Living aboard a boat for the past 10.5 years has been a lesson in simplicity. Way before voluntary simplicity was "in" we employed the rule of "if you want something, you have to get rid of something in its place".
It was pretty easy, until having a baby. We're a tad more lax on that rule now, but Zach still has WAY fewer toys and knick knacks than most land lubber kids. Basically the rule now is the toy has to be well made, open ended (meaning it can be played with lots of ways), no batteries required, and I try to avoid plastic unless it's for the tub or outside. This path led us straight in to a very Waldorf inspired playing and learning environment. But even Waldorf, which is natural and simple in its intent, can end up being a big playroom full of overpriced stuff, just prettier stuff than the plastic box toy store variety. I think kids make the most of what they have. And when they don't have a lot, they use their brain power more to create the scenarios they desire. It's amazing what Z comes up with using paper, cardboard, crayons, wool, cloth, glue, shells, sticks, rocks, and a few home made gnomes. Art supplies are kept in a small canvas crate where he can get them any time he feels inspired. Same with a small sewing kit.
We try to keep certain items out and accessible along the back of the settee.
This little cast of characters may look like your ordinary house gnomes, but with a sprinking of kid imaginations they become astronauts, pirates, the kids from The Sound of Music, the seasons, ice cream cones, knights, you name it.
Little baskets from the Dollar Store hold tree blocks, play silks and felt balls and bean bags, and one filled with coconut shells, coral, seashells, cork, and wool.
And this is our winter version of a "nature table". We keep it confined to a "nature box" which is from the Melissa and Doug instrument set. I never quite understood the idea of a nature table full of expensive Ostheimer and Holztiger figures, and some I have seen don't have one little tidbit from the great outdoors. Ours is all found items from the season as Zach plucks them up, a few candles, and little home made gnomes and crafts. It may not be pretty, but it's natural!
Everything else is stores in little bags under the sette table. A bag for blocks, a bag for animals, a bag for space toys, a bag for the marble run, a bag for the tea set, a bag of pirate stuff, and a load of dress up clothes in the cubby under his bed. There is NOTHING on this boat that does not get used. And if something isn't proving itself worth of our limited square footage, it gets a new home (freecycle, goodwill, friend, or garbage) FAST!
Our best plaything is the great outdoors!
So what happens when we cast off and go for a sail? The baskets and crates manage to stay put. Any other odds and ends get bagged up and put under the settee table too.