Simple Saturday ~ A reader would like your opinion

One of your fellow readers would like your opinion on something. Please read her message below and add your advice if you wish by leaving a comment for her. Thank you in advance for your help.

I have been on a mission to declutter my house. My house was never a disaster by any stretch of the imagination but in my opinion there was just too much stuff. It stresses me out. Since February I have been working though my possessions. I have removed clothing, nick-knacks, doubles of items, just general excess. I have removed more then 365 items and I am very proud of myself.

Recently I have started to tackle the toys. My house is a toy store, literally. There is not a toy at the store they we do not own a version of. I have two rooms specifically used as playrooms, one is a large basement. My friends tease me and strangers, like contractors make comments about the volume of playthings my two boys own. I did not buy most of them, they were gifts from my children’s very generous grandparents and other relatives. I know this has been discusses before but need some help and reassurances.

I am feeling very guilty about getting rid my children’s toys. My first two going are being sold on Sat and I feel like I want to cry, my stomach hurts. One of the toys being sold was never opened the other never played with. I choose these because there was no attachment to the toys for them or me. I figured they would be easy. Boy was I wrong. I think I feel guilty because these on some level are not mine to sell. But my boys are 5 and 1 not really old enough to understand or support my decluttering efforts.

I think I am also afraid that my disappearing toy act will cause them to become hoarders as adults. So, basically I just wanted to know if the readers here have any advice for mom with a guilty conscience. Thank you for your help.

Here is the advice I proffered to this reader while assuming that she was already taking steps to stop the plethora of toys coming in…

Involve your 5 year old in the decision making. Your 1 year old is clearly too young to care so won’t be affected either way. I always involved my kids and they never had any qualms about getting rid of the stuff they no longer played with. You will be teaching him a valuable lesson about letting go and not living a cluttered life.

You can give him two incentives to let go of things ~ 1. Tell him the cash earned from sold items will go into his bank account. Involve him in that process to a level he can understand. 2. Let him know that the toys he donates are going to children who wouldn’t otherwise have toys to play with. Children can be very generous when you explain to them that others aren’t as lucky as they are to have things.

Pick out the toys he no longer seems to play with that you don’t wish to keep for his younger brother. Choose which ones you would like to sell for him and ask him if he would like to donate the rest to children in need. Show him how his bank account is increasing with the funds from the sales and let him know he will be able to use that when he is bigger for things he needs. Also involve him in the donating process and express to him how happy he will be making less fortunate children with his kindness.

The Weekend’s Mini Missions

Saturday – Leisure activity items, be that sport, craft, digital media, reading material etc. There are nearly always items among these collections that are less utilised than others or in some cases not at all. To narrow down the selection makes the things you do use easier to find when needed. Superseded equipment is a good place to start the weeding out process.

Sunday – Declutter your excess linen. I fact rethink how much linen you really require to cater for yourself your family and a couple of guests. Some people seem to stock enough for the All Blacks (New Zealand) rugby team. This really isn’t necessary especially if you have a dryer and even if you don’t a laundromat is never far away should you have a houseful of people and the weather turns foul.

 

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast


Continue reading with these posts:

  • Simple Saturday ~ Clutter with eyes – Chrissie would like your advice This week I received an email from Chrissie who has a unique decluttering issue that she would like her fellow 365ers and myself to give her advice on. Below is the message she sent […]
  • Simple Saturday I received the following request for advice from a reader last week and decided to post it here for you all to give your opinion on. I have also included my advice for two reasons... 1. […]
  • Simple Saturday ~ Clutter with eyes update Remember back in October one of our fellow 365ers needed our advice on getting go of her clutter with eyes. Read about it here. Well this week she sent us and update that she wanted me to […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.

Comments

  1. My 4-year old participates in thinning his collection. We take turns picking 5 things each (although he has veto power on the things I pick to some degree). Sometimes he picks things that surprise me, but he also picks small things that I might have overlooked. We do it until he can’t find 5 more things. We kind of split the difference and he gets to pick coins for what he chooses even though they are going to charity.

  2. Or box them away for 6 months, and unless the children ask for it, donate or sell after those 6 months.

    • I am Nurchamiel on this.

    • I am sorry Nurchamiel and Moni I can’t agree with this. Children don’t always vocalise their concerns. They may well wonder where the toys have gone but not say anything. I think if this was done enough times the exact thing the our reader was concerned about ~turning them into future hoaders ~ could very well be the result. Everybody no matter how young should have their say about what of their stuff is decluttered.
      Certainly this mum should intervene with how much stuff comes in in the first place but I don’t think disappearing their things is a good idea.

      • LOL Oh Colleen – if you met Dayna you would be assured that even by age two she didn’t miss a beat and had the makings of a police interrogater and always been the nominated spokesperson of her siblings, trust me, if she felt concerned we would have had no doubt about it.

