Back to the subject of toys

With the holiday season just around the corner I thought now would be as good a time as any to think about how the volume of acquisition of toys for our children has changed over the generations. Is this a good or bad thing and I think you can probably guess that I won’t have a lot of positive insight as to how this is affecting children in the modern age. I am however open minded should anyone wish to dispute my opinion. And I must add, it is just my opinion, I have no psychological training or data to back this up. I am therefore only speaking from experience. I also know that my examples of general and that not every family follows this pattern.

As I recall from my childhood my siblings and I had toys, not rooms of toys or cupboards full of toys but the odd smattering of toys with which we sometimes amused ourselves. I vaguely remember Christmases and birthdays and loving receiving gifts, what kid doesn’t but there are only certain toys I recall that seemed to be a permanent fixture in our home. We had some building toys similar to Lego, a Meccano set, another more juvenile construction set, some board games, jigsaw puzzles, lots of packs of playing cards, my eldest brothers adjustable tin roller skates, a set of electric trains, the odd tricycle, my sister and I had a doll each and some cubby house toys. Other toys must have come and gone over the years but none memorable. I am almost certain the we never received any toys at other times of the year between these two celebrations. We spent a lot of time making our own fun building cubby houses by the river, playing board games and cards, riding bikes and playing with the other neighbourhood kids.

My children however did have a cupboard and the odd basket full of toys plus the odd outside ride-on toy like tricycles and later bicycles. I recall my mother-in-law never arrived at my house without a bag of something for the kids. Sure they were often inexpensive items picked up at garage sales and thrift stores but there was always something. I don’t actually recall there being such things as garage sales when I was a child perhaps that was a sign of the emergence of the consumerist generation of which I willingly took part for a while. People had to get rid of their excess some how and I imagine that is how garage sales came into being. I don’t recall having bath toys when I was a child which was another thing the my children enjoyed but at home and at grandmas. My kids also had a nice set of art supplies such as paints, markers and colour pencils with which we would all enjoy being creative with together for long stretches of time . Oh and I almost forgot we also entered the age of home computers, hand held electronic games and full on video games at this point. It was very easy to justify that odd computer program in the name of education in between normal gift giving times in this generation. And I am not forgetting here that I was the parent during this period and I have been told more than once that I spoiled my children by giving them too much. My daughter, on the other had, could not at first believe there was not Santa when her two year younger brother told her this was the case. She couldn’t believe it primarily because she didn’t think there was any way the I had paid for all those presents. In her opinion that was completely beyond my generosity limits. So I have to wonder how much I really spoiled them and how much of the stuff they had came from elsewhere.

Now this generation or what I have seen of it, as most of my friends don’t have small children anymore nor grandchildren yet, tend to have toy rooms rather than cupboards or boxes in which their enormous collection of play things are stored and enjoyed. The outside of the houses are also often littered with trampolines, trikes, bikes, pavement chalk, every type of ball known to man, roll playing toys and sometimes even small inflatable jumping castles. Often these items aren’t bought in the name of fun during the holiday season or on birthdays but appear continuously throughout the year as well. Some are also thinly disguised as educational props in order to give child that creativity/imagination/literacy boost that they can’t grow up in the modern world without. I have noticed when I have experienced this situation that many toys end up broken due to the choas that the sheer volume of toys amounts to. I can only imagine the horror on these young kids faces when there parents say ~ It’s time to put your things away.

Here are what I think are the negatives in this situation

  • The instant gratification of giving toys all year round does not teach a child to be patient , respectful or grateful for what they are given. Easy come easy go is a likely attitude outcome, which is priming the children to be future willing participants in the hamster wheel of rampant consumerism.
  • The modern day attitude of forever wanting and getting the next best thing sets these children up to be even worse clutterers than current generation of adults.
  • The reality shock when this generation reaches an age when they have to provide for themselves is bound to induce severe credit card debt. Realising it requires a lot of cold hard cash in order to live in the matter to which they have become accustomed will no doubt be hard to deal with at first.
  • Sometimes kids can associate receiving these toy treats as there main symbol of love if they are continuously offered as compensation for the absence of a parent due to work or other commitments that separate them on a regular basis.
  • Having worked in retail for many years I have witnessed many times the in-store tantrums of children who have got into the habit of being bought something every time they are taken shopping. Bribes for good behaviour are bad enough but giving in after one of these performances therefore rewarding the behaviour is a huge mistake.
  • Robbing children of the joy of a special occasions. If they are getting stuff all the time wouldn’t special occasions because just another day. I know that the novelty of Christmas wore off for me a little bit once I could afford to buy things for myself and I imagine the same would be true for kids who get stuff all the time.
  • Lets not forget  the negative effect that producing this magnitude of mostly plastic junk has on the environment.

Why do we fall prey to this behaviour of “spoiling” our children?

