Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tackling the Toy Surplus

It is really easy to accumulate too many toys.  With a number of children--particularly when they are all the same gender--the toys just accumulate with each additional birthday, or Christmas, or bored afternoon stroll through the big box store.  

It's hard to recognize the point where it becomes too much.  But I've definitely felt lately that there is too much.   I want my children to respect and feel a stewardship over their belongings.  That doesn't happen when there are toys all over the floor that they are stepping on because they pulled them all out looking for something else.  Having less toys would help help them appreciate and care for their toys more. 

Also we have toys of varying quality.  "Experts" say the best toys for children are ones that allow for open-ended creative play.  Toys that serve more than one specific function.  We really would rather have fewer toys and have them be ones that the boys end up playing with regularly rather than once in a while.  

But It's really hard to get rid of their toys.  For us and them (but mostly us). 

One thing we've done over the last few years to get rid of toys is giving them to friends that have babies.   I tell the boys "Don't you think Clark would love this penguin bowling?"   And then I let them help me wrap it up and give it to their baby friend.   I tell the parents that we're cleaning out toys and thought their kid would love it rather than us throw it out.   Then they see it as a great idea not as you giving them a cheap present--it's very hip to be "green" after all-- Then the boys are happier to see their toys go.  

A huge local twice-yearly consignment sale is coming up this weekend.   Last time I took a few toys/games and they actually sold better than my clothes (Since my clothes aren't that nice.) So I'm doing all toys and accessories this time.   Owen did start crying when I went off with the bin of toys (but I ended up bringing home the one he was crying over since it didn't sell so he was happy).   This time I took the toys this morning when Owen was at school.  What he doesn't see won't hurt him. 

I'm trying to get rid of toys that the boys don't play with much and toys that are doubles (Serve the same function of another toy) and toys that are annoying.  Like games that make a huge mess ant aren't really much fun anyway.   These are the easiest places to start because you don't feel so bad about getting rid of them.

But the actually getting rid of the toys is hard (as opposed to putting them in storage) because we --and I'm talking parents here-- often have emotional attachment to things like "it was from Nonny" or something.   But it's better to have a house that is livable and not stuffed to capacity rather than hold on to things that are past their useful stage.   The other thing that makes it hard is looking at the toys and seeing the money that was invested in them.   So to get rid of them we have to first "suck it up"  and realize that we are losing the money associated with those toys (or on the other hand say "Yeah, I got my $10 worth of fun out of that toy") and then use those two kinds of feelings to help us make more wise buying choices (or choices to not buy) in the future.  

As for the kids.   I've heard of a trick if you think your kids will flip out about you getting rid of their toys:
Take the toys you think they won't miss.   Put them away in a box in the garage. Leave them there for a month.   If your kid asks for a certain toy specifically you can go get it for them (without letting them see the box of toys) Anything they haven't asked about after a month you give away or sell or whatever. Most of the time they won't notice their missing toys--they'll notice the toys that are left behind--because all of the sudden they can see them because they aren't covered in clutter!  

I've really been feeling overwhelmed with toys recently, so I tried to over-purge rather than under-do it.  But I probably could have done better and gotten out more for this sale.  As Jeremy and I have started trying to get rid of things we have definitely realized that WE are a big part of the problem! This time Jeremy says any toys that don't sell we will just give away--we're that serious about clearing out. 

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