Completely fed-up of sounding like my own mother ‘tidy your room!!!’ and having exhausted every incentive, punishment and bribery possible, I decided to give away nearly all my son’s toys.
He is 8 and very few of the toys were expensive, most were pre-loved. We bought good quality toys from thrift stores since he was about 2 years old. We would rotate his toys each year, taking bags full back to thrift stores and letting him pick out some new ones from time to time. Sounds pretty contained but toys breed, you know.
Add in Grandpa’s charming penchant for sending ridiculously generous but huge (and usually age inappropriate) gifts, birthdays, Christmas etc and by Aged 8 – he could open his own toy shop.
The crazy thing was the daily battle to get him to tidy up was a farce because there was just too much stuff. He was overwhelmed. We were burdening him with too much STUFF. And stuff is all it is.
Give kids a wooden spoon and a tub and they have the ability to self-entertain if you can grit your teeth through the initial complaints. The reality is that world has turned digital and an iPad can hold tens of thousands of games. I realised in my frazzled, frustrated state, that I needed to be bold. Good parents are bold parents. they know when something is worth fighting for.
We want our kids to be imaginative, to interact, to create and express who they are. How can they when drowning in a sea of plastic pacifiers?
I calmly sat him down, explained how I had been feeling and how I didn’t want us to fight anymore. I told him we were on the same side. I described how powerful and brilliant his imagination is, and how little he needs in the way of props.
He looked relieved.
We cut a deal. All Lego, craft stuff, some small cars and a selection of favourite books would stay. The rest, all of it, about 95% was going.
He was excited.
It took a few hours but bagging up the plastic jungle was therapy on a whole new scale.
This decision was not only about employing the best ideals of minimalism but about rescuing my son’s childhood from the choke of consumerism.
It was about un-doing and challenging our own laziness as parents.
It was also about making space: in our home, yes, but in our heads too, for conversations about things other than chaff.