  • One reason is to use toys to keep the children occupied so we don’t have to entertain them ourselves.
  • We get fooled by the marketing hype that all these various toys boost there creativity, imagination and general intelligence in different and important ways. I have a counter theory to that in that perhaps too much variety actually stifles their imagination and creativity because they don’t need to find ways to play with each toy in many ways so that it remains interesting. Instead they have a toys for every situation with built in purpose and instructions for use. When I was a child, with one pack of cards, I could play solitaire 24 different ways, play numerous other games with my siblings and then when we got board with that we would build card houses.
  • It is safer to keep the kids indoors or in the safety of our backyards rather than allow them out into the big scary world where they might get hurt or worse. Having plenty of indoor entertainment makes this bearably possible. As a parent I can understand and have willingly gone along with this behaviour because after all it is our job to protect our kids and keep them safe. As a child though I know that I had way more freedom to explore the outside world than I allowed my kids. Bicycles were a form of transportation for kids once, now they are mainly a recreation activity to enjoy in the company of parents on the weekends.
  • We want our kids to feel special and loved, and what makes us adults feel special, shopping for new exciting stuff of course. So what better or easier way to show how much we care than a quick “new thing” fix.
  • Just as we do as adults with stuff we don’t want our kids to suffer from not keeping up with the Jones’s kids. If Johny down the street has one my kid is going to look lame if he doesn’t have one too so we had better keep up appearances.

I am sure that people who have known me personally for a long time might read this and say ~ “What a hypocrite!” ~ and to a degree they would probably be right. But the thing is that just means that I am speaking from experience and don’t want others to make the same mistakes. Clearly over the last 30 years this habit of over-endowing our children with stuff has gotten somewhat out of control and it is time as a society we started turning it around. So please think rationally about what you are buying your children this holiday season and what you buy them in between occasions in the future. If they want something give them ways to earn the money to buy it for themselves so they at least learn how to strive for what they want rather than having it handed to them on a silver platter.

Today’s Declutter Item

This box was used as a charging station for cell phones and ipods. Now the whole family uses apple products so we just plug them into our computers or sit them on the iPod dock/player so we have no need for this box any more. It didn’t even make it off the counter where I was processing it at the thrift store before some one wanted to buy it.

Something I Am Grateful For Today

Tonight as I finish this post at 10:30 I will just be grateful to lay my weary head on my pillow and have a good night sleep. I have had a busy week and that situation isn’t going to change between now and next Tuesday so I need my rest. And will someone please remind me to phone my mother-in-law today as it is her birthday and in all my haste to do other stuff I just might forget.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Colleen…R.I.N.G. Y.O.U.R. M.O.T.H.E.R. – I.N.- L.A.W. :O)

    • Thanks Katharine,
      it has just gone 7:14am and as predicted I hadn’t given her a thought. Even when I read this comment I wondered what you were on about. Clearly I need to drink my entire cup of coffee before my brain kicks in properly.

      • LOL, that’s really funny.
        On a separate note,I do get a ridiculous thrill from the international nature of this forum; knowing you are just getting up to a new day while we’re planning an early night the night before. We are 10 hrs behind you at the moment. (PS haven’t forgotten your request)

  2. Your MIL is eagerly awaiting your phone call. And her son’s call, too.

    • Hi Cindy,
      I must send him a text message as he is on a business trip in Canberra at the moment and may get so wrapped up in what he is doing that he could forget to call her. thanks for the reminder.

  3. Last year, I wanted to cut down on gifts but was having a hard time giving structure to my thoughts. Someone at church tipped me off to their household rule: Only 3 gifts per person. That’s what Jesus got at his birth, so that’s enough for anyone. I loved having a rule AND a reason.

    • Oh Cindy, ***sigh****, ‘a rule AND a reason’ (re: 3 gifts/person). That’s truly beautiful.

      • Hi Annabelle,
        I always placed a budget on my kids Christmases and if they wanted something that took up the whole budget that was all they got aside from a few inexpensive treats in their Christmas stocking.

      • 3 gifts – I think I’ll steal that one too! It’s much closer to what I got as a kid myself. How does that work with extended family / friends? Or is that only a from the parents thing?

        One of my cousins family grew up with these rules:

        – only 2 sets of play clothes (they had school uniforms)
        – only 2 sets of “nice” clothes (for church, parties etc)
        – only 3 toys (lego or babies was consider “1” toy as it was a set)

        Then each year they got new gifts for birthdays or Christmas and could keep it all for 1 week and then they chose which 3 toys they were going to keep and which ones they would give away. This meant they weren’t hanging onto toys they didn’t play with any more and the parents had a much better idea of what to buy as they child would show their priorities through what they kept e.g. replace the soccer ball each year as it was one of the 3, buy more matchbox cars as the kids collecting/playing with them and getting rid of cricket gear.

        I don’t know if many parents would have the guts to do this these days…

    • I love this too! Rule and a reason for three gifts 🙂 I will have to remember this. Right now my daughter probably won’t even get three gifts from us but she will get more than three when godparents and grandparents and aunts give something. Though we encourage books, non-material gifts (she’s getting weekly circus school lessons for her birthday!) and games, and more of what we already have like more duplo legos, which we know are fun and get used.

