As a mother of two elementary-aged boys, and the soon-to-arrive third baby, our house can get cluttered quickly, primarily with an overabundance of ‘stuff’.
At first, the ‘stuff’ was semi-manageable. When the boys were little they would get an onslaught of toys at Christmas and their Birthdays. But then they started attending other kids’ birthday parties and so began the inundation of tiny goodie bag trinkets that would get stowed away in toy bins or drawers. Then for some horrible reason, every single holiday turned into a gift-receiving opportunity, especially at school; Easter baskets, Halloween buckets, Valentine’s Day bags, and even St Patrick’s Day gifts filled with candy, little toys, and stuffed animals that would usually end up behind my couch. And let’s not forget the prizes they win from vending machines, arcades and places like Chuck-E-Cheese. Even their dentist has it out for me with their little prize treasure chest. So much ‘stuff’!
I have been spending months trying to weed out this junk and find a consistent method to managing it all. I have a bin in my office where I toss the little trinkets that the kids play with for a day and then forget about. I save these and put them in the Samaritan’s Purse shoeboxes that we do at our church at Christmas time. I am also working on a ‘donation’ box where I filter out old or unpopular toys to drop off at Goodwill. But it’s a never-ending task. I clear out one area of the house, but then more pops up. It’s a two-fold challenge of organizing what we already have, plus dealing with the constant influx of new stuff.
In our family we are striving to teach our kids appreciation, gratitude, and value. Having too many toys seems to really hinder this teaching process. Plus, the kids just don’t play well when there’s too much to choose from! Do they seriously need three different Hulk action figures? No, no they don’t. So to help with the incoming new ‘stuff’ they get from well-meaning friends and family, I started creating an online Amazon.com ‘Wish List’ for each child. This helps give people an idea of what type of gifts our children enjoy, and especially convenient for far-away family members.
But this year, we wanted to try something a bit more ‘hands-on’ and fun for our youngest son Luke’s 5th Birthday. We took him to our favorite local toy store, Franklin’s Toys, to have him pick out his own gift ideas using their Birthday Bin program. He had a blast! I steered him around the store making sure he picked out a variety of items and price ranges. The staff there are so helpful in answering questions about the products and helping us find certain things. We then included the Birthday Bin info on his party invitation. This way, his friends will still get to enjoy the process of picking out a gift, but at least it won’t be something we already have or be a toy that gets added to the black-hole of ‘stuff’ that is our play-room. And on top of it all, we’re helping support local businesses. It’s a win-win for everyone, especially for my sanity.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 5-year-old James and 3-year-old Luke.