Thursday, February 5, 2009

Clutter!!

I heard it through the "blog"vine (thanks, Becca) that there was a "Linky Party" at Shabby Nest. Curious, I checked it out, and it happened to be a topic that fit right in with another post I had been working on: containing kid clutter. So, I'm going to combine them right here (even though I'm a day late).

This Christmas, our plan was to simplify and to encourage more family-oriented activities, less individual ones. Here's what WE ended up getting the children:
  • Noah got much-needed clothes (How's this for a good deal? 4 pairs of jeans and 5 shirts for $26 shipped, thanks to Ebay!), a basic Lego set, a Hungry Hippos game, and Wall-E the movie.
  • Saylor got a few clothing items, a Ladybug board game, Calico Critters, and Peter Pan the movie.
  • Gabriel got some diapers, a wooden ride-on trike, wooden ABC blocks, and a little wooden car.
  • Atticus got much-needed clothes, a bib, a diaper, a Sleep Sheep, and some videos.
  • Together they also got a CD/tape player, a table, and four chairs for the playroom.
It turns out that it was still way too much! We may even consider moving to one gift each next year--with maybe something extra for the whole family to enjoy. And then there were the stocking stuffers--always my favorite thing to buy for (probably due to my love of little things, see #24 here). But I'm done with the traditional approach to stuffing a stocking! You know...the little stuffed animals, the little junky toys, etc. from the $1 bins at Target. I KNOW you know what I'm talking about. SUCH a waste of money!! I'm rethinking things. From now on the stockings will be filled with food items (fruit, healthy treats, some candy), CDs, pencils, art supplies, and even hair bows, neck ties, socks, toothbrushes (now that's an idea, huh?!) and gift cards. I want to get rid of the unnecessary, in favor of the practical things we need as a family: school supplies, curriculum, clothing, food, books, music, and money for extra-curricular activities. We have GOT to start getting our needs met first and foremost.

I'm not even going to go into all the stuff the kids received from everyone else. Suffice it to say that it was disgusting. :) Don't get me wrong. Paul and I are so grateful to our family members: for how generous they are towards our children, for the time and thought they put into each gift, for how they genuinely are striving to make our children happy with their gifts. In the meantime, however, we are TRYING to teach our children to be content, to be grateful, that it is better to give than to receive, that less is more, to look to God to supply their needs, etc. The fact is children don't need so many toys. I had a conversation recently with a friend about this. She said her children have so much it seems they don't know what to do with it all, literally; they don't play with the toys in the way they were meant to be played with. My children don't exactly have THIS particular problem, aside from the times Saylor makes the Little People visit the Sodor Engine Works building from the Thomas set or when she dresses Pluto in Minnie Mouse's dress (which makes him get stuck every single time). MY children get out and get out until there's absolutely no more room to walk in the playroom anymore...and then the toys sort of start spilling out into the other areas of the house, defeating the purpose of having a playroom in the first place. This really gives rise to a LOT of problems, not just messiness: no one can focus, people start misbehaving, every one gets whiny and grumpy, no one wants to clean it up because "it's too much!" (Yeah? No kidding!!)

They just have way too much. We (all of us!) have fed their flesh to the point that they have come to expect to be lavished with gifts and it is hard for them not to want that. It makes me feel awful sometimes to think of how many children across this planet would be happy to have just ONE something to play with. I think of how they would care for that one something, how they would treasure it and be so content. Laura and Mary Ingalls (it always comes back to Little House!! haha!) had so very little, even at Christmas, but they were a happy little family and so very grateful for what they had. I'm ready to get back to that. (In fact, sometimes I think I'd like to go move to an island somewhere and live in a shack and have NOTHING but my family and what is absolutely necessary to survive.) I'd like to spend LESS money on OUR children at Christmas and, therefore, be able to afford better gifts for others, especially those in need. We took the kids with us to shop for the gifts for Operation Christmas Child this year. You should have seen the way they kept piling more stuff in the cart to give to the children. I was watching God filling their hearts with such joy as they sought to give to others. I'd like us to be able to afford to send MORE boxes next year.

Besides, I think it would be better to buy special things for the kids throughout the year, rather than giving them so very much all in one day; to give fewer "Christmas (or your birthday) is coming up" answers and more "sure, why not" answers. Though, as a general rule, I think we're going to stick to the aforementioned stipulations: practical, necessary, family-oriented, school, or books. Because we've got everything else we could possibly need as far as toys go. Saylor needs NO MORE dolls and NO MORE purses; the boys need NO MORE cars, trains, or balls; no one needs ANY MORE stuffed animals...AT ALL; we have PLENTY of blocks, puzzles, and dress-up stuff (tons really). Anything more than this is overkill, and frankly, the kids aren't sitting around feeling sorry for themselves saying, "I want, I want." They truly are fine with what they have and can even admit that much of it doesn't get played with and they are fine with getting rid of it.

