“My friend has it”, “Please mum!”, “Can I have this?” Trying not get lured into buying the latest fashion toy can be tough enough, but getting your kids to get rid of toys they have already, can be the real challenge! Is it at all possible to declutter your kids preloved items, when they claim they are still loved? How do you get your kids to understand, that their old doll will have a better home somewhere else, all while not adding more clutter and dust piles to their rooms? Maguelonne Rousseau explores.
Decluttering with kids: is that even possible? It’s already so tough for us adults to detach from our own objects, to sort and get rid of things, while keeping those that are truly adding value to our lives. So how can we help others – our children – to decide what to discard?
Why do we accumulate so many things?
It is difficult to resist to the current trend of always buying more for the assumed “well-being” of our kids and impossible to refuse gifts from friends and family who want to show that they care. But is it, that we have this need to buy stuff and why is it also so difficult to get rid of what we have?
Being possessive is a natural instinct all humans have. In pre-historic times, having your own weapon could ensure your survival, by protecting yourself from dangerous creatures and by hunting for food. But not only possessing things makes sense in ensuring our survival, protecting them from others is also a part of our territory instinct. Protecting our territory is, again, a survival instinct. It comes from the primitive part of our brain and explain some of our behaviours, to why e.g. kids will not share toys.
But let’s look around us. We no longer live in this dangerous environment with the need to protect our territory and ensure the survival of our family. Our ancestors lived in a world of scarcity, pushing them to have the desire to own more things, but this fear isn’t justifiable anymore, given our world of overabundance. However, the consumerist society we live in, keeps selling the idea, that owning more things will get us closer to the holy grail: happiness.
As a result – in modern times – we have lost our natural compass to what is necessary in order to fulfil our physiological and safety needs. This applies to us adults, who believe that by adding more stuff, we will reach that higher level of happiness. And with children, this become even more apparent. We take their daily happiness as a performance feedback of our parenting, and buying the new toy that will not only give them, but us an instant pleasure.
Why is it important to declutter?
When we keep searching for more happiness and these instant pleasures things gives us, we stop focussing on what truly fulfils us as human beings. The connection with others, in nature and through self-discovery, as well as sharing experiences and emotions. We lose our natural instinct and this connection with ourselves on what makes us happy, and worse, we don’t realise that we actually teach our kids to focus on ‘things’ rather than people.
When we pause and effectively look into our lives, observe our children and the way they live each minute of the time they have in hand, we can discover what is really important. Decluttering our homes and lives is therefore a great way to help us go back to the essentials and teach our children those values, as early as possible.
How to declutter?
Recognising the true value of things we possess, is the best way to detach emotionally from some of them. If you start to understand that it is not the actual item that keeps the memory alive, but the feeling we experienced using it, you are already on your way. But on a more practical level, here is what you can also do.
• Borrow and lend stuff from / to other families: such as pregnancy clothes, baby clothes and equipment, toys, books etc… that are often in very good condition because not used for very long time, and can benefit to someone else. This is also a great way to build relationships with neighbours, bond with friends, and build your community.
• Give stuff to your friends and family: sort out regularly your baby’s clothes and toys, and keep them in a box so you can give the box as a birth gift to your friends or family members. It is so nice to know that a baby close to you will use your pre-loved stuff!
• Sell things you don’t want to give for free: there are websites such as Carousell, and Facebook pages offering the option to post pictures of items to sell.
• Donate to non-profit organisations such as Babes.org.sg, The Red Cross or to The Salvation Army for their Family Store located in different places in Singapore: your baby stuff can profit to somebody else in need. Many organisations accept clothes, toys, books, stationaries.
• Re-cycle / upcycle. You need a new nappy bag? Instead of buying, find something in your closet that you don’t wear anymore and transform it in a simple bag using one of the many internet tutorials available!
• Take a membership at the library: you don’t need to own a book to enjoy it!
• For birthdays, ask friends and family to donate to a charity instead of buying toys: on top of helping people in need, it is a great way to show your children that birthday parties are meant to bring friends together to share quality time, and not about the toys they’ll get.
Our children are a formidable opportunity to become more mindful. They live in the present, are not attached to the past and do not worry about the future. They just make the most of their time, right now, right here, with whatever they have. When we start to understand that what is important for healthy physical, intellectual and emotional development is the experiences they live, the opportunities they get, and the interactions with people and nature they have, and not the toys they play with. This can liberate you as a parent from the idea of always finding the “best toy”.
Toys are a mean to discover the world, but are not the world itself. Parents have to step away from the stuff that are supposed to bring more happiness, and focus on their children instead.
As the creators of the movement “The Minimalists” say: “Love people and use things. Because the opposite never works.”