Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Clearing Out For Christmas

I’m a big fan of purging my stuff throughout the year.  This is one of the regular times that I have my kids purge their toys.  For many reasons this would probably be ideal around Thanksgiving, before the Christmas decorations go up, and with time for purged toys to get on the shelves at the Goodwill before Christmas shopping really gets underway, but better late then never.  Here’s how I do it:

This is not a Mommy job.
If you’ve never done this before it probably sounds scary.  If you’ve done it before on your own, involving the kids probably sounds daunting.  I choose to have my kids purge their toys because of all the things they learn from it.  Ok, the twins are too young to know what I’m talking about so I purge their toys but as soon as we can have a conversation about it, they will participate, probably next year.  Since we've been doing this regularly I've noticed Isabel, now 7, placing less value on possessions, taking better care of the stuff she has, and her room is a whole lot easier for her to clean.

Give clear limits.
I have given Isabel 2 giant, clear, plastic bins, with lids and she is allowed to keep all the toys she can fit in them.  Everything but puzzles, games, craft supplies and large stuff like a Doll House (of which we have very few) goes in the bins.  We don’t sort tea sets, blocks, collectible collections, stuffed animals etc. into smaller containers or otherwise organize it – it is all tossed in there together.  This makes clean up really easy and fuels creative play.  Kids don't typically want to play with one "set" of toys -- they like to mix it up-- as evidenced by the giant mess they make with all their toys.  This was really hard for me to do at first but we all love it now.  If I had an older child that wanted to keep his/her toys in separate labeled containers and who would manage this all on their own, I would allow it – but I’m not willing to do it for them.  When new toys come into the house, Isabel has to make room for them in her toy bins first.  So, birthday and Christmas are the times when she is most motivated to purge.  She gets excited about it now as she dreams about all the new toys she’ll be getting.

Put the kids in charge.
I let my daughter choose what to get rid of.  This was hard for me at first.  It is also eye opening.  She usually purges things I would’ve kept and keeps things that make me scratch my head.  But why keep things I like if she won’t play with them?  Occasionally she purges something I consider an heirloom.  When that happens I put the heirloom into my storage (shed outside).    She knows she can ask me to put special things she doesn’t play with anymore into the heirloom box in storage but I am very selective about what I allow in there.

Rescue rather than reject.
I find it easiest to dump the whole toy bin out on the floor and then have my daughter put back her very favorite things.  What's left on the floor is trash, broken and used up toys, things she forgot she had and a few favorites she overlooked.  She sorts through the remaining pile and rescues the few things she can't live without.  The rest goes to the trash or donation bin.  It is so much easier to find favorite things and rescue them than it is to try and find something to get rid of.  At first I sat with my daughter and coached her through this process.  Now I can send her to do it on her own.  In fact that is what she’s doing while I write this. 

Move it so you’ll lose it.
When she’s done I take the pile of purged toys and put it in a box/bag for the Goodwill and throw away the trash.  I try to get it all out of sight and to the donation center ASAP so that neither of us suffers from “purgers remorse.”  This time around Isabel asked if she could give a small purged toy to Chloe for Christmas.  I said yes and she had a great time wrapping it up.  I think this is a great idea for young kids who don’t have their own money and want to give siblings or friends a present.  You do need to make sure your child understands that a purged and gifted toy doesn’t belong to them anymore.  This can be a tough concept to get.  Isabel has been doing it long enough that this isn’t a problem anymore.

Celebrate the space and possibilities.
When the purge is done I think it’s important to congratulate the child on a job well done.  I also try to call attention to the good feeling we get from having more space and less stuff.  Isabel loves to talk about and imagine what wonderful new things will fill the space soon.  It’s frightening how fast this happens – I swear toys breed.


Natalie Daniel said...

I do this also, but I have 4 bins, one for each season. At the change of each season I pull out the appropriate bin and it's like Christmas in our house. That's when we go through the old bin and purge. Sienna is always so focused on the stuff I just pulled out that it's really easy for her to give up some things. I also like it because I put pool toys, and outside stuff in summer, Christmas Santa's and Christmas books in winter, Halloween stuff in fall, and all of her butterfly dress ups in spring. I separated her favorite toys and divided them into each bin so she has plenty of stuff to be excited about. I'm always shocked by what she keeps too, usually things that I consider trash, and fast food toys. Kids are so funny.

Jennifer said...

That is a great idea Natalie...I might have to try that...Thanks!