      I have to say kid stuff is my weakness.. I loved to buy her clothes and I now love to make them for her.. and I love good quality wooden toys and such.. 🙂 But I really try my hardest to resist getting her stuff just because. She gets a small gift for her nameday in the summer (her birthday and Christmas are so close together that I feel like waiting a whole year is a drag). I think it’s also okay to give nice clothes as gifts, it doesn’t all have to be toys.

      My daughter is only turning three but she isn’t much into stuff yet. She often plays with the most random things and has never thrown a tantrum over wanting a toy. Actually she never has asked for anything -she has tried hinting by saying “I really like this” but will understand when I explain why we are not getting it. At a fleamarket once a lady tried to get her to choose a stuffed toy for free but she refused (to my relief!) and the lady thought it was so cute and rare, LOL!

      • Hi Cat’sMeow,
        it sounds like you are on the right track with your daughter. I remember when my son was little he never used to ask for anything at the shops either. We would have a treat of donuts when we went for which he never showed any impatients prior to receiving but just happily sat in his pram for the whole time. I don’t remember my daughter wanting for anything either until she got a little older buy that time she was in school and most of the shopping was done while she wasn’t with us. of course the teenage years became a bit of a trial though. Mainly when it came to clothes shopping so at twelve I gave her a monthly clothing allowance and she had to make it work or she went without.

    • That’s our rule here too. My son gets PJs on Christmas Eve, a gift from mama and daddy and a stocking, then one gift from Santa. (I realize it’s a bit loose, but the idea is there, anyway.)

      He gets gifts from other people but at least we don’t contribute to his clutter much at all.

      • Hi Lynn,
        well done. if one starts out with these good habits the kids know nothing else and are happy with what they receive. I would love to know what your kids think of the situation with other children they know who receive a whole lot more. Do they think nothing of it, do they think the other kids are spoiled or do they think they are missing out? They must surely encounter this situation.

        • We had the issue that my sister buys her kids ALOT at Christmas and we don’t, so the kids would ask why have they got more than us. So we tell the kids we still have to pay Santa for the materials to make the toys which helps explain why we donate to the Wishing Tree as well. We also tell them we would rather you get 1 thing you love than 10 things you only like.

          • Hi Debra F,
            that sounds like a reasonable explanation to me. Teaching the kids to give to the Wishing Tree is a good way to bring them up too.

    • Hi Cindy,
      I don’t suppose there really has to be a rule because like most things we didn’t get in this mes overnight so perhaps we just need to ease back slowly as well so as not to upset the apple cart so to speak.

  4. Colleen,
    D.I.T.T.O. what Katharine wrote! :O)

    Bravo for you, Colleen, for writing this post. EXCELLENT point: “So please think rationally about what you are buying your children this holiday season and what you buy them in between occasions in the future”.

    • Hi Annabelle,
      I sometimes think the in between is more important to back off on first as there is no need for that to be happening. It is sheer indulgence on both sides.

  5. I could not agree MORE! Yet, here sits a huge hypocrite–3 bikes/cars, huge trampoline, little kitchen, drum set, keyboard, and two small bookcases of toys. You just inspired me though…just decided to get rid of the easel and a trike. The book case is pretty well pared down, although I’m sure I could always get rid of more (it’s one with 8 little boxes…and some boxes only have 1 toy in them). Thanks for this!

    • Hi Megyn,
      don’t feel too bad, I am sure like most parents you aren’t the only one providing all this indulgence. Rather than decluttering what is already there I think it is most important to cut back on the giving between special occasions and try to discourage others to do the same.

      • Oh we definitely do! I rarely, if ever, buy our boys toys. If I do, I get used 99% of the time. Relatives, however, are a completely different story. At least my parents agree to keep toys they buy at their house. Also, the BIG toys we have are ones that should grow with the boys and be used for well over a decade, so hopefully they’ll stand the test of time and won’t need to buy much, if anything for quite some time. Any suggestions on how to convince pushy grandparents to STOP buying? I already give tons of brand new toys away, but still, it never ends!

        • I find the direct approach is the only way to go. Just tell them the boys have too much and you don’t want them turning into spoiled brats. Trust me they will be blaming you for that later on with their when-I-was-a-child stories (speaking from experience here). Give them alternate ideas for gift giving like the ones listed in my Uncluttered Gift Ideas for Children guide. There are lots of great idea that cause no clutter at all that the grandparents could buy for your children and the kids will be glad of them. Perhaps you could print the guide off for them before you broach the subject.
          Good luck, hopefully you will find that they are surprisingly open to the idea.

  6. Colleen, I couldn’t agree more. I really believe that one of the reasons people keep buying is because they have been taught to get tired of something quickly. So they go out and buy the next gadget/toy. I used to buy gifts all the time for every occasion (birthday, anniversary, Christmas, etc.). I would put a lot of thought into it and bought things I knew the person would like. But I realized I was just helping with the clutter accumulation. If I give a present now, it is usually something that will be used up–a gift card to a favorite store, healthy food, etc. Overall though, what I am doing is giving a gift of myself–my time and energy to be with them or do something for them. I would much rather someone take me for ice cream or coffee then get some trinket. Hugs are great too. As a single person who lives with their elderly mother it’s nice to have time with others just doing something fun. I don’t want things, I wnat your time.