        I’m not talking about taking away beloved toys – parents always know the beloved toys – in my case Kylie, Roger, Popples, Puss Cat, Baby and Baby, and the Teletubbies – they still live in a box in my ceiling and to this day I haven’t gotten rid of them (365 not withstanding) – however, generic soft toys, McDonalds toys, $2 shop toys and other random stuff came and went and no emotional attachment ever formed between the kids and those toys. Kylie went everywhere with Dayna but if she was misplaced, it was high-alert for everyone. If Popples needed to be washed I had to sneak him out of bed when Courtney was asleep and wash and dry him during the night.

        To date my eldest/son who I talked in an earlier comment about is the most non-materialistic teenager I know who prefers minimal possessions, Dayna (older daughter) likes things but nice things and will go without until she has what she wants and what she wants is usually well researched. I should clarify she doesn’t overfill her room and is a junior 365er and would probably enjoy Midway Simplicity. Courtney the youngest, who had the most toys, well she’s often in a muddle – I do not in anyway attribute this to how many toys she did or didn’t have, or any other factor, I think its because she’s the arty type and easily distracted.

        I do agree, halting the flow of toys in is the key, but I highly doubt removing excess toys is going to give a child that level of emotional damage. I would like to stress again that I’m not talking about favourite loved toys, but the other stuff.

        • Perhaps you are right Moni. I guess I just don’t have much experience with having to manage the situation of children with so many toys that they wouldn’t miss any. I am pretty sure my children would have noticed if anything of their’s went missing. They were only three and one when we moved away from one set of grandparents and have never lived closer than 300km from the other set. So they were never inundated with toys from them and I didn’t feel the need to compensate for that. There is always a set budget on spending on birthdays and Christmas and in between they only received the odd garage sale toy or whatever they could afford to buy for themselves with their pocket money.

          As a result toys were pretty well used until they broke or the kids grew too old to play with them and then they would help me declutter what they no longer wanted. Sometimes I would have a garage sale where they could help sell them and they would get the money and sometimes they just donated them to charity. As they got older my son sometimes swapped or sold more expensive toys such as electronic games consoles to friends. More recently I have sold a variety of items, hanging over from his younger days, for him on ebay.

          • Hi Colleen – I think we’ve hit on the perspective difference here.

            As my son was the first grandchild on both sides, first nephew etc he was deluged with soft toys – I’m talking 25+ – he only formed an attachment to one of them. Add to mix we were the first of our friends to start a family and so our double-income-no-kids friends were also very generous.

            The area we moved to when he was about 18 months was a new suburb with a small shopping centre which had The $2 Shop and The Warehouse. Both of these were an endless source of cheap crappy toys. We definately played a part in this. Oh and the fortnightly Papamoa Flea Market. The thing about cheap crappy toys is that they break or pieces go missing and you’re left with something junky.

            Then we had daughters and Barbie made her way into the house. Ever notice they have never brought out Minimalist Barbie?

            The “Favourites” remained the favourites thru the years, the rest were just flotsom and jetson really. If I had my time again I would do things very differently. I would put physical limits on the quantity of toys and would join a toy library.

            A friend who is a minimalist, she has one of those plastic cube drawer sets in her daughter’s wardrobe and all the toys live in those and that is that. If M wants to play with her Barbie’s she pulls out the drawer of Barbie’s and plays on the floor or wherever and it has to go back before she gets other toys out. I know she has an arts and craft drawer and a lego drawer I cant’ remember if there is a 4th drawer or what is in it. I think there is a soft toy on the bed. They use the local toy library to get a bit of variety but that is that.

  3. IMHO-If your less stressed and have more time(less cleaning and decluttering) to spend with them-that would be more of a “gift” to them rather than the overabundance of toys. Lisa

    • I agree with this.

      It’s really hard to get rid of toys for us parents, but I recommend getting your 5 year old involved. Ask him if he’d rather have a room with lots of empty space to play in with his favorite toys, or lots of toys and no space! Ask him if there’s something he really wants that he can earn money for by getting rid of toys. Or tell him about kids who have none, and donate.

      It’s helped for me to get my son to pick toys to go away (now whenever toys need to be trashed, he’ll say “sell it away” or “give it away” haha). It also helped, sometimes, to BUY toys from him. Really. 25 cents a toy, no limit. Trust me, it’s never cost me more than $5 (so that’s around 20 toys). Some people disagree this method, but I say it works. I expect money for some of my stuff, don’t I?

      And, if I do sell something of his, I try to put the money in his piggy bank or buy him something he needs. I never just take that money.

