Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The difficulty of purging toys

My friend over at Confessions of a Hoarder talks about her difficulty decluttering kids' toys.

I have a hard, hard time dealing with toys, too.

I have been able to purge just about every group of things I call "mine": my hair, my computers, my motorcycles, my tools, my clothes, my books.

Once my wife got the bug, she started purging her stuff, too. That has been going well, and we work on it together.

One of the reasons I find toys difficult is that I'm making the decision for someone else. I know that, by getting rid of 1/2 of my books, I lose something (the opportunity to read that book at a moment's notice, the status symbol of books that define "me" to visitors) and gain something in return (space on the shelf, ease of managing my stuff, order in my home, money that I don't have to spend on more storage). I can decide if that trade-off is the right choice for me.

However, with the kids toys, I know that most of the gain is the parents' (for it is our feet that hurt when we step on a marble; we are the ones that separate the blocks, trains, wedgits, and legos) and most of the loss is kids' (they don't have access to a toy that they might enjoy).

What I remind myself of is how much the kids gain, too:

- Their parents are slightly less cranky.

- Their parents have more free time to spend with the kids, to cook nutritious meals, to take care of themselves so they can take care of the kids.

- Kids, too, like a clear, open space to engage in play.

- Clear, open spaces are particularly good for wrestling with Dad.

- Being able to clearly see a small number of toys works better than being surrounded by a plethora. It gives kids a chance to really focus their play in one area, and to not be overwhelmed when considering what play to do next.

- Kids play with non-toy things as often as toy things. Wooden spoons and sofa cushions are current favorites. Those items serve double-duty (yes, you can stir with a wooden spoon), thereby increasing their "density" in the home.

I've noticed recently that even the babies (16 months on Saturday) will often not think of playing with something until someone points it out to them. So, providing them with bucket upon bucket of toys won't really help them find fun. Having just 1 toy can meet their needs, if there's someone to help them get engaged.

In January I put a bunch of kids' toys in storage. It was a really good choice -- the kids haven't missed the toys, and life has been a bit easier since.


Anonymous said...

I think attachment to toys is mostly something parents invent.

Sure, there are those one or two toys that kids have bonded with - the ones you buy an extra one of in case the original gets lost.

But in most cases, kids are used to toys that are transient. If they go to a friends house, they get to play with a toy for a while, then it's gone. Similarly with toys at preschool, toys at school, etc.

Parent, on the other hand, not only paid for the toys, but often have attachment to them (either because of memories we had as kids or because we think the toy is cool).

We've done yearly purges of toys and other stuff, and it's worked well to do it with out daughter. There's a lot of stuff that we might keep where she's just not that interested in it.

Blue Lass said...

I have to respectfully disagree with your anonymous friend. When I was a kid, we moved every couple of years, and my parents routinely gave away my toys, and it was traumatic. (Of course I lost my house and all my friends at the same time, and I don't have siblings, so it was pretty traumatic regardless.) I'd recommend just tapering off on the acquisition phase, then asking them when they're old enough what they'd like to give away to the poor children.

Jen-Jen said...

I think that if your kid is surrounded with clutter and disarray, and can't find any toys, then the child will grow up disorganized and also have less fun. At least, that was my experience. My mother was a hoarder, and as a result, my room in second grade was at least two feet deep in discarded toys, clothes, etc., with just a path to the bed and to the dresser. And I am a highly disorderly person. Although that could be genetic.

I try to cut through some of the clutter with my son, but I have seemed to inherited my mom's issues, or learned them. Sigh.

I just wanted to say hi, I've met you a couple of things, once through Pam and another time through our now Canadian friend Chasmyn. Saw a link to your blog from hers.


Jay Bazuzi said...

Hi Jen; thanks for your comment

In Recovery said...

Like so many other areas of life, it's all about balance. I agree that too many toys is bad for everyone--and I've seen how the kids play more creatively and actively when the toys are tidy and contained. No one is talking about taking all their toys away but rather culling them, just as we cull our own adult possessions. As Karen Kingston talks about in her wonderful little book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, if you're home is full of stuff, there's no room for anything new. If your kids rooms are full of stuff at age 6, how will they grow up?

Congrats on all your decluttering!

Sandy said...

When your boys are doing with the mountain of Legos, please don't get rid of them. I'm very much interested in them for myself after which they'll go to my kids.

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