    • Hi Deb J,
      in return I couldn’t agree more with your comment. That is exactly how I approach special occasions these days. Like taking my friend to the gardens and lunch this week. We both had a wonderful time and no clutter was accumulated in the process.

  7. Colleen,

    I have been totally guilty of buying off my children because I want them to like me. And I made the mistake when I had my first long awaited son of letting him get just a little something every time I took him to the store. It wasn’t long before it was expected and there were tantrums, so I had to stop completely.

    The sense of entitlement this kid (almost 20) now has is indescribable and it is completely my fault. He thinks we are the ATM machine. But he’s getting better and he doesn’t use credit – he always waits until he has enough money before buying the big boy toy electronic thingie that he wants. So he turned out okay.

    I also made the mistake of giving each child a television and video game system of their own to keep the fighting to a minimum, since I suffer from two chronic illnesses and couldn’t spend as much time with them as I would have liked. It served its purpose, but they are spoiled beyond reason. I am really working with my younger two to get them to earn what they want instead of it being handed to them. And when they do get something now from me for free, it’s a treat, not a right.

    My youngest son recently wanted to purchase $82 worth of books from the book fair at school and was willing to put in all of his allowance and not get an allowance until his debt was paid off to get the books. I bought him the books because that is one thing I will never discourage. I will nurture any kid’s desire to read, read, read and it wasn’t a video game! Hallelujah! That’s $82 well spent, because he is a video game addict. Since he got the books, he’s spent a lot more time reading than he has playing video games and that’s as it should be.

    I have kept two things from the kids growing up. Their legos and their Thomas the Tank Engine sets. I figure those are two things that are great for kids that visit and that will be something to hand down to the grandchildren or have here when grandchildren come to visit. We have guests coming this weekend and I have the Thomas trains, the legos, crayons, and bubbles for them. And my youngest son’s Wii and video games and I think they will be very entertained.

    It had gotten to the point where my youngest son would go into Gamestop and not be able to find something he wanted to spend his money on because he had every game that had come out that was on his list. I think this is just sad. There should always be something you are working towards – it creates goals and motivation.

    I am happy not to have a house full of children’s stuff and I am happy that my children are old enough now that I don’t have all the clutter. I had many garage sales to get rid of all of the stuff we had accumulated that they didn’t need and am happy to have it gone. We are slowly getting the house cleaned out and that is due, in part, to your blog. So thank you so much and keep up the great work!


    • Hi Chelle,
      thank you for your honesty. Sharing stories like this highlights the folly of this sort of behaviour. At some point everyone pays for their mistakes and in the case of giving too much to our children the payback can be long and painful on both sides. I am glad you are gradually get a handle on it.

  8. I just love reading about other people’s views about this. Here’s mine, as a child my mother used to make sure i woke up to a HUGE pile of presents (we were not well off) each year bigger than the last. I mistakingly thought i had to do this too, but with three boys, i found it increasing hard to ‘find’ things to make this huge pile. At the end of the day boys just want a bike, lego, and toy soliders, right?.

    Around about May/ june, all the presents i had ‘found’ would make their way to the charity shop. Madness. We now buy our kids for christmas 5 wrapped presents,1) something they have asked for, 2)smellies,3) clothes,4) books/stationary 5)game and a stocking filled with sweets/pens/socks etc. They get nothing between birthdays and christmas (only if they have saved their own money) And for my daughters birthday in February we are going to see x-factor, clutter free 🙂

    One of the biggest problems is what i call the contentment thieves, your kids are perfectly happy with their bike/phone/games console etc, then come along ADVERTS and rob them of their contentment, telling them they will be cooler, more popular, a better person if you buy this gadget GRRRRRR!! (and adults too 🙁 )

    Fantastic post Colleen, i loved every word of it!!
    Sharron x

  9. Oh Colleen I hope you get through the week. You cracked me up with your creative spellings (rest assured, I’m no better. I finally did those baby cards, and wasn’t sure how to spell surprise – my colleague googled it to reassure me!!)

    I grew up with ‘one from santa, one from mum and dad’. The stocking was a pillow case that santa used to put his gift (seeing he didn’t wrap it – my parents never were on top of the fine details like diff. paper!). The idea of ‘stocking fillers’ puzzles me, mainly cause I’ve never had any (although I’ve seen my cousins’ hauls!) Now we know the truth, there’s one ‘big ticket”ish item, and that’s about it.

    So it seems, in some things, I agree with mum, and support what she did. We had toy boxes, and never a toy in our room (we had a play room/hallway/enclosed verandah in Brisbane). We had trikes we rode on the outdoor verandah. I never had a play kitchen etc (they were at preschool or school). I’m sure we probably got books ‘whenever’ seeing I recall my childhood home with a wall of books (many adult novels), but I’m sure we had many, given that’s one thing my family loves.