      • Hi Lynn – I’ve just remembered another tactic that I used to use (and this was before I was a declutterer) when he was little and his room was all untidy, I’d say lets tidy up together and lets sort out what you don’t want so you don’t have so much cleaning up to do. (I can’t remember my exact words, I would have carefully planned the right statement so we didn’t end up on Dr Phil at a later stage in life) and we’d point each toy and I’d say if you want it can you please put it in the toy box, and if he didn’t I would put it in the ‘out’ box. Of course, he thought that he had me well trained, so I’d clarify again that if I put it in the box we’d be putting it into storage but if he did want it he had to put it away himself. He only kept what he wanted and he wanted me to take away the excess.

        As a young adult he prefers to have fewer things as he still doesn’t like having to pick up after himself.

  4. I love the idea of including the 5 year old in the process. I would consider perhaps making a conscious and vocal decision to only use ONE playroom (the larger one) for a large chunk of time (perhaps a month), while slowly sorting and boxing up the toys in the other room. You can tell your children that the other room is off limits, a “mommy” area, etc. If a child specifically wants a toy from the other room, tell him that you’ll get it if they give away one other toy to a thrift store. Eventually, when the other room is in boxes, move them to a temporary home (your bedroom, or somewhere away from the kids). At this point, talk to the five year old about switching playrooms and taking SOME of his toys with him. That the room is half? the size, so he should only take half his toys. Start making bags or boxes of keep and donate/sell. Ask him to put one toy in each bag, one at a time and alternating. At the end of that, move the kept toys into the small playroom, and sort the other toys in the large playroom. Write down the date, and at the end of one, two, or six months, get rid of them all.
    I’m all for flexibility with this scheme, in that keeping a small box or two of well-loved toys past the deadline is all right, but the majority of those toys are not that loved by the children.

    After this large-scale cull, there are a couple ways to ward off the incoming ones. A common way is to have children donate toys before Christmas (to help the needy – this can also eventually broach the Santa subject), and after their birthday. A less common way is to talk about “growing up” and “outgrowing” things like clothes and toys. If you do this, you can do a once a week, or once a month toy cull where you talk about what he no longer plays with. Again, these can get boxed up for perhaps 6 months (no longer), in the event that he regrets his decision.

  5. from my own experience as a child I would say, include them in the decisions what to give away as they get older – and there’s no need to fear that they will become hoarders from that. My mother used to have a decluttering day with me every half year, and I loved it – we went through all my possessions, I loved to have this special time alone with my mother and the feeling of being important and responsible – my mother helped me there, of course, but I loved this “adult” feeling that I was asked what to give away, and so I always let go of many things, because it was so “adult” ;-). I’m very thankful that I learned decluttering from my mom, so good luck for you and your sons, I wish you good experiences

  6. I would ask myself if it was really the kids or me that is the real issue. When I was young, I didn’t get much for Christmas and so I overcompensated with my kids. It took me several years to realize that it isn’t the gifts, but the love and family happiness that mattered. It was hard to get rid of some toys, but the fact of the matter is that they don’t need or play with that many and it is a nightmare trying to keep up with them. We kept the ones they played with the most. Every year at Christmas time, we would have our kids pick out toys to donate to others less fortunate before they would get things at Christmas. If they were to go with you to a place and see the kids or the need, their willingness to give may increase. The fact of the matter is that it is just stuff. It can be replaced or changed as they grow up. Maybe there is something in your own life that may cause you to have a hard time letting go. Figure out the root of the problem, or the band aids won’t make it better. The other option would be to sell the toys to buy something they really want. In that case, they are working with you to reach a goal that they want. It is easier to get rid of something when you know the money will go towards something you want. Ask parents and grandparents to donate to a college fund or a combination of both instead of just toys for gifts to stop too many things from coming in. The toys may just bring back good memories for you of your childhood. Take pictures if you need to, but kids seem to enjoy their toys more when they don’t have quite so many to choose from.

  7. I too have over-generous grandparents and ended up with a mass of toys for my boys that was taking over my house. I took my time with the decluttering so they wouldn’t feel like I was throwing out their things behind their back and here’s what helped us: letting them see me decluttering my things and educating them (age appropriately) on decluttering, watching a few episodes of Clean House (this TV show used to come on the Style network) showed them what happens when you don’t declutter- it was a great visual for them, I don’t like to have yard sales but I offer them the Goodwill resale price of the things they donate- this is of course a low price but it motivates kids who are saving up for something! My boys are 12 and 14 now and have suffered no ill effects, are self-motivated declutterers and have even learned to moniter their shopping/gift requests/souvenir buying as a pleasant result of the years of declutter training.

    • I am with Henave here – the problem has started with the grandparents and they need to be part of the solution.

