Humans attach to things. No, not in a sticky who-left-the-superglue-out kind of way…
We attach to places and people and animals. It’s what we do, it’s normal. There’s a whole bunch of psychology around attachment, both healthy and unhealthy, Google it, it’s pretty interesting.
Kids on the other hand attach to pretty much *ALL THE BRIGHT AND YUMMY THINGS* the instant they see them.
There’s a reason smart supermarket owners have sweetie free checkouts… The performances that happen when a little person sees that candy bar wrapper! And they KNOW.
They know they NEED it.
They know that certain behaviours like tantrums and whining make things happen. It’s like magic!
Their job is to get what they NEED. It’s a survival thing.
It’s the same with toys. Walk into a shop with toys and your kids and what do they do? They want ALL THE THINGS! All the Pink and Purple Things. All the Camo and Chrome Things. All the Pony-Transformer-Squishy-Car Things. ALL OF THEM.
They haven’t worked out the difference between NEED and WANT. (Some grownups haven’t worked that out either!)
The job of a parent is to help them learn the difference (one of, oooh… 4 million jobs a parent has to do when raising another human).
Then you trip over a broken plastic Thomas The Tank Engine lunch box containing one hundred thousand tiny bits of LEGO, a Barbie hairbrush, 17 marbles, the missing money from the Monopoly game and the lid off the blender (Really?!) they all go flying everywhere and you suddenly realise you can’t see the carpet for toys.
Time to declutter!
Lots of parents do this:
They talk to their kids about children who don’t have any toys.
They talk about the difference between needing and wanting.
They discuss how good it is to give.
They sit down together and decide which toys could be gifted to charity.
They might even fill a box or bag or two. All of this is great!
Then, they make a MASSIVE MISTAKE. They leave the donations in sight of the kids. Those little NEEDful eyes spot something… They decide they Can’t Live Without It. And something else, and another thing, until the box starts to look a bit, well, thin on donations.
Are you worried you’ll traumatise YOURSELF?
In my experience Mum’s have a special attachment to their children’s things, from teeny baby shoes, to paintings and the almost unrecognisable snuggly they slept with forever. It can be incredibly hard to let some things go.
Which is why I always suggest parents begin decluttering with a keepsakes box nearby. This is for very special things that will probably be kept forever. They often start out small but grow! And that’s ok, there’s the option to go through everything that was assigned this special category at another time.
Let’s do it.
Secret Mum Business. (Or Dad/Parent/Guardian Business.)
This is a crucial step in the Non-Traumatizing Decluttering process. (N.T.D)
YOU know your child best. You know which toys they play with and which have ended up under the bed or in the bottom of the toy box. You know what toys they have outgrown or are just not liked much.
You know they have SO MANY TOYS! And that they will get MORE toys. They don’t really understand this concept. Most kids do not truly understand that they have an abundance of things and that this abundance will not go away.
So a quick and easy declutter is the first step. When no one else is home. Then you can do all the other smart things mentioned above at another time. Reassure them none of their truly precious, much loved and treasured toys will go.
Put the decluttered toys in your car. If you can donate it the same day before anyone is the wiser, all the better.
Timing Is Everything.
If you were given an entire walk-in wardrobe of ravishing clothes for your birthday, and this Christmas received another whole walk-in wardrobe of every piece of clothing you have ever longed for, do you think you’d feel ok about letting some of the first lot of ravishing clothes go to a new home? No? Maybe you and I need to have a chat! But you get what I mean right?
When there’s a birthday or Christmas coming up, we know what that means – it seems like the entire kids toy section of The Warehouse somehow ends up on your lounge floor!
At least twice a year there is bound to be an influx of new toys coming into the life of each child in your home. This is the best time to do toy decluttering. While they’re playing with the new Barbie Campervan or Giant Transformer or Little Kitchen it’s more likely that they’re going to feel bored with many of their older toys.
Distraction Is The Parents Friend.
I’m not just talking about distraction while you declutter their toys. I’m talking about distraction from toys full stop. Are your kids busy having fun? Are their minds stimulated by learning new games, reading new books and making new friends? Do they have activities and experiences to look forward to?
Just like grown-ups, the more a child’s life is filled with family, friends, pets, love, games, fun and adventures, the less fulfilment is derived from things and the less emotional dependence they will have on hoarding so much stuff.
It Will Be Ok.
We’re not talking about burning teddies in the back yard, or ripping the only toy your child has ever loved from their sleeping arms to throw it away. Your kids get so much love, so many wonderful special things in their life that true trauma is incredibly unlikely to be triggered by a bit of decluttering.
If your child is highly sensitive or going through a tough time, or needs extra comfort for whatever reason then you will obviously take greater care with your decluttering and the timing and talk more about how they’re feeling.
In the end a child can learn a lot from letting a few things go to a new home. Wanting less and learning to have less is healthy, for all of us.