    The toys I remember? Bed time barbie – for my 4 year old brother! My grandpa had a heartattack at the idea, but it’s what he really wanted. And it’s a great story to tell now! One year all I wanted was a camera (I say, with two awaiting freecycle pickup now!) and didn’t realise that my aunts and uncles would NEVER buy something that pricey for me. I realised if santa or mum and dad hadn’t come through, the tree offered no hope 🙁 I don’t know what year that was, but the sense of disappointment was immense! And alas, I can’t recall any memorable childhood gifts recieved… Having kept only my teddy (got at 1 yo), and one picture book! Even my brothers lego got given to friends who’d use them more.

    • Hi Snosie,
      firstly please tell me where I got creative with my spelling this time. I hope it was deliberate but I am not sure what spelling you are talking about so please enlighten me. God only knows what sort of crazy thing i have written this time. 😆 So often I have to correct myself in the middle of spelling hadn’t for some strange reason I try to spell in haddent.

      Snosie it sounds like you thought your childhood was a little sparse on the gift receiving front. Would I be right in saying that? Do you think that you felt that way because of the disparity between what you received compared to what other children received that you knew?

      • kaos (took me a while to work it out, chaos is the normal spelling). But it’s part of your charm!

        I don’t think it was sparse, I think it was ‘right’ I mean we could all play for hours with nothing. My middle brother just needed his fingers and he had men! (he’d never nap with those fingers!). I mean, i think my cousins might have got more, but a day after Christmas it hardly matters what you got, you forget and get on with life/fun. Actually now that I’m older I think I feel the ‘letdown’ more, mainly cause I always hope a present will keep me occupied in all the public holidays! Whereas as a kid, we stayed with our cousins, and had a week of playing/hanging out together. Very interesting!!

        • Hi Snosie,
          when i wrote that I knew it wasn’t right (been watching too much Get Smart) but I forgot to go back and fix it. Funny that it doesn’t show up on spell check.

          I am glad you didn’t think you missed out on anything back then. My family quite often would stay in our caravan at Hervey Bay at Christmas and a lot our Brissy cousins would also caravan there. So the presents got felt by the wayside when there was all those fun kids to play with. I remember hanging out with them more than I remember the gifts thats for sure.

          • I asked my brothers this arvo – they recall rollerblades as a gift – and we went rollerblading on Christmas Day. So it IS all about experiences!! (bedtime barbie was also recalled!)

  10. I love the fact that my kids are now out of the plastic crap toy stage (well, almost, my 11 yo daughter has asked for a Baby Alive for Christmas!) I’ve never been comfortable with excess, but I used to feel a pressure to ‘keep up’ with my sister, and my husband’s siblings when it came to gift giving for my own children. The sheer volume of stuff my sister- and brother in-law give their kids for Christmas was astounding, and I felt really stingy by comparison. Until I spoke to one of them and they felt they ‘had’ to do this too! Fortunately we only do the in-law Christmas every 2 years 🙂 My weakness is books: I collect (2nd hand and new) books for my kids all year round and pile them in a stack under the tree. I try to restrain myself to those books I KNOW they love and will reread, whereas in the past I’d just grab whatever I thought they MIGHT like. My son’s birthday is a week before Christmas and it is always a bit tricky as he gets a bit overwhelmed with double the presents! He is so into Lego that it isn’t a problem, but I have to fight with myself NOT to buy him the really expensive (over $100 sets). I’ve been quite firm that he has to save up for those himself.

    Neither of them get ANY toys during the rest of the year (unless they buy them with their own money, and then they have to get rid of something equivalent – this really makes them decide whether the new, shiny thing is worth it!) They have enough art/craft supplies that I haven’t had to buy any in over 2 years! I will buy the occasional book, but I do that for myself too, and they are very good at culling their own books to make room for new ones.

    As for my family Christmas’s: my parents came from a communist country where Christmas was not celebrated, so our Aussie Christmas was very low key (and frankly, boring as anything!) My sister and I didn’t get expensive presents (my parents couldn’t afford it anyway), mainly books (which I loved and spent Christmas day reading) but we did appreciate what we got. It was a much simpler childhood, and we looked after the toys that we did have, unlike most kids that I know now, who have so many toys they really couldn’t care- and often don’t notice – if something happened to them! I can’t tell you the number of items that my daughter owned I have either chucked or donated; and she hasn’t missed any of them!! (I only do this with things that are left lying around after warning them that this will happen, I’m not *that* mean that I just get rid of their things without permission).

    • Hi Loretta,
      it sounds like you have a really good handle of parenting and if you have to have a weakness books is a good one. You have had the chance to see one extreme to the next in your life and have found a good balance I think. Well done. I look forward to hearing more about it on the weekend if all goes well.