      Could you suggest that instead they could contribute to something else like music lessons or ??? or money to go into a college fund.

      • Or family zoo passes, or passes to the local indoor jungle gym!

        • I’ve found grandparents who are watching the kid open the present (especially when they are the only grandkids) want the effect of the “big present” and are dissatisfied with college account funding or vouchers for a later trip. I am sensitive to this and have chosen to allow the grandparents have the honor of giving the “big present” (versus fighting with them to be the one to give the kid the “big present”). Things have reached a kind of natural declutter state as the boys have gotten older and want more expensive things like ipods instead of lots of little presents.

          • That is my mom. Thankfully she’s willing to leave the shopping up to me as long as she gets the credit so I find stuff that fits within my kids’ interests that won’t just be clutter and I do my best to find them in big boxes (even if the toys are small). My stepdad wanted to go to the dollar store and spend $30 on 30 toys last year so my son would “have something to open”. He heard we were CONSIDERING not doing Santa and immediately assumed there would be nothing under the tree. Considering he has many aunts and uncles (technically my cousins as well as actual aunts and uncles), two sets of grandparents, three sets of great grandparents and us…he’s not lacking for the experience. Yikes.

          • Considering my son has*

  8. Some great ideas here already. I like them too. My only addition is that in most cases each child has a few special toys that they seem to hold onto the most. Do some observing over the course of a week or so to see what they play with most. I bet you will find that the majority of the toys will not make the list. Once you have that figured out you can quickly figure out what you can gradually cull.

  9. I have two boys, one is 4 the other is two and I don’t think if they had loads of toys they would mind giving some of them. Just let them choose. But, on the other hand, you said they never opened them, so, they never HAD them in the first place. I have been talking to my boys that when Santa comes this year he will not be able to bring new toys if a lot of the old ones don’t go to new homes.

  10. I have often read of parents in this situation finding their children are overwhelmed by excessive toys and this limits their ability to play imaginatively. They become more absorbed in creative play with fewer toys. Looking at your dilemma from this perspective makes the decluttering a very positive thing for their wellbeing and developement, especially if you include them in the decision making process (though the 1 yr old is too young yet to notice)

  11. I think one part of your letter that isn’t obvious is the attachment *you* seem to have to their toys. It could be helpful to take photos of the boys playing with toys, instead of holding on to the toys themselves.
    Also, you must be keeping toys for the younger to use as he gets older. I would pack all these toys aways and label them. i.e. “Puzzles for 3-5 yrs.” Just as you might do for hand-me-down clothing from the big brother. Then get them out when he is the right age for them, and get rid of the younger toys.

    • Hi Connie, I think there is a greater chance that our reader is sad to see the eldest boy’s childhood slipping by rather than her having any attachment to the toys themselves.
      I remember once when my son was decluttering old toys. When we were putting them in the garage before donating them he looked very sad. I said to him you don’t have to give them away if you don’t want to ~ as he didn’t have an overabundance ~ but he said to me he was ready to let them go because he didn’t play with them or want them anymore but he was just sad that his childhood was almost behind him. I have to admit it still brings a tear to my eye when I think of that occasion as it did at the time. Needless to say he recovered quickly probably more quickly than I did.

  12. To avoid such a situation in the future I would talk to the grandparents/relatives. One present/toy for christmas/birthday is enough. You could buy it, as you know your kids best, and everyone should give the amount of money he wants. If there is too much money, this can go directly to a savings account.

  13. My kids are 3.5 and 16 months and I find the fewer toys they have access to (down to about 6), the more they play with them. To many toys out and they just make a mess, and then don’t play much. But a handful of toys and they play with them for hours. Not only that, but they play is so much more creative.

    One idea I liked for toy thinning, was to set the space and let the kids help decide which toys were worthy of living in it.

  14. If it is possible, resort to having only one play area, but with little ones that may not be an option depending on where you need to keep an eye on them in your home. I remember when my boys were little and I would put some of their toys in a toy box, they never played with any of the items at the bottom and only played with what was out in the open. That being said, take a moment and notice the items that they gravitate toward and you will find out what are favorites. Definitely, since you have come to the realization that they have more than enough, donate to those who don’t have as much and let the 5 yr. old be a participant in the selection process. Do a little at a time (like an item a day or a box/bag a day), it doesn’t have to be done all at once, but once it is decided on and you have one box or one bag full, donate it or take it to a thrift shop to sell. If you don’t do it quickly, you may rethink items. As things are pared down, you will find that they will have more quality play time, than being overwhelmed with too many things to choose from. If people comment about the volume of toys, then it is time and it is okay to let go of some of them. As long as they still have their favorite items, they will be okay with doing this. What can be hard is the realization that our little ones grow up quickly and that can be hard for moms. Taking pictures, like Connie mentioned, will help you be able to part with them. Lastly, you are making this a home that is comfortable and clutter free for you and your family to enjoy. Tackling this part of your mission will leave you less stressed and that is worth it.

