Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fighting the battle of the toy clutter

Inspired today by Peter Walsh I spontaneously decided it was time to tackle the toy clutter.
Years of begging, pleading and whining for them to pick up have taught me that they just have too much stuff. But they are little kids, so either sneaking toys away from them or forcing them to give up toys seems a little cruel. They are not responsible for the mountain of stuff...we, and the other adults in their lives, bought all of it. It is overwhelming for an adult, let alone a little kid, to deal with a glut of things.

So using Mr. Walsh's patented technique, we removed all the toys from their rooms, into one location. Each boy was given a large been and told we're going to play a game. We're going to pretend that the family is moving to a desert island, and we only have space on the plane for one bin of toys each. While I sorted like things together and put together odd pieces-and-parts of toys, it was their job to pick their very most important toys, only what would fit into their bin went back into their rooms.

I selected a very small amount of the things I've noticed them using a lot for the downstairs toybox. The boys had to each take their own box of toys upstairs and organize and store the things they are keeping. It went astonishingly well, and both boys got very excited about arranging their things.

Finally, I took all the untouched toys (this photo is only a fraction, and literally includes several never opened birthday and Christmas gifts) to the basement where they are on shelves called the "toy store." The boys were very reluctant to part with their toys, but seemed okay to have it in storage. They both seem very relieved at having so much less to take care of (over 50% of it is now in the basement.)

Key Points that made the process go well:

1. They made all the decisions. My only involvement was to facilitate the process, not to say "Aw, but uncle so-and-so got you that. Don't you want to keep it?" If I want my kids to be free of irrational attachment to things, I can't teach them to hold on to things irrationally.

2. They had total control of how they stored and organized their toys in their rooms.

3. We made no threats of giving toys away. I made a mild mention that we should throw out broken things, and if anyone wanted to consider donating a toy that would be a good idea.

4. I did not include things like the beloved stuffed animals on their beds or special items that were already being well cared for and frequently played with (Thomas trains, tiny legos.)

5. We set specific limits, and focused on what they get to keep instead of trying to wrestle things away.

6. We made new rules, which include that the "price" of getting something from the basement "toy store" was to take a similar item from the rooms to exchange it with.

7. We have already discussed with them that birthdays going forward will be down-scaled, explaining that big parties where you invite all your classmates are for little kids. They are both happy with this idea, and Zack is already saying he'd like to take one friend out to dinner and to the Lego store for his next birthday, because one great Lego kit is better then 20 random toys.

8. Also we have explained that each time new toys come into the house, old toys need to leave. We have also explained that if someone gets you a gift that really isn't important to you, it is totally okay to donate it!

9. We made it clear to them that it was a fun thing and no one was mad. Big departure from past failed attempts to declutter the toys.

10. Most importantly, husband and I both have spent the last two months decluttering our own things...a total now of 8 large bags and a box have been donated to the thrift store, three bags and a large box of books, movies and music have been sold to Half Price Books, and I personally have sold a dozen of my collectible vintage items on Etsy, and have kept my promise to quit lugging new stuff home. I've even donated lots of unused art and scrapbooking supplies. Buy seeing us do this, the boys are understanding that as a family we are all trying to simplify our lives.

Hopefully this little exercise will help them live a more quality life. Already, the usual Sunday morning fighting has subsided, the boys are content to play with a few choice things, and hopefully when they are done it will not be such a chore to put their toys away.

1 comment:

  1. you are amazing!!!! I need to whittle down my stuffs this year too. I use you as inspiration. xox