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‘Tis the Season…of STUFF

Oh, the mountains of STUFF!

Pictures of kid’s messy rooms recently began appearing on my Facebook feed, no doubt in anticipation of the more toys to come.  Living rooms, play rooms, bed rooms – all filled with heaps and heaps of STUFF.

Moms lamented, “I’ve given up on picking up toys.” “It drives me nuts!” “I’m constantly picking up his toys…” “My son’s room looks like a bomb went off!” “I’ve given up cleaning – it’s just going to get messy 5 minutes later.”

Having so much STUFF stresses us out…

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Imagine how stressful it is for our kids when they have to choose what to play with OR are being told to pick it up!

How would you feel to be told (over and over) to pick up your 20, or 50, or 70 things every day? (Add in some nagging and/or yelling for emphasis.)

No exaggeration! In Born to Buy, sociologist Juliet Schor reports that the average American child is given 70 toys per year. ….SEVENTY!

What to do?

You’ve probably fantasized about gathering everything into black plastic garbage bags and sneaking them out to the curb in the middle of the night.  But then…a picture of your sobbing child enters your head as he cries, “But that was special to me!”

After hearing me talk on this subject, a single dad decided to pack up and dispose of over half of his daughter’s toys. He anticipated her tantrum – but it never came. He saw a more relaxed child who was more deeply involved in her imaginative play.

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Take one step toward sanity!

“We downsized our whole lives and I couldn’t be happier!” said one Facebook Mom.

As a new influx of STUFF looms on the horizon at this gift-giving season, I turn to Kim John Payne of Simplicity Parenting, the voice of reason for de-cluttering and simplifying family life.

He describes the many occasions for which toys are now given – and it is easy to see how the total quickly reaches seventy!

Toys are no longer given for just one special occasion. Now, it is an avalanche – toys for grades, toys for behavior, toys just because, toys in fast-food restaurants, toys from grandparents, toys because “all my friends have one,” and toys for attending a birthday party (seriously? that trend needs to stop!).

Payne: “Too much stuff leads to too many choices, which leads to overwhelm and stress.”

Too much STUFF leads to overwhelm AND greed, entitlement, and unfocused, surface play.

The billion-dollar toy industry is MORE than HAPPY to be invited into your home!

Test it.

Ask your child (whether 4 or 14) to name some toy brands. According to Juliet Schor, in Born to Buy, “Children recognize logos by 18 months, ask for products by brand name by 2 years, and by 3 1/2 years they believe that certain brands will reflect well on them as cool, strong, smart, etc. By first grade, they can come up with over 200 name brands.”

Reverse the trend – thumb your nose at the toy industry!

Back to Payne’s wisdom: “As you decrease the quantity of your child’s toys, you increase their attention and their capacity for deep, creative play.”

Children with too many choices, don’t know what to choose, so they tend to wander from thing to thing to thing without learning and practicing the art of becoming deeply involved with only one thing at a time.

Even as you decrease the quantity of toys, pay attention to the quality of the toy.

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If you give a child a fire engine – bright, shiny red, with ladders and hoses – that toy can ONLY be a fire engine. Give him a block of wood – polished and sleek, with wheels or without – that block of wood can be ANYTHING – a space ship, a bulldozer, a train. You’ll see the fire engine quickly be relegated to “the pile” while the block of wood is played with again and again.

(photo courtesy of Bella Luna Toys)

But HOW?

The pile is massive and messy, your child pleads the case for every toy – “It’s special to me.”

Or, worse yet, you’re thinking, “Oh, I remember when he carried this around…when so-and-so gave it to him…or you love the item, too.”  Be strong!

Set aside two or three hours when your child is out of the house. Yep, give them a heads-up about it but they don’t get to help. They can choose 2 or 3 special items but YOU decide the rest.

There is a list below to guide you.

Make a Keep Pile, a Goodwill Pile, and a Maybe Pile. Then halve the Keep and the Maybe Piles and halve them again. BE STRONG!

Payne suggests these criteria for saying good-bye to the STUFF and welcoming a simpler, less-cluttered, confusing, overwhelming, and stress-filled home.

Checklist for saying good-bye…to STUFF!

BROKEN TOYS –

Whether it is old or new, if it’s broken – it goes out. (No, you won’t ever getting around to fixing it.)

DEVELOPMENTALLY INAPPROPRIATE TOYS –

If he doesn’t play with anymore, he’s likely outgrown it – so Goodwill or gift it forward. If you’re waiting for him to ‘grow into it’ – pack it away until he does.

‘FIXED’ TOYS –

These are the toys that can only be one thing – like the fire engine mentioned above – and they’ve likely quickly gotten bored with it and moved onto other toys.

TOYS THAT DO TOO MUCH & BREAK TOO EASILY –

Those toys with a million pieces (many of which are lost), and that has broken yet again – out with it!

TOY MULTIPLES –

Seriously, how many stuffed animals does one child need?

HIGH-STIMULATION TOYS –

Anything with flashing lights, annoying music, mechanical voices, and speed – they may give you a headache, but they give your child an adrenaline rush, which means you may be peeling him off the ceiling later.

ANNOYING or OFFENSIVE TOYS –

Now is your chance to get rid of that toy Great-Aunt Martha gave him 2 years ago – it was weird then and it is still weird – say bye-bye.

TOYS THAT CLAIM TO GIVE YOUR CHILD A ‘DEVELOPMENTAL EDGE’ –

As noted above, your child knows logos at a very early age. Advertisers know this too! They begin early, telling us how to have smarter, and even more beautiful children – don’t buy it!

TOYS YOU ARE PRESSURED TO BUY –

Your son just had to have that latest somethin-somethin last year, “Everyone has one, Mom!” he pleaded until you caved. He’s probably already moved on from this toy and you won’t fall for the pleading again this year, right?

TOYS THAT INSPIRE CORROSIVE PLAY –

If you have to manage how it is played with, do yourself a favor and let it go!

Still More Stuff:

After seeing this post, a mom posted this photo:

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How many beach toys do 2 children & 2 adults need to go to the beach?  Twenty-eight. There are 23 pictured here. We counted them after dumping them out, so we wouldn’t allow any to be washed away. This pic doesn’t even show the mountain of towels, swim floaters and snacks that we brought!”

You’ve said good-bye, and now what?

GET ORGANIZED:

Boys are very visual, so hide the visual clutter in baskets and bins, or behind a curtain. He’ll be less likely to ‘tear into things’ and more able to focus on one thing at a time. Teach them the habit of putting one thing back before getting the next one out – yes, it is possible!

BE ASSERTIVE:

Tell friends and family exactly what you’d like your child to be gifted. Stop the birthday party favor madness! Guide grandparents and others to gift simple experiences rather than STUFF. For example, Grandma can gift ingredients for a favorite recipe to cook together.

BE STRONG:

YOU could be that mom who said she downsized and couldn’t be happier!  It takes will-power and rolling up your sleeves. You’ll be calmer and your kids will be happier…that’s a promise!

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One Response to ‘Tis the Season…of STUFF

  1. Renee says:

    This is a great reminder to be simple! My older son was the biggest pack rat and also very messy. His room would get to the point where I couldn’t even walk in it and then he would start having problems finding things in the mess and end up being late. About every six months or so I would go into his room for the weekend (when he was at dad’s) and I would clear out about six garbage bags full of old toys and/or garbage. He was an only child and grandchild and so ended up with so many things! But as long as I didn’t touch his computer things he did not notice anything missing. The junk meant nothing to him after the newness wore off. It was so much more about getting. I’m trying to better with my younger son.

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