  15. You have been given the best advice already above.

    But if you will allow me, when my kids were aged 6, 4 & 3 my husband and I did a Positive Parenting course and towards the end of the six week course, the facilitator brought up toys. He wasn’t suggesting toys were a behavioural problem or anything, he was putting out there that one of the biggest parent frustrations was the amount of toys everywhere and despite good intentions and training efforts, inevitably tidying up toys will fall to the parents, if there are too many.

    He threw out the idea that it was very unlikely that a parent could train a child to pick up after themselves if they had more toys than they could manage.

    So the challenge for that week was to go home and box up all the toys except the special beloved ones and whatever was the “toy of the week”. We were hesitant to do this as we didn’t want to upset our wee darlings, but they didn’t bat an eye lid. We didn’t do it in front of them. When they got home (I think they went to a friend’s for an hour) I think my son who was 6 asked where had all the toys gone. We were to tell him something along the lines of they are safely (or sleeping?) in the box but are right there if he needed them and that these toys wanted some special playtime with him. He seemed to accept it.

    Here was the thing, by the end of the week, he hadn’t asked for any of them back, nor my then 4 year old daughter who was quite switched on. All the other parents at the course had the same experience.

    As we’d stored the boxes in the ceiling storage, we sort of forgot about them and when we remembered them some months later, we just donated them out before we could get attached again.

    To be honest, tidy up at the end of playtime wasn’t really a problem after that.

    • Oh I just remembered another detail, before we dropped the kids to a friend so we could box things up, we told the kids we were going to tidy up and to put their favourite/special toys on their bed so they’d be there when they came home. So they did have a part in it.

      I think because the girls shared a room, once we had taken out all the storage containers of toys and what not, we had room to set the bunk beds up as two single beds so we did so, and pulled everything out to vacuum etc, so they more interested in their room being transformed than the missing toys.

      • Did they give you an idea of how many toys to leave out? I want to try this. My son is already keen on the idea of boxing up half of his toys to switch out in 6 months (and I think he’d forget about most of them in 6 months anyway) so I wonder if something similar would help him!

        • Hi Lynn – LOL my son is now 17 so it was a while ago – I think there was a group discussion on what was the ideal number of toys for one child, and there was a lot of different opinions on that. I had to factor in that we had the other two and had to be equal etc. I can’t recall but most people agreed that under 10 was sufficient, especially if they were actually going to rotate toys into and out of storage.

          We counted his bucket of lego as one but Roger the Rabbit counted as one, so on and so on.

          If your son is keen to box up half of his toys, start with that and if you think that is still too many, you could always make it 1/3 kept out and 2/3 packed away. I shamelessly took advantage of my kids lack of maths skills at that age.

  16. I think I’m disagreeing with most everyone here when I say do it for him/them. I have a son turning 6 in October. I tried to have him help the major purge, but he wasn’t any help. He insisted he played with everything, although I knew he didn’t. Instead, I boxed up things I knew weren’t played with. In 3 months, he hasn’t asked for any of it, so it will be exiting the house soon. I do help him purge on a regular basis, but it’s mostly the stuff he’s outgrown. It helps for him to know we are giving it to Cousin-yet-to-be-conveived (long story), rather than just going to the thrift store.

    I do agree with someone else who suggested that it’s your difficulty letting go. I kept a box of toys that we high-quality, likely to stand the test of time. It was easier for me to let go of the volumes, knowing that I was keeping the best of the best.

    Finally, I say, no guilt! Getting rid of the results of the grandparents’ excessive habits will never make you a bad mom. And it won’t make your kids hoarders. Do it when they are 15, and the story might be different. For now, take control of the situation. We shouldn’t let our 5 year olds dictate our lives. You can do it! (now, I need to go do the same!!)

  17. That is so very tough. As a kid, my parents did a “tidy up” of my room when I was 7 and they got rid of what they wanted to while I was away. The result was I felt like I had been robbed. Many things that were special to me were gone forever and I was resentful. Maybe that’s why I hang onto things so tightly now. Now that I’m a mom I can completely symapthize with my folks!
    My kids have WAAAAAY more than I ever did. It is overwhelming to the entire house at times and too much for them to keep track of. When they were younger I’d put their toys in “toy jail” if they couldn’t put them away – that is off the floor in a place that makes sense (I’d warn them to make sure the toys they liked best got put away first!). The stuff in the toy jail could be earned back if they could clean up their rooms every night AND find a home for any toy they freed. Anything left in jail after a set time limit (2 months) was tossed or donated.
    Now that they are older, the rules are that if they can’t care enough to take care of it then they can’t keep it. So if something gets broken or pieces lost then the whole thing goes.

