Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Way To Feel Happy About Scaling Back Christmas Gifts For Your Kids

So the day before Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving morning was partly spent facilitating my children tidying up the playroom. You see I just wanted our relatives to be able to walk in the room without it being a true safety hazard, without it involving personal risk of injury, and of course to have clear floor space to play with some toys!

I swore I’d never tidy it up again, that I’d always make them clean up their own mess. However I joined in with the goal of evaluating the situation.

I opened a cabinet to find three baby dolls and clothes. The oldest one was purchased for my older son when I became pregnant with my second child. He was so cute then, at two years old, carrying around a baby doll sometimes and giving it love. (He didn't do it often but it was so cute when he did do it.) It was so sweet. So maybe you can see why I’ve not yet been able to part with them? Actually I kept them for girls to play with when they’re here. Since we have playdates with homeschooling families whose children are multiaged and both genders, we need to have stuff on hand. But the truth is no one plays with these dolls, not even the girls. So I decided to let them go.

I then addressed the bin of plastic dinosaurs. I don’t think they’ve been played with twice in the last year. I already had pared it down once before but it needs doing again. This time it will also be ‘bye bye’ to the plastic volcanoes, hills, rocks and palm trees.

I addressed the LEGO situation. There is nothing like seeing things for what they really are when everything is in one place (rather than scattered all over the house). I contemplated all the LEGO sets we have that never were reassembled into their original shapes. And we have way, way more than we’ll ever need for ‘free play building with from their imagination’. I also have two small bins full of LEGO instructions. I asked my kdis and they said they never reference them. Hmmm. (Voice in back of head, “Someday your kids will want those” and “They may be good for resale value someday”.) I think I'll move those to the basement for now. The packrat in me is telling me not to throw them away (to get rid of them in the paper recycling).

We have three bins full of Hot Wheels type vehicles. I am thinking that since they are rarely played with, we can pare these down. I don’t think we need to save THAT many ‘for the grandkids’.

The wooden toy kitchen and the few food toys and play dishes we have are already scaled way back from our original collection. I can’t part with that stuff yet. Nor can I put it in the basement for storage. It will stay as is.

I’ve decided to let go of a whole set of Big Jim stuff which I got at a Boy Scout fundraiser tag sale. No one is playing with it. Big Jim is like G.I. Joe but Big Jim is into physical fitness and camping and fishing.

I should let go of some of the Star Wars action figures and vehicles. But I won’t.

The huge plastic train set (battery operated) needs to be scaled back. Santa Claus brought one set to my older son when he was two years old. Later at a tag sale I added in two more sets (for $10). I wanted to get rid of all of it (as it takes up a lot of space) but my older son cried out of sentimental emotions. I compromised to narrow it down to keeping one oval and then one set of trains. The rest will be given away.

The dress-up clothes fill one large basket (larger than a laundry basket). I have another filled with only dress up hats. I feel the need to scale back this collection as they are rarely played with and even when they are, we won’t need all of this.

The other day the kids were playing with the Mega Blocks pirates sets we have. We continue to have problems with them not going together correctly due to poor construction. I decided to get rid of it all (to be handed down).

I looked over the board games and card games and decided to let go of about ten. Some day soon I plan to cull the jigsaw puzzles too (they are stored in another room).

After looking at all that stuff and being reminded of how this stuff was from past birthdays and Christmas celebrations, and how back then it seemed ‘so important’ to have all of that, yet here it sits unused, or is outgrown, or never was ever played with much, I feel very happy about scaling back the Christimas gifts for our kids even more than we’ve ever done before.

I Challenge You
So if you feel pressured to buy more or if you wish you could buy a lot of stuff but have a smaller budget than you wish you had, perhaps you can do what I did.

Sit down, take a long hard look at everything. Put your hands on all the toys. Don’t just look at it,you’re your hands on it. Organize it, tidy it up.

While doing this process, the real worth of keeping the toy will be apparent to you.

See if you feel you already have too many (I bet you will). So get rid of some.

Do you really need to replace all of it with a 1:1 ratio? If you are strong willed, you’ll not replace everything you get rid of.

Believe me if you do this you will lose some of the urge to splurge.

Go For It!

For further reading and contemplation:

Watch reruns of “Clean Sweep” on cable television.

Read: Clutter Free! Finally and Forever by Don Aslett

Read books about simplifying your life and about downsizing your Christmas.

And ponder the real problems caused by over-indulgence of children by parents.

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Sarcastic Mom (aka Lotus) said...

I got tired of your toys just reading this! ;-)

I think my husband would cry - he's the packrat around here.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I really liked your last line.

Every season, we go through the clothes we can no longer use and donate those that are still useful. We really do not feel the need to replace every piece of clothing because we buy them as the kids grow and they need them.

But when it comes to toys and playthings, we have a very different MO. And you are right--it takes great strength of will not to replace every bit of it and posthaste!