      • I do think that books for children is a better use of money / resources than books for adults. My girls read many of their books ever and over, even though we also visit the library at least once a week. As for myself, I only buy books that I know I will also read more than once, although I think most adults read books a single time and then are done. For example, I’ve read The Accidental Tourist every other year for the past decade. I love it!

        • Cindy, it’s one of my favourites too! I must have read it a dozen times 🙂 It’s one of those books that the movie version is good too.

        • Hi cindy,
          I have one book that I refer back to on a regular basis to. It is called Awareness (The perils and opportunities of Reality) and is by Anthony De Mello. I love it, it is such a down to earth book and helps keep me grounded.

  11. Great post! I totally agree.

    My kids had a lot of toys, and a play room, before they started kindergarten. They were spending all their time at home so it made sense to keep their growing mind active and nourished with various activities/games. When school started, the time spent playing at home decreased, and as homework kicked in, their spare time shrink… We transformed the play room into an office and got rid of many toys, especially the big ones. I don’t buy a lot of “toys”. But I do buy sport gears, especially for my son who is very active (balls, bicycle, scooter, tennis racket…), and art materials for my daughter who is very creative. No video games, no iPod, no iPad, no cell phone. It is hard to resist the peer pressure for them but I am not ready to give in. 9 and 10 year old is too young in my book for these. Last year for their birthday, we even bought them a common gift. A multi games table: foosball, air hockey, ping pong, pool etc… that I bought on craiglist. It might seem like a lot, but it was in somebody’s garage, taking dust because the kids there only played video games. What a waste! It is well loved in our home.
    Note: I got it for almost nothing, and resisted the urge to buy some other stuff to compensate. It is the value it brings that is important, not the price.
    Regarding Christmas, my son wants a Wii and my daughter an iPhone. They won’t have it and I am not sure what they will get. I am thinking of going on a family trip in the Sierra for a few days so they can experience Christmas under the snow. That would be our family present and be totally waste and clutter free. 🙂 But expensive…

    • Hi NatalieinCA,
      i like the sound of Christmas in the Sierra and I am sure the kids will get a lot of fun and good experience out of that. I wonder what they would think of not getting any gifts though?

      I see on the news that there was a mass shooting at a hair salon south of LA today. Some people will stop at nothing for revenge. How sad.

      • Because my 11 year old daughter has diabetes, she has a cell phone. I was thinking of giving her and her sister my iPod Touch and frankly, it was because I wanted a new one that includes a camera. SHE told ME, “I don’t think I need one, especially since I already have a phone.” I just shut my mouth and walked away.

  12. awesome post, perfect timing since I have a good long talk with my kids about Christmas presents this year. I told them that we are not buying any new, we are going to get creative and make something from the heart. It could be anything from a book, or a picture frame. My little girl birthday is so close to Christmas we have decided to opt out of giving gift. We have asked our guest to give no gifts but if they would really want to give something. I suggested, an experience gift would be nice. I don’t know how likely this will be taking by my mother in law. Since, she always has to buy them something. I would rather have her take the kids out to the park instead of buying them toys. But that never happened. Pretty sad, makes me sad for my girls….

    • Hi Angelina,
      God bless you for trying. It isn’t always possible to impose your wishes on other but just keep trying.Sometimes I think people go for the gift because it is the easy way out. I also think it has become such a habit/tradition to over give.

    • Angelina, i totally sympathise with you, my husbands parents were exactly the same. Mother in law is particulary difficult and i can recall one year when my daughter was about 2 and she telephoned ahead to announce they wouldn’t be coming but SIL had the present. My husband asked her when they would be coming and she said she didn’t know. My husband (in his usual tactful way) told her that my daughter didn’t need the present, she did however need to see her grandparents on her birthday as she hadn’t seen her since Christmas (birthday in feb) . We then didn’t speak for many years. Really sad for my childrens sake. They didn’t need presents, just their time. Father in law passed away last Christmas, and i just can’t help but think of all those occasions when my children should have spent time with him. My husband and i accept some of the blame for this, but to be honest we got tired of trying. So sad, but sometimes you just have to accept that other people place more value on ‘things’ as opposed to time.
      Sharron x

    • Hi Angelina, I love the way you have organised your gift creativity, your kids will remember these moments more than toys and as for your MIL maybe she’ll come around in her thinking when she sees what the kids make and tell MIL if she absolutely has to give something give them the money instead.
      My Mum & Dad always spoiled our kids all the time but at least they listened when we said whoa, the best one I recall was my Dad getting told by my son “Grandad you don’t have to give me money everytime I visit, I love you all the time” I love kids they are priceless!
      Don’t get too sad over your MIL, maybe you could explain it to the kids and they could ask Grandma? to tone it down gift wise and take them to the park! I hardly remember any gift etc from my Nanna when I was young but I have a huge swag of memories about spending time with her xx
      Keep at it you’ll get there
      Dizzy 🙂

