiful and bittersweet story

The changes we noticed were immediate and positive. Firstly, the destructive games stopped. Secondly, we now seem to have a balance between allowing familiarity with books and allowing favourites to clearly emerge, partnered with the variety that comes from regular rotation.  I do agree with the philosophy around children needing routine to feel secure, as well as time and space to be creative. Decluttering the books was part of the process of creating that for our family. I think also that the two little ones are now engaging with their books in a more focused way.

A few other changes I made was to start requesting books from the library (not something I gleaned from the book, but from a parenting page on Facebook) and it has made our library visits both efficient and enjoyable.  I was finding that I would get to the library and have a complete mind blank about the different books or authors to hunt out.  Now, we go and collect the reserves, which ensures we have quality books to take home and enjoy for a few weeks. Then we sit and read or play with the toys while at the library rather than trying to multitask- do all of that, as well as find books, which makes me feel frazzled.

If you are interested, I highly recommend Kim John Payne's book.  There are also guidelines around decluttering toys as well as creating routines for the family, among some of the topics.  You can find a link to Kim John Payne's webiste here.


  1. Looking forward to checking out The Selfish Giant, I have enjoyed reading Oscar Wilde myself but wasn't aware he had also written some children's stories. I'm generally pretty clutter-free but now that we have an almost-toddler on the scene it's definitely harder to maintain a sense of order, will be checking out your recommendation, thanks!

    1. Hi Robyn, so lovely to hear from you! You might also like to find 'The Happy Prince' also by Oscar Wilde. His children's stories are very beautiful, but also bittersweet. Like you, I also like his adult works. It's a whole new ball game trying to maintain order with small children about isn't it?! :)