    • Hi Creative Me – yeah being a parent gives a totally different perspective on childhood situations.

    • I had a mother that was threatening exactly the same way. It went like: “you know the rules: if you dont take care of your toys, I will take care of them.” and since my mum was an adult and didnt play with toys, I knew she probably would have just put them “away”.
      I do also remember that she made us sell our old unused things on the occasional kids-market or the bazar. so we could save money for whatever we liked (for me it was books).

  18. What really jumps out to me in your note is “I feel like I want to cry, my stomach hurts.” This doesn’t sound like to me that it’s really about the toys, but about something else that is very upsetting to you. My personal experience with 3 older children is that getting rid of toys is very symbolic for me of the fact that they are growing up and I can’t capture their childhood and keep it forever. Sometimes that feeling gives me a stomach ache and just won’t let go. But holding onto *things* means I’m not really enjoying the *time* I have with them. Hugs to you for being such a thoughtful mom. I think your children are very lucky that you care enough about them to keep things from being more important than people.

    • Well said Michelle, this thought also had occurred to me and then I got all practical. How remiss of me.

      By the way, welcome to 365 Less Things Michelle.

    • Hi Michelle – I also found an attachment to children’s items that had been outgrown – I think they represent an era and all the good things about that era. Teenagers just don’t seem to generate the same warm fuzzy feelings. 🙂

  19. I just asked my kids what was the best toy they had when they were little. They each named a respective doll or teddy and then they all said the box the fridge came in. I do recall it lived in the lounge for a couple of weeks and yes they had lots of fun until it literally fell to pieces.

  20. I don’t feel able to add to all the good ideas above, but I will comment on your statement “I think I am also afraid that my disappearing toy act will cause them to become hoarders as adults.”

    My mother used to regularly declutter my room and remove toys without my knowledge. I was completely unaware of this until she told me about it as an adult.

    My husband, however, comes from a home where they never throw anything out (eg when the soap bars get too small, his parents put them in a plastic cup in the bathroom that they keep for the purpose. It really is quite disgusting. In all the years I’ve known them, they have never actually used the saved soap).

    My husband was the same until he moved in with me and got a rude awakening. Now he actually agrees that it is much better to have a tidy house where you can find what you want when you want it and voluntarily declutters his things himself.

    Conclusion – it is being a horder that will make your children hoarders, as they will see it as the norm.

    • Recently I’ve done a bit of research on hoarding and the latest findings is that scientists are looking for a link between hoarding and DNA but not discounting the problem as a learnt behaviour as many hoarders have a first degree relative with the same problem. Or so the web page I read said.

      So I agree with Isabella that being a hoarder will increase the chances of a child turning into a hoarder. Being balanced about the number of possessions will give the child a balanced ideal.

    • Thank you so much for this comment. I often worry that purging my son’s stuff too frequently will make him a hoarder for life.

  21. Here is a comment I received via email from Nathalie…
    …my son was taught to declutter as of 3 years old… He’s now 12 and automatically does it 2-3 times a year… He gives his toys and stuff to unfortunate children… And it makes him feel good!!! Not even sells them, just give… But he chooses what goes and what stays… His decision.

    • I want to chime in again and encourage you not to worry about this. It is important to take the time and teach them the process and be patient, but it will take effect. I had to block out time and sit there and go through all their things one by one with them at first, but now they do it on their own voluntarily. The time spent was well worth it.

  22. Just throwing out there one last idea…….Toy Library. Once you have the situation under control, consider joining a toy library rather than buying new toys or asking the grandparents to pay for any membership fees instead of buying a toy.

    There wasn’t a toy library when my kids were little but I know people who use the local one and they swear by it. Every couple of weeks they bring home a new toy which is just about the right length of time for novelty to wear off.

  23. I agree that the 5 year old will be more astute than you could imagine when it comes to knowing what he likes and what he has no problem donating, especially if he knows other kids will love them. The movie Toy Story 3 covers this rather well, might want to watch it and get some reaction. My other comment concerns the grandparents themselves. Our first grandson has a lot of relatives…until recently, 6 living grandmothers (all 4 greats) plus double digit aunts and uncles. After the first round of occasions, it quickly became apparent that this child would be inundated with ‘stuff’. Rather than large amounts of gifts, we contribute generously to his education fund. He then gets one ‘classic’ type gift each occasion. When we visit, rather than toys, we fund special outings….to a farm, a waterpark, a riding stable, a dinosaur museum, even just a movie and his choice of restaurant, etc, etc. At 4, he loves it. Hopefully, he will look forward to spending time with us for years to come, rather than the present we bring. I do send small parcels from time to time, because he loves getting mail from Nana. Usually, a book or a DVD I think he will like, or a gift certificate. I do believe Mom and Dad appreciate the lesser amount of pressure on their limited space. Maybe, this lady can have a pleasant chat with the grands, as there are many more ways to show love than big gifts, that thy can enjoy as well.

