I was picking up my son from a bday party at an arcade a couple weeks ago when I was asked this question- what do you do with all those trinkets, do-dads, little plastic toys that kids come home with from parties, school, restaurants & arcades?
I get these kind of questions often, “what would you do,” and unfortunately, I don’t always have a quick, easy answer.
If you have followed my blog or my tips in the past, you know that I believe decluttering is a journey, which means there are steps & stages to get you where you want to go. You envision a goal of how you’d like things to be, but to get there it will take sorting and clearing, as well as, some habit shifts to make things really stick. No magic pill or snapping of the fingers, sorry to say.
So when I get a question like this, that stumps so many families, my first instinct is to say “Decline those toys! Don’t let them in your house!” BUT, I know that’s not realistic. I live with a 10 year old son and even though he has gotten better when it comes to letting things go and being a little more choosy, it would still be hard for him to say no when offered a gift or gadget from a friend.
There needs to be an alternative route when that’s just not possible. Here are 5 ways to manage or get ahead of the steady stream of gadgets & gizmos (or any “stuff” that you know you really don’t need but have a hard time declining).
1. Set up a rule. For every one item that comes in, one item goes out. Implementing this rule will keep the amount from growing. And if you want the supply to steadily decrease, then try the one in, three out rule & watch the gizmos find their way out the door.
2. Choose a consumable item rather than an item that will take up long-term space. This might be a time to gently push your child toward a treat rather than the neon stuffed animal or the slinky that gets all wound up after 1-2 uses. Opting for candy or other consumables might mean your child has to spend a little extra time with the toothbrush, but the plus side is that the sucker, box of Nerds, or bag of chips is gone before you even walk in your door.
3. Create a boundary. Introduce a container, bin, or basket that will only hold a certain amount & when it gets full, it offers a signal that it’s time to let some go. Let your child pick their favorites first & then let the others go.
4. Give it a little time. Often kids just need a little distance from the toy or experience to see it in a new light. Let it sit for a little while (in a container or on a shelf) and then in a couple months, when the experience isn’t as fresh and the shine has worn off of the toy or gadget, it will be a lot easier to part with it.
5. Start to change the culture by your example. Be a leader. Share with other families your desire to keep extras to a minimum & that you aren’t going to be doing party favors or plastic trinkets for party favors or holidays. You might be surprised to find a number of other families welcoming the idea of less is more.
You can implement the tips above regardless of whether it is little plastic toys that are cluttering up your life or a steady stream of little gifts or hand-me-downs given from your most well-intentioned friends & family.
So often, the things that are cluttering counters and hiding at the bottom of closets are the items that we didn’t really choose, didn’t feel we could refuse, or were tempted by because of their good deal. Once they enter your space, it takes thought & effort to find a home for these kinds of items, so try one or two of the tips above & see if you notice a shift in how much you have to manage.
Make a change in your own gift giving habits & try giving something consumable. A bouquet of wildflowers or a decadent bar of chocolate can be just as thoughtful & won’t require long-term management.
If you need more ideas on topics that are specific to your unique situation with stuff, contact me below. Together we can find a way to make it all feel a whole lot easier.