It’s funny how much anxiety ‘stuff’ can give you, and when you have kids you seem to always have a lot of ‘stuff’. Take the PlayMobil in our house. I had never heard of it before moving to the US and for awhile I would find (and of course buy) bags and bags of it from thrift stores – especially the vintage stuff. I organized it beautifully and placed it out for my oldest to enjoy. And he did love it, but the way he played with it was ALWAYS tip it all out and ultimately leave a trail of pieces all over the house, with ‘junk piles’ of PlayMobil placed in vehicles and other various places. I’m all for toys being played with in open-ended ways, but this game made me miserable. And trust me, it’s not worth being miserable over a toy.
So one day when his interests had shifted, I packed up 99% of the PlayMobil and donated it. Just like that. Did my son ask for it and miss it? Not really. I kept the few key pieces I knew he loved, and by removing the rest of the pieces, he actually started to really engage and play with the PlayMobil vs just exploding them like a volcano. Click HERE for a great article about why fewer toys will benefit your child.
So often I hear from parents that they are hesitant to give away toys because 1) their child might miss it, or 2) it was given by a friend or family member and they worry about upsetting that person. Let me tell you, 1) your child will thank you for creating a cleaner more organized play space. It’s overwhelming for them to be surrounded by so much stuff and it’s hard to focus and play when you don’t know where anything is. Nobody needs 30 stuffed animals or 100 broken crayons. Do yourself and them a favor and purge! I know it’s good practice to get your child involved in the process, but for most kids, giving away their toys is next to impossible. My advice, and what works well for my family, is to find a balance.
I notice what my kids are and are not playing with, and the things that aren’t looked at anymore, I remove and box away out of sight. I hold onto them for a time period and if they aren’t asked for after a few weeks, I donate them. But I also ask my six-year old to help with some tasks, like cutting down on stuffies or downsizing matchbox cars. It’s not easy for him because in his heart he loves them all, but with baby steps he’s finding it easier to part with toys. One thing that helps is having a set basket or bowl for these things to go in. The rule in the house is that we can’t have more than fits into these containers (and yes, I am the one who chose the container size). This way when new toys inevitably come into the house, my kids understand that it usually means old ones need to go out.
Back to reason 2), the guilt of giving away a gift. For this I have adopted the mentality that the action of giving the gift is enough for the person who gave it vs you needing to keep the toy. People give gifts out of love and to show their affection for you or your child. Once it leaves their hands and enters your home, that loving interaction is a happy memory for them and it’s now up to you what you do with the toy. Is it something that makes you miserable (for example a recorder, a musical toy with one volume and no off switch, or something huge and impossible to store)? Get rid of it. Snap a photo of your child with it, send a thank you note with the picture (I love the Ink Cards app for this) and then donate the item. Thank it for the joy it brought the gift giver and then send it on its way. I promise the person won’t notice, and if they do happen to ask next time they are at your house, you can always tell a kind white lie that you’ve loaned the toy to a friend or popped it in storage.
A home that feels overwhelming and over run with toys, is going to affect how everyone feels and functions, not just your children. Always remember that your happiness and sanity matters too!