    • Hi Elizabeth and welcome to 365 Less Things. How wonderful to hear from a grandparent on this subject and thank you for your insight. You sound like a Nan who has her head on straight when it comes to bestowing gifts on her grandchildren, good for you.

    • Hi Elizabeth – I like the idea of experiences, they stay in kids minds forever. My kids – all teens now – claim we used to go to Memorial Park regularly, I know for a fact that we went three times over eight years, but in their minds it was such a big event. Excellent value for some petrol across town.

      I now have young nieces and nephews and I don’t want to give them heaps of gifts because I know my bro-in-law and sis-in-law have a small house, so I am thinking up other ways to do something delightful for them. I thought maybe taking my niece shopping for a piece of whatever clothing she needs for the next season. She has all the hand-me-down clothes that went thru my two girls, then two other cousins, so maybe she would like something new and up to the minute fashion-wise.

    • Yes I do the same thing with my grandsons. I give them a small gift & take them out for an experience which they would otherwise not have.

  24. Thank you everyone for your insight. I have or will be implementing many of your suggestions. Like any decluttering project, starting was the worse part. The first items were hard to let go of but now I am in a grove. Even though my children have some input, many items are just going to disappear. I am working slow so not to upset them.

    I really appreciate all the advice. Now I just need to do is convince my family to give less material presents. Last year I asked everyone to give experiences like trips to the local play place or going out for lunch and ice cream. I got a few less gifts and some money for college but it was still a lot of stuff.

    Thank you again! I will reread these post whenever I need a boost.

  25. My grandchildren love getting mail so I subscribed to the National Wildlife Federation magazine for each of them (age appropriate ones since they are 5 years apart) but last year moved to Highlights magazines for each of them since they both love to read. They can do the puzzles and when they have finished with them, trade with each other or just toss them out. My daughter loves this because the kids get the joy of getting their own mail but it doesn’t take up space. Also, our local library sells used children’s books for $1 for hardbound and 25 cents for softbound. Whenever I find something they will like, I can send them an envelope with a book and when they have outgrown it, my daughter gives it to their library for another recycling. Everyone is happy and there is no clutter down the road. I love sending them things like this, easy for me and great for them. Lately, we have been sending one small gift for Christmas and several small gift cards that they can spend at Target when they go shopping. We also give them savings bonds for college and while they don’t see that immediately, will love it when they get older. My mother-in-law did that for our children and both of them are now reaping the benefits of her gifts. At first, I thought they would miss lots of gifts from us but Santa brings them the toys they want and gramma and grandad give them something special. We do give clothing items but only those that my daughter says they need. Once again, nothing to add excess to their closets. A win-win for everyone.

    • Hi Maggie,
      you are doing a wonderful job of being great grandparents. You are teaching the children valuable lessons along the way as well. Good for you, keep it up. I am sure their parents are grateful.

  26. One other thing, my grandkids have sporting activities – 1 swims and 1 plays hockey that either needs uniforms, supplies or the parents can use help paying for the lessons so we can send a check to the parents along with a note to the “grands” saying that we are gifting them XXX number of lessons. Everyone loves this because they are old enough to appreciate this gift. Along with the note goes a pair of hockey socks or goggles for swimming or a coupon for an ice cream treat on the way home from practice. Everyone gets a little something and my daughter can save her money for more important things. I think this is the gift my daughter likes best.

    • Hi Maggie – my kids have always done an assortment of activities but the girls especially do ballet, jazz & tap – I would have loved the grandparents to have assisted in some small way to their extra curricular activities, even if it was a pair of legwarmers or a leotard – you are a very thoughtful Grandmother!

  27. This issue and the comments are all very insightful. I’m not sure what I will do with my almost 3-year-old yet since I need to get rid of some of his toys but he is too young to take part in the process (any suggestions?) I agree with Colleen that it can potentially be a delicate issue – my husband was the youngest in the family whose siblings constantly took or broke his stuff. They also didn’t have much money so he had hand-me-down of everything including underwear. He is now very attached to things and even wants his “own” duplicate items (like nail clippers, antibacterial, or trash cans that we could be sharing) so that he knows he will have it when he needs or wants it. I have paired down our toiletries to where they all fit into our bathroom closet…we don’t even have a vanity in there right now because we are remodeling so we have more than enough storage room for all we use. However, he wants to buy a larger double medicine cabinet so that he can put “his things” on “his side” of the medicine cabinet. While he is an amazing husband and I understand why he feels this way, I wouldn’t want my son to feel the burden of being so attached to his things to where it leads to wasting his time, money, or space. So, that is something to keep in mind. I also agree with Moni in that I was the first of only two children and had mostly what I wanted. I could/should have had some lessons in culling my things as a child. Now, I’ve grown up and am the daughter of emotional clutterers/keepers/semi-hoarders who constantly give me and my kids things to show their love for us – I’m having to learn on my own how to decrease the clutter in my life!

