If there is one thing I've confirmed while doing this work is that we really do live in a world/time of excess. The area I see this most often is with kids and toys! I fully admit that my memory is bad (and selective!) ... But I simply don't remember having that many toys as a child ... and I also don't remember ever feeling that I was lacking toys. Now as my family grows our rooms grow fuller with toys too!
Of course we are grateful for this generosity ... and of course the kids LOVE it. And I know it feels good to give!!! But we have a small house and they have so much already ... They can't possibly need any more!! (They don't know that yet, but I'm sure of the truth of that last sentence ... I know it's true because we travelled this summer and during that trip they had only coloring books, sticker books, a stuffed animal each, and a small set of Disney figurines to play with ... and they were fully entertained at all times. And just last week both girls were captivated for hours making an imaginary garden out of ponytail holders(!) while ignoring all their other toys.) A few toys, and their vivid imaginations ... and they are good to go! I'm pretty sure this is true for most kids ...
2. Store the bulk of your kid's toys in a closet, basement, or attick ... and then cycle some toys in and some out periodically! (Drastic, but it works!) ... We have a playroom downstairs that is mostly used on rainy days. It's full of toys the girls see less often so they LOVE it when they can go down there and play. We also have toys upstairs where we "live" (maybe about 10-15% of their toys are upstairs). Every month or so I switch out these toys with some from downstairs. It's like having Christmas once a month ... they get so excited by the new that they totally forget about what I've moved out. I even switch out books and coloring books, dolls and puzzles. It keeps things fresh for them and helps me keep get a handle on all the toys.
3. The girls only have "quiet" toys in their bedrooms ... books, coloring books, puzzles, stuffed animals. All the active toys and noisy toys stay in the family room or the play room. I personally think bedrooms should be a quiet sanctuary to go to regroup and reenergize ... so I leave the activating toys out. My kids sleep great! So that philosophy has worked for us so far. It also keeps their bedrooms easy to pick up ... a plus for me!
4. Consider how many toys your child can actually play with at one time/in one day. Do you really need to keep all 200 matchbox cars available to them at all times? Put some away and switch them out every few weeks. I bet they won't really notice ...
5. Move things on. You've heard it ... You've seen it ... There are lots of families less fortunate than us who would love the opportunity to have some of these "extra" toys or toys that have been outgrown. Instead of thinking about how much your child might miss a toy that you're moving on, focus on how much another child/family will enjoy it!! (it feels good to give!!) It's a great lesson for kids to learn now ... Pass it on, be generous, make room for the new ...
6. My kids are young so I don't ask their opinion about what they are ready to stop playing with. (And honestly I'm not sure I ever will??!!) If I'm not sure whether to pass on a toy, I'll put it away for a while and see if they ask for it ... if they don't I'll move it on to the donate pile. If they are searching for it one day it goes back into the toybox. For now there's no need to consult them ... because as soon as they see or hear it mentioned it they'll want it!
I know these ideas are radical ... I've seen the look in client's eyes when I share these ideas with them. (They are already envisioning the tantrum their child will take when half their toys disappear!) But time and again they have told me that these ideas have worked wonders for them. Their daily struggle with the toy pile is alleviated and to their surprise the kids hardly missed what was put away. And even better the kids are thrilled and re-energized when "new" toys are pulled out again later.
Please share your comments if you try these ideas ... what worked for your family and what didn't ... and by all means share any tricks you have for handling your mountain of toys! And please, ... if you found this post helpful, pass it on! (it feels good to give!!!)
As always, if you'd like more personal support I'm available for consultations by phone and on site. You'll get an action plan for your home/life/work and coaching support to make it happen! Schedule your consultation now and hit the ground running in 2012! Consultation options start at $90! Gift certificates are available. Email me for more details.
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Wishing you a Happy Happy Holiday!