“Mark my words: our house will never look like a daycare.”
I made the flippant remark after visiting a house where two little boys lived. I was overwhelmed by the presence of toys, trucks and trains strewn through the dining room and living room. It seemed as if the kids’ stuff had taken over the entire house.
This comment comes back to mock me on a weekly basis. Oh, the ignorance. Gone are the days of clutter-free floors and tidy rooms. With a busy two-year-old, tripping over barnyard friends, blocks or LEGO has become a morning ritual. Even my car has become a holding cell for shrivelled-up balloons and stuffed animals (popcorn and apples slices too – but that’s a story for another day).
I find myself wondering, “How could our son accumulate hundreds of items in a mere two spins around the sun?” Simple, really. Birthdays. Christmas. Holidays. Then there’s the impulse grocery store purchases (Yes, for some reason there are toys at the end of every second aisle!) Let’s not forget all of the extended family – the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – who adore spoiling him with each visit. Can I blame them? No. But we’ve collectively contributed to a mass of toys that ultimately take up space and collect dust.
Calgary-based Parenting Power coach Gail Bell says as a society, we’ve done a remarkable job teaching kids to recycle, but we have a ways to go when it comes to reducing and reusing. Toys are so abundant and available, some families purchase them on a weekly basis.
“We hear a lot of frustration from parents, ‘Oh they really wanted this, we bought it for them and they don’t even play with it,'” Bell said. “So make a plan, you’ve got a lot of stuff in the home. Organize it.”
How can you do that without triggering a stage-five meltdown? Here are Bell’s top tips:
Bell suggests putting a lid on some toys.
“Do it with your children if they’re very hesitant. Say, ‘We’re not throwing this away right now, we’re putting it away. We’re going to look at it in a month, or we’re going to look at it in six months.'”
Then, rotate the toys. If your kids have ignored Hatchimals or Thomas the Train over the course of a few rotations, pack ’em up and put them in the donation box.
Bell adds, “When your child says, ‘No! No! No! You can’t!’ say – you’re the parent – actually, yes we can and we’re going to.”
Bell recommends giving kids the opportunity to rescue beloved items from the giveaway pile – within reason.
“Here’s the pile we’re giving away. Pick two things out of that pile you really love and you keep them.”
Bell says kids can reap big rewards from donating their belongings. She recommends explaining that certain toys are age appropriate and suggesting kids who could benefit from them.
“You played with this when you were four and you love it. I haven’t seen you play with this for two years but I bet Alex down the street would love this so we’re going to give it to him. Do you want me to take it to him or do you want to take it to him?”