If you’ve ever watched the television series, ‘Tidying up with Marie Kondo,’ or read the book, ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,’ odds are you know the key to true happiness lies in only keeping things that spark joy.
Like your kids. You should keep them.
But the mountain of toys that they have accumulated over their short span of existence on earth? Yeah, not so much. Because while the love in your heart multiples exponentially with each child, the amount of stuff that you accumulate multiplies too. Like rabbits in a breeding colony.
Birthdays, Christmas, that visit from Great Aunt Bethel? Target Dollar Spot finds? McDonald’s Happy Meals? The little bribes offered to corral three
feral cats children in said Target? (We ALL do it).
It all equals more. So much more.
And while our children may cherish every last one of these items for all of 3 hot seconds, they do not, over the long haul, bring sustaining happiness. Instead they bring clutter and stress and an overwhelming desire to just burn the whole house down.
Because attempting to navigate a landmine of LEGOS and Hot Wheels and Polly Pockets in the middle of the night? DOES NOT SPARK JOY.
While the easy answer would be “just stop buying them toys,” it isn’t that simple.
There is an alternative to this vicious cycle of accumulate, purge, repeat.
In a Facebook post that has gone viral with over 28,000 shares, Leah Gentry reveals how her family manages to avoid the mountain of toys in the first place.
A military spouse and mother to 3, Leah and her husband, Stephen, have moved 5 times in their 5 years of marriage. They know a thing or two about keeping it minimal.
Leah begins her post by saying:
Downsizing our kids’ toys was hard. But it’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made for them, hands down. I’ll never go back to the stress and frustration that comes with mountains of toys.
But oftentimes, so much of what our children have is given to us by well-meaning family and friends.
Leah says that one of the questions she receives the most is how to get everyone else on board, especially for birthdays and holidays. She writes:
We basically just let our families know that we were changing up how we did things! Birthday wish lists and Christmas lists were now going to be filled with different things. That was it!
And while this worked for Leah, she does acknowledge that it may not be so simple for everyone. It’s possible that merely telling people “no more toys” may not be enough.
So she provides an alternative wish list:
Buy only SPECIFIC toys.
Rather than letting family and friends buy whatever happens to spark their fancy while perusing the aisles of the toy store, Leah suggests giving them specific details on what they should look for, taking into account what will actually be used and will last.
Cash for their SAVINGS accounts.
She also recommends money in lieu of gifts, which can be saved for big ticket items, like laptops or cars, later in life.
Cash or gift certificates for EXPERIENCES.
Psychological research indicates that experiences make us happier than things. This is due to the fact that memories outlast the allure of a new purchase. Leah suggests going to the zoo or an aquarium, playing mini golf, bowling, going on safari, or playing at a trampoline park. There are also museums to visit, movies to see, and extra-curricular classes to take.
RESTAURANT Gift Cards.
We all know that dining out as a family is expensive. Having an opportunity to go out, create memories, AND not have to cook? It’s a win-win.
Things they NEED.
Instead of buying kids what they think they want, try buying them what they need. Things such as clothes, toothbrushes, school supplies, books, and shoes, just to name a few.
STORE Gift Cards
“Gift cards are much cheaper to send than boxes full of things, so it’s a great option. They’re also good to have on hand for when a need comes up… shoes in the next size, a dress shirt, diapers, or formula!”
Family and friends are often to blame, unwittingly adding to the overabundance.
In our current culture of consumerism it can be difficult to rein in the excess. Add to this all the paraphernalia that comes home from school, from dance and hockey, from friends birthday parties and special events, and it is easy to find ourselves drowning under the weight of it all.
And I don’t know about yours, but my children are hoarders.
And so I do what any rational human being would do. I purge the shit out of their stuff when they’re at school. And I’m not sorry.
And I am here, FOR ALL OF IT. The reality is, very few of our kids need more stuff.
Contrary to what they may believe, they will survive without the “must have” toy of the season. They will, in fact, not perish when an ‘L.O.L Surprise House with 85+ Surprises,’ or a ‘Nerf MXVIII – 20K with 200 rounds’ is not waiting for them under the Christmas tree.
And your family and friends? They’ll survive too. In fact, they’ll be happy to know that they are no longer helping to contribute to the chaos but instead are sparking joy, in you, and your kids.
Leah ends her post with the following words of wisdom:
Making memories and having things they need is much more important than buying more and more toys. Toys won’t last beyond this lifetime, but your memories will.