You know what? It's my stuff, too. Even decorative stuff is driving me crazy! I've got about a million picture frames, but I don't even like the way they look sitting all around on every flat surface in my house. Since we moved I've had them all put away in a cabinet, but I'm pulling them out now and getting rid of them. I'd rather scrapbook the pictures I like or enlarge them for wall frames. I certainly have plenty of wall space! Why do I have all this stuff anyway?? Where did it all come from? Who needs four pairs of gloves, one hundred magazines, and a dozen knick-knacks? Even in my childhood I was a collector of all kinds of stuff: china dolls (WAY too many for one girl), toy dolls, textbooks (don't ask), pencils (4th grade obsession), stickers. I don't know why. And what am I going to do with it now? I certainly don't have room OR a need for any of it, and my mom doesn't need it junking up HER house either. If you've ever thrown out this kind of stuff, you know that once it's gone you almost NEVER think of it again. So why hang on to it in the first place? And while china dolls are beautiful and nice to have (I suppose), you can't take them with you to heaven. They can't even be played with--because they're breakable, for goodness' sake! It's ridiculous, I tell ya!

Here's what I'm thinking. For the most part, our house is decorated enough--especially the kids' rooms--so NO MORE decorative items. NO more stuffed animals. Period. (They've taken over one too many times!) No more STUUUUUUUUFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! From now on, we focus on needs and things our family can do TOGETHER. B.T. and E.K. (the cousins) had a great idea for a gift for us this year. (Alright, their parents did...) They gave us some money to put towards an inflatable bouncer. Now, if that's not perfect for family bonding, I don't know what is. Awesome! So, board games requiring more than one player, movies we can watch together while snuggling on the couch, video games for the Wii, tickets/membership cards for family activities/events in town (zoo, museum, etc.)--these are the kinds of things we'd all love and would not clutter up our lives. AND we need practical stuff, too: like books (you can never have too many children's books), furniture, homeschool curriculum, crayons (this is a constant need--is it just us???), construction paper, play dough, clothes, car seats, shoes, money for dance, sports, swimming, etc.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking the kids won't be excited about opening a game they have to share or a membership card to the zoo or money for a car seat--that they'd much rather have several new plastic, noise-making, light-producing toys. But what you don't know is that our kids have a real awareness of our NEEDS because we are constantly pointing out to them that the reason we can't buy that Koosh ball at the check-out counter or go out for pizza every time they ask is because we have to save our money for the important stuff. They are slowly but surely learning to be grateful for our blessings and the gifts God sends to us (through our loved-ones) that meet our specific needs: His perfect provisions. Besides, the longer we go filling their gift boxes with junk, the longer they will be dependent on that to satisfy their insatiable appetite for STUFF, like Edmund's Turkish Delight. It won't fill the void that only Christ can fill. I don't want my children caught up in that kind of slavery, that idolatry, the trappings of this world. The stuff can't go with you, it doesn't last, and it doesn't help us further the Kingdom.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." Matt. 6:19-20.


Some of our playroom shelves. (I like everything to have its own place.)

As you can see, we can still stand to get rid of a little more, I think.
Our playroom is also our school room, so we have a LOT to contain.
Look at how much stuff we're getting rid of!! (Minus a couple of things that walked off for a bit...) The plan is to sell it and use the money for a Wii game and to put toward the inflatable jumping thing!! Woo hoo!! (After this sale, though, any other junk that comes through the doors is being donated immediately.)

So what do YOU think? I've been struggling with all of this for quite some time. Any one else out there have any of the same issues? Or better yet, some solutions??

7 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed your thoughts on this topic! I had a hard time at my son's recent birthday party getting presents for the goodie bags. Who wants to take home more cheap toys and trinkets that will be played with once and then tossed or worse fill up a drawer! I like your idea of experiences and shared activities, now how to convince Grandma?

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  2. Girl this was great. I have an experience request with my parents as well. I figured out that my gang is content with bikes and being together... toys are just messes we have to pick up. We don't have many...by choice. Now for Christmas my parents give us tickets to a broadway musical or a concert... high class!

    Great post!
    Pretty Organizer

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  3. hi there. came over here from shabbynest play room/clutter link thing. (and by the way, the first song in your play list is one of my all time favs! not the song but that particular arragement of the song.)

    I could've written this exact same post. About halfway through, I was thinking "sure the KIDS have too much stuff but what about the parent(s)" and then you went right into that too! I feel like I certainly can't get my kids to buy into this whole "less is more" truth if I'm not living it too, not paring down my craft stuff, etc. So, way to go on recognizing that too.

    I'm working on going through their playroom, preferably with their help and input. We'll see what happens...

    Oh, and you CAN have too many kids books. When they're cheap, poorly written, with unimaginative illustrations, etc! : ) There too, my goal is to just keep the "gems" and get rid of the junk.

    Oh, and I take it from your header that your kids are still pretty young. (My oldest is in Kindergarten.) A game that we really like is "Orchard" by Haba; in our house we call it "The Crafty Raven". It's kind of pricey, so for my niece, I made a handmade version. But I really like it -- the kids all play cooperatively against the raven, trying to collect all the fruit before "that crafty raven" does. (Hence the name.)

    Good luck with continuing to figure this whole "too many toys" dilemma out.

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  4. Great ideas!

    I love the song on your blog, it makes me think of my honeymoon in Hawaii, 8 years ago this August! Where does time go?

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  5. thanks for linking to the party! I so agree with you on the less is more thing. Our granparents always give clothes for Christmas or giftcards to the local indoor playground. Stuff that is either needed or an activity. That has made Christmas much more bearable!

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  6. Great post! I agree about the clutter in our lives. Why always more, more, more??

    Thanks!

    Jen

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  7. hey you're welcome!
    I donate stuff to the salvation army rather than garage sale it b/c it is 1) less work and 2) usually see a greater financial reward by taking the tax deduction

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