If you’re like I am, your child’s toy collection began innocently enough.
In the early days your sweet pea was a minimalist, owning just a few rattles, cute stuffed animals, a nice selection of books, and soft teething toys.
What else did he really need? He was happy and entertained and it was all still fairly manageable.
Then came the toddler years.
It is somewhere around this time when you realize your home no longer belongs to you; in fact, you are actually being pushed out of your nest by colourful wood blocks and yellow trucks and noisy toys so ridiculously enormous you actually consider hauling out your furniture to make room for your child’s belongings.
Now, when you look around the space that once reflected your individual home deco style, you see overflowing toy boxes and train tracks and every kind of animal imaginable and there seems to be no end in sight.
Welcome to our living room. And our basement. Oh, and our kitchen, our son’s bedroom, the bathroom and even our own bedroom, an airy retreat with a big bay window and refreshing walls the calming shade of white linen that is frequently riddled with primary colours, teddy bears and children’s books.
We never imagined living in a house that looks like it could stand in for the movie set of Toy Story.
Before our son was born, my husband and I agreed we’d have a respectable collection of well-curated toys and, for the most part, we’ve stuck to this.
Problem is we can’t seem to contain the generous giving of others.
I get it, you’ve raised your kids and now you want to kick back and enjoy the fun part. I also get that these tiny beans are so irresistible, what with their dimpled hands and elbows and delicious, cherub cheeks, that you just want to spoil them rotten with goodies that will make them light up and giggle.
It makes sense. A child’s joy is infectious and really nothing else can top it, but loading youngsters up with too much stuff isn't the only way to achieve this. In fact, it can become overwhelming for them and parents are the ones left cleaning up the mess. Inevitably toys get shoved into storage where they collect dust and are forgotten about.
Reality is, households can only ‘hold’ so much. Instead, give kids the gift of time — that is what they will remember.
Recently our own overstuffed space reached a boiling point when we balked about the amount of space-eating gifts given to our son by his grandpa for his second birthday. It was getting out of control, we pleaded.
Have you ever tried to ask family members to scale back on gifts? It probably didn’t go over well, or maybe your request was just flat-out ignored. Well, sometimes you just have to put your foot down.
I love this advice from the What To Expect website, “Quarantine the loot. If your home is overflowing with the goodies your sweetie scores after visiting Grandma and Grandpa, tell your parents (and in-laws) that from now on, the stuff they buy has to stay at their house. Once the clutter starts to pile up there, they might understand your complaints and shut down the swag wagon.”
The site also suggests you have to “get tough.”
“If your parents still aren’t getting the message after several (respectful) conversations, take a firmer tone. Tell them their behavior is causing chaos at home … You might also remind them that they had rules when they were raising you and now it’s your turn to set them.”
I am tempted to take it one step further.
The next time someone buys something oversized for your child, why not return the favour by picking them up a cumbersome garage-sale find, say a new table for their TV room, oversized decorative vase or wall-sized piece of art?
If that doesn’t send a strong message, there is a good chance nothing will, so here are four more ideas for coping with the clutter:
1. Can’t win? Give up the fight by giving excess possessions to a children’s charity
2. No one admits it but everyone does it — when you need to scale back, turn to the art of the ‘re-gift’
3. Comb through your toy mountain and select goods to either sell online or through a yard sale
4. Give friends with kids dibs on unwanted goods, especially items your child has outgrown
Finally, remember you are the parent and it’s your job to set limits. You know what’s best for your family and household. It’s important to trust your gut, speak your mind and follow your own guidelines.
Is your child spoiled with stuff? Are you battling too many toys? What are your tips for getting the chaos under control?