  13. Hi mini’s,
    Oh man this subject is a cracker! I love Christmas it’s the only thing I allow clutterwise I don’t need to be told I have heaps neither will I downsize Christmas or a birthday coz that is what I love, I look after all my decorations BUT with that said I find the whole gift giving thing a GIANT PITA (pain in the ass). As a child my most significant Christmas was our 1st in Australia. Apart from a complete climate change (which we loved) we got what we all wanted and it was no more than 3 things + a stocking of sweets + fruit (coz that was traditional for our family) I got my Chrissy doll and my bro + sis got a bike each Little sis got a few extras cos she was very young and it wasn’t anything speccy doll+pram & gear to go with it. All our following Christmases were the same. Fast forward to the recent now and our kids are ruined! By their Grands. What a balls-up from frugal + smart to CHAOS but my folks said they couldn’t afford much when we were kids so they spoil the grandkids. Now I know we have probably all done it to some extent but for some reason I thought littlies should be a bit spoilt right! WRONG we know that now, my nieces and nephews have become selfish due to “Keeping up with the Jones’s” I have raised my son to appreciate his things and yes I have spoilt him in the past when young but through it all I maintained that he should appreciate everything that is bestowed on him whether it be gift or compliment! Every month without fail we pick a charity and donate, it may be $5 or $50 depends what it is, I have always told him ‘It is better to give than to receive’.
    This philosophy served us all well one Christmas when we had extended Family visiting with their two very spoilt very horrible “Veruca Salt’ daughters! My son decided to spend the ‘Christmas Money’ that my Dad gave to him on a poor village somewhere in the world through World Vision (the money was for him to spend on himself or whatever for Christmas) you should have seen the rellies faces when after all the pressie tossing my son stood up and proudly announced to the family that he has no gifts for them, instead he donated all the money to World Vision in the name of the family a bought a goat, a pig, 6 chickens, a vege patch of seeds & water purifying tablets! My immediate family had a little teary moment and commended him on his thoughtfulness, the other kids had a tantrum! LOL I absolutely love Christmas hahahaha.
    Some years before this my son was charity searching at the Shopping Centre and came across the Sponsor a child stall, when he questioned the man about the program he asked “how much is it to buy a kid” this question had the guy doubled over in fits of laughter! We all had a good laugh but my son realised he didn’t have enough money to sign up, on him so he made a donation and the man gave him a cardboard angel that they have. We still have it and it goes on the tree every year. We still laugh about his comment!
    For many years now we have drawn a name out of a hat and that is who we buy for. For us it’s definitely about being together and sharing a meal and having fun.
    I still decorate and I love it and my house is Christmassy and I have a beautiful tree and my family love it, its the only thing that gets OTT, we always donate to good causes and we make the trip to the Salvos with food hampers. We always feel that we have done a little something that is a good thing for someone else.
    As for Birthdays that is your or their special day so they get to choose something special to do or go to or whatever they may NEED! I save for these experiences and have included tickets to see Stevie Wonder, George Thorogood, Joe Cocker, Michael Bubl’e shows like Priscilla, Stomp, Tap Dogs, All that Jazz, Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, something significant and awesome! Now I have just realised that I have some clutter to clear coz one of Colleen’s blog topics was about not collecting clutter such as programs or trinkets so i shall go and address that right now!
    Still Dizzy xx

    • Dizzy,
      I love the sound of your Christmas – great when someone gets what the day is about.

      • Thanks Ann, I will always try to keep the Spirit of Christmas in my heart and honour it all the year long! Is that how it goes?
        Anyway that’s how we manage the Season.
        Dizzy 🙂

    • Hi Dizzy,
      finally another family that give fruit at Christmas. The Christmas mango tradition has been passed on to my children from my husbands side of the family and I think it is great. I am writing this reply as I read through your comment and now I a cracking up laughing at the reaction of your son’s generous donation by the “Veruca Salt” twins. God how I wish I was there to see that. Your Christmases sound beautiful and you have set a wonderful example for your son. What a fabulous man he will be.

      i just had a great idea. With your permission I would like to cut and paste your story into my Christmas cards this year. It will give some people a good laugh and other a wake up call.

      • Hi Colleen,
        I would be honoured for you to use my scratchings, it made the rounds the following Christmas in my cards so who knows we may end up having a friend in common hahaha.

        I can honestly say this story has touched a lot of people, it comes up quite often and we have a great laugh and the “Veruca Salts” have never changed so there could be another Christmas Story this season hahaha.

        So use it with my blessing and may it give your loved ones a tickle!
        Dizzy 🙂

  14. Just to add, our local church run operation christmas child in which shoeboxes are filled with small items that go to third world countries. Great for decluttering bits and bobs that have laid unused. I sorted out my daughters toys and found a brand new in packet tiara, brand new teddy, and lots of unused toiltries, i then went and bought toothpast/brush and some sweets to add in. My mum knitted a scarf and gloves so it’s a great way to give to those less fortunate than ourselves. I’m in the U.K so not sure if around the world does anything similar?
    Sharron x

    • Hi Sharron,
      Yep we do similar in Australia, my son’s school does it. I get the family to buy functional things, this can include socks, knicks/jocks, t-shirts, combs, brushes, plus pens, pencils, texta’s & crayons. We love packing these and I have a friend who works in a shoe store so we get all the same size boxes and we fill them.
      Beautiful way to teach kids the value of doing a good deed and you know it’s all gonna get used!
      Dizzy 🙂

    • Hi Sharron,
      what a lovely idea.

