29 Oct How I Taught My Kids to Minimize
It’s always hard when I have to take my own advice. But I said it was important to involve kids in the de-cluttering process, so I bit the bullet yesterday and asked my kids which toys they wanted to keep and which ones they could donate or sell. I fully expected them to cling like crazy to their stuff, resulting in me having to, yet again, sneak behind their backs to get rid of the excess. But to my absolute surprise, my kids were willing to part with more than I ever imagined. I framed the de-cluttering session within the context of the upcoming holidays, telling them that Santa cannot bring new toys unless we let go of old ones we no longer play with. With this motivation in mind, my kids set about the de-cluttering task with fervor.
It was very interesting to see their choices. For instance, I was astounded when they ruthlessly halved their Matchbox car collection with reasons like, “He’s too slow” and “He doesn’t fit on the track.” Similarly, I couldn’t believe when my daughter chose to keep a hand-me-down, rough-looking Barbie while donating her newer sparkly Cinderella Barbie. (Maybe she shares her mama’s love of the underdog?)
Was it hard to watch them minimize some of these toys, especially ones that I had just bought them this summer for their birthday? It pains me to admit it, but yeah. However, I felt the exercise was only valuable if I left the choices completely up to them. If they wanted to keep a crappy McDonald’s toy, they kept it. If they wanted to sell the very, very nice wooden barn with wooden animals that I personally love, but they never have? Well, okay. My job as a parent is to teach them decision-making skills and responsibility. What would I be teaching them if I gave them a choice, but then made the decisions for them anyway? (Answer: that mom is in charge of your stuff, not you. Oh, I can visualize the passive-aggressive teenagers this type of parenting would create in my mind right now…)
Of course, there were certain times when I had to set parameters to help them make a choice. For example, my daughter has three dollhouses. I lined them up and said she could pick two to keep and one to sell. She chose to keep the two plastic ones and sell the nicer wooden one. This would definitely not have been my choice, but again, I wanted her to own the decision, so I simply said, “Okay” and posted the wooden one for sale on my moms group, where it sold like hotcakes. (She will reap the rewards in her piggy bank.)
At the end of the de-cluttering session, we had two full shopping bags of minimized toys, plus three larger items (the dollhouse, the barn, and a play kitchen). I believe my son Reese said it best: “Santa’s going to bring us LOTS of toys now!” And you know what? I’m okay with that. Having done this exercise with my kids helps me in two ways. First, I feel relieved that there is now some space for the new stuff this December. But secondly, and more importantly, I know that my kids are fully capable of keeping the toy glut in check. I don’t need to stress about it. When it gets to be too much, we can tackle the problem together. It’s like that “teach a man to fish” saying, except with stuff. I’d word it like this: “De-clutter for your kids, find peace for a day. De-clutter with your kids, find peace for a lifetime.” Well, at least for the upcoming holiday season, anyway.
I hope I’ve inspired some of you to tackle the scary task of getting your kids involved with de-cluttering. I’d love to hear some ideas or feedback on how it goes!