Kid stuff gets an article all its own. For about fifteen years it sprawls itself throughout our homes, and then for the last three to five years it withdraws and festers under the beds in the child’s room. Where ever it’s found it’s trying to tell us something:
OUR KIDS HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF
Are you hearing me in this? Unfortunately for them we start the problem by believing we need to have every modern convenience ever invented for babies if our child is going to grow into a productive citizen with brilliant social skills and a Harvard law degree: the right toys, the right seats, the right beds, the right entertainment, the right bottles, the right toys. It never ends. It fills our rooms, our cupboards and our life.
I believed it, and you can imagine that with three children under three in a 960 sq ft home, we more than filled every nook and cranny. We bought it; we cared for it; we cleaned it; we put it away. They didn’t appreciate our efforts even once. You know why? Because they were babies and what babies want are present parents who aren’t so busy taking care of stuff that stuff is the only thing left to care for the baby.
This continues as they grow. They see it; they want it. They get it; they break it or they get it and they want fifty more just like it but with different colors, skills, arms, faces, attachments, smells or outfits. Even now there are probably more than one hundred webkinz upstairs in my girls’ closet. They wanted them; we indulged them and now they simply can’t stand to let them go.
We let this happen because it’s just part of being a kid
All their other friends have it
We don’t want to be those parents
My kids deserve the best
…I’ve made all the excuses too.
When it comes to babies, they need more of only a few things: clothes, blankets/sheets/ burp clothes and diapers. Everything else they need far less of than what we are offering. Babies don’t get tired of the same toys and stories. They aren’t bored with their environment, and they sure can’t get enough of being cuddled. I know we spend a great deal of time worrying they will be spoiled by attention so we “unspoil” them by buying them things to occupy their time. Maybe we should turn that equation around and spend more time with them and less time buying and caring for things they don’t actually want. Stop worrying. No child goes to high school still hiding behind mom’s leg.
Have you ever noticed how toddlers and even grade school kids will play intensely for hours with their favorite things? Blocks, cars, trains, dolls, even webkinz can be a child’s entire created world for weeks on end. When they get bored is because there are so many things, they don’t know where to focus. If a child loves legos, let them play legos. Let them play lots of legos. Don’t worry that they lead an imbalanced life and compensate for legos with fifty other toy options they don’t want or need. If the problem is that your child keeps seeing new things they want, stop letting them watch commercials. They won’t know what they don’t have, and they won’t miss it.
When our children are little, the blame for excess in their lives is us. We allow their stuff to get out of control, and they are overwhelmed. Once their rooms and closets have exploded, it’s more than we can handle. Yet we send them in their rooms to “clean up the mess they made” and wonder why everyone ends up frustrated and crying. We reached a turning point in my children’s lives when they demolished their room one morning and spent the next seven hours shut inside doing everything but picking up. My solution was to go in and remove everything. Every toy, most clothes, extra bedding. Everything. Over the next two weeks they were allowed to ask for two things per child (or group of things like bag of blocks or set of whatever) each day. After seven days, they couldn’t remember what was still missing. After ten days they stopped caring and asking. The rest of the toys made their way to Goodwill and life has been more simple since. My suggestion is to do this in a way that isn’t punitive, sooner rather than later. It will change your life and your children’s lives for the better.
When I really began pursuing minimalism, my girls were 11, 12 and 13. It’s not as easy to “take their things” nor do I think you should. When I began the process, I had plenty to tackle without ever entering their space. Several months passed of me taking care of other rooms in the house, where they were asked to help decide what items we use and love, and what items needed new homes. They were involved in the process without it being their things directly. When we did get around to their rooms, they were always involved. I have not gone into their space and disposed of anything without their permission. It’s also been easier to work in “layers.” Every few months we reconsider what they have, they have use and what they have kept, but really no longer enjoy. My oldest, has taken on minimalism for herself. She’s enjoying always having a neat space, clean clothes that fit and are easy to find, and lots of time to do things that aren’t cleaning her room. The younger two go along with varying degrees of enthusiasm. We’ve worked hard to strike a balance where their desires and feelings are heard and respected, and our expectations are established and obeyed. Just like anything else in a family, it’s a constant reassessment of where we are and who we are becoming.
I’ve hesitated to give specific guidelines here because every family is so very unique, as are their needs and the space they inhabit. What you need to know is your children will not suffer with less, in fact they will thrive. Your older children are unique individual with a voice, opinions and preferences that should be taken into account as you work together to live more simply. Some parts of changing a lifestyle will always be a little uncomfortable and maybe even a bit unpleasant. That also will not harm your children in the long run. I believe, and have seen unfold in my own family, that they will be more intentional, considerate people for having lived a simple life.