    I don’t feel guilt in taking things from my son’s room that he sincerely doesn’t show interest in around me. However, I’ve realized just in the last 6 months as he can talk and express himself more that a lot more goes on in his head than I realize…perhaps he would know that I take the things that he’s not using…perhaps he cares but doesn’t have the language to let me know? Easter just came and he received a couple of things from friends that I don’t care for him to use. He began to play with the things that he was interested in. The couple of things that he didn’t show interest in (and that I didn’t care to keep) I put in another room and he hasn’t seen since. I’m hoping to trade in at a resale store so he can pick something he likes better. At this young age, would this be an okay way to be a good gatekeeper of what comes and stays in the home by way of toys? Is my almost 3-year-old old enough to take part in the decluttering process? If so, how would I go about it?

    To the person who wrote the question: I would say my son is in between the ages of your children. I’m amazed that every time I help him clean his room and truly organize it, he gets really excited and loves to start playing with his toys. He acts like it’s Christmas – it’s almost as if he can’t experience the enjoyment of his toys when they are all over the place and disorganized. For him, more isn’t better. He doesn’t know what he has, misplaces what he wants to play with, and ends up playing with more toys than he needs at once (which leads to being rough with them and some of them getting broken). Perhaps your kids will experience the same joy in playing with fewer toys as well? If so, there’s no need to feel guilty! You might actually make them happier…it’s amazing how as I’ve decluttered my own life that I am happier with the things that I’ve kept. I’ve seen the same in my son…when his things are all in their place and he’s not wading knee deep in (great) toys, he’s more at peace and his play is more enjoyable for him too. Oh how he teaches me lessons I should already know – what a blessing ( : My baby is almost a year old and I have one drawer in the living room and one drawer in her room that is for her (baby safe) toys. Anything more than that is too much for us – particularly since she is so small and only plays with toys we give her directly. Good luck in whatever you decide!

    • Hi Natalie and welcome to 365 Less Things. Thank you for your comment. That really is some wounds from the past your husband is carrying around with him. I hope that you both discuss his issues with wanting to duplicate everything. The more you can encourage him to think differently on that front the better. Best to do it with no expectations though just patience and understanding. The power of suggestion can have and amazing effect over time. That works both ways of course negative to negative, positive to positive, just like negative experience like he had as a child. It is never too late to change as evidence my Deb J’s mother. (I hope you have read some of Deb J’s story).

      As for your son I would the power of positive suggestion is also a good tool to use. Encourage him to throw toys away when they are broken in a fun way of course. And when he has grown out of his toys also encourage him to put them away for his sibling. Make it sound like a wonderful thing to do and I am sure he will capitulate. I am sure it is also fine to remove the odd thing that you think he as no interest in at this age but it can’t hurt to test his attachment first by asking something like ~ “Do you like this toy, I don’t see you playing with it much?” He may be discerning enough already to make those sorts of choices, you could then suggest giving it away to another child who doesn’t have toys to play with. Introducing compassion at this age is also a wonderful thing. Perhaps he will even learn not to place too much value in material object and that would be a good way to start out life. I would also suggest trying your best to limit the amount of toys he receives. Encourage friends and family who give him gifts to put money in a bank account for him on special occasions so he will have a nice nest egg when he gets older.

      I hope all those suggestion where helpful too you. Just remember this is an age when they learn so much and is a great time to form good habits. Good luck and happy parenting.

      Please remember I am not a professional and only speak from experience and a caring heart so please feel free to reject my suggestions and replace them with your own. Goodness knows I made enough mistakes of my own while raising my own now 23 and 21 year olds. With parenting is soon becomes too late to learn from your mistakes but the kids usually turn out just fine.

  28. Oh, I also meant to mention. I agree that the older son could probably help decrease the stress by choosing which toys he wants to get rid of. He might actually be okay with it. However I don’t know him ( : As an encouragement to this mom, good job for you to face something that is so hard! I as a parent am starting the habits of not having my stuff strewn all over the house but having a place for everything. Your sons will have such a great lesson in having a set area to play and a reasonable amount of toys to own. By helping teach them about clutter and having enough, you’re teaching them lessons now that will help them take care of their own homes, finances, etc. when they are older. So, good for you!