  15. My best childhood Christmas was the one just after my Dad had a major stress breakdown and as a result got fired from his job (it was a different era). Our family almost went bankrupt but us kids never knew about that until we were all in our 20’s. What we do remember is that year Mum made a huge deal out of us making Christmas gifts for each other from things at home and the fun was doing it in secret and keeping it from each other (not easy with 6 kids). So we got to stay up extra late some nights to work with Mum. My Grandpa helped my brother in his workshop. It was so much fun making from scrap materials 🙂 I still have the felt needle book one sister made me and use it all the time.

    It was the best Christmas of my life and didn’t cost the family a cent! All while recycling (which hadn’t been “invented” yet).

    And now that I’ve spent a lot of time enjoying trauling this blog I think it’s time I turned off the computer and went and decluttered something else. Thanks for all the inspiration ladies 🙂

    • Hi Gail,
      what a lovely story of your favourite Christmas. Isn’t it funny how our perceived ideas about what makes for a good Christmas for our kids isn’t necessarily true. Does your mother realise that that was your favourite Christmas. You should talk to her about it if she is still with you. I phoned my mum on Friday to do a little Christmas reminiscing and we had a good laugh together. I remember one year, a month or so before Christmas, when my sister and I had had an all in brawl and cracked one of the the Fibro walls in the house struggling with one another. My father & brothers thought it was a great laugh but my mother was justifiably appalled and told us we weren’t getting any gifts at Christmas. I took her at her word and thought I was in for a miserable Christmas but was most relieved on the day to find out she had relented and bought us presents after all. When laughing about it on Friday she remembered the fight (because it was not a normal occurrence) but she didn’t remember the threat. Obviously it had more of an impact on me that it did on her. I must phone my sister and see if she remembers.

  16. Aargh! Toys!

    It’s funny, because I see all these great toys that I remember from my childhood and I want to get them for my kids. I loved them, so surely they will too! But then I think more objectively about it and realise that a lot of these toys I remember from playing with them at other people’s houses, not because we owned them all. And when I think about how many toys we had, then I realise that, actually, it wasn’t a huge amount, especially given the number of children they were shared between. Though, given I was a child in the 1980s, it was probably a lot of toys compared to what my mother had as a child!

    I also have memories of having lots and lots and lots of presents for Christmas and birthdays – ten or twelve small things, usually, including exciting stuff like new clothes – and my husband questioned me last Christmas as to whether I thought we were making our kids miss out on something by only giving them three or four things. But the reality is that I didn’t have much extended family, while my kids have bountiful grandparents, aunts and uncles (I have as many siblings as I have aunts and uncles), and they give presents as well.

  17. I haven’t read any of the comments yet, but here is my first thoughts. The point of “keeping up with the Jones’ kids” is the hardest point to resist. In the past I have resisted buying the fad toys, gadgets and fashions for my kids — they had plenty of other stuff mind you — and the resulting social outcasting was terrible! Other parents and even teachers thought we were “poor” and offered assistance!!!!! I wasn’t embarassed so much as shocked that this was the impression less consumerism was projecting. Between the false “poor” effect and the fact that my boys had no clue how to play pokemon, there were was a social gap that was sometimes hard to bridge for them. Even though I knew it was tough, I felt sorry for the fad-kids more than I felt sorry for mine!

    • Hi Creative Me,
      that is tough. At the same time as trying to bring your children up right you don’t want them to be social outcasts. I think it is a case for finding the right balance between keeping up with the times and not spoiling them rotten. I think my kids had more than they needed but I still put limits on things. I know there were kids in our neighbourhoods that had more than mine but mine had a fair enough mix that they managed to keep up between playing with their own and playing with their friends stuff. It has probably gotten worse over the last ten years as well. i found that while we were living in America there were a lot of parents around us that also liked to keep the balance between toys and social and sporting activities so even though there were likely richer kids around us they were well rounded. Mine were probably over exposed to techno stuff though and from there you can keep up with any trend.

  18. Oh the WORST is that my sister is a “spoiler”. She can afford to get any little thing her kids desire — in 5 different colours — and they have a toyroom too. So when my boys go over to play at their cousins’ they come home as little green-eyed monsters jealous of all the NEW stuff that they got to play with — the complete sets or series, the big kits the latest game, etc etc etc… my youngest is BEST FRIENDS with his cousin (totally great) but it can be a problem with the inequality in toys.

    • Hi Creative Me,
      hopefully they will realise that they can enjoy them when they go to visit their cousins and that if they had them at home the novelty would soon wear off. They have the best of both worlds perhaps you need to point that out to them. Let your children know that over indulging them now will only set them up for disappointment later in life. Explain to them about supply and demand and how that is destroying our planet, they might just feel differently then.