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Every afternoon, around 4 PM, I take a look around and let out a deep, troubled sigh.  Defeated and overwhelmed, we are overrun with just too many toys.  There’s a pile on the kitchen island, a trail to the couch, a stack next to the potty, a Barbie doll in the pantry.

Although we have an entire room, and a large one at that, devoted entirely to all-things-play, the contents of each bin, shelf, and basket seems to find its way to exactly where it doesn’t belong – all over the rest of the house.

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So, long story short, I have had it. It seems like I’m not alone either. I have read at least three posts in the past month from other bloggers regarding how toys have bogged them down, and not just them…their kids too! Their common solution: Get rid of it. Period.

My husband and I have talked about that option for years now. We even intended to carry out the:  “For every toy that comes in, one goes out” rule.  Honestly, it never happened consistently.  We simply have too much. The kids have too much. We know it, but yet, we haven’t done anything about it!  Sure, there have been a few items removed here and there, but no amount significant enough to really leave a lasting affect on our home.  It seems so silly, right?  I mean, really, just get rid of the mess, Mom! (I’m preaching to myself, here.)  Seriously, what is the hang-up?!  I thought it about it, spoke with other parents, and honestly, I am pretty sure that we, as parents, may make up half the problem (if not more).

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Here is why I believe that this madness exists (and maybe you can relate):

1) Love.  You want your kids to have it all. You love them, and you are grateful for the ability to provide them with things that make them happy, make them smile, and honestly, the high you get when gifting them with something new and longed-for is hard to give up.  You spend countless hours paying attention to their conversations with their siblings and friends, picking up on their little hearts’ desires.  You catch the sparkle in their eyes during that commercial and you tuck it away on your mental “What they want so badly” list. Getting rid of the stuff they long-pined for, and you long-planned for, can be rough on everyone.

2) Guilt.  You know how much something cost. Either you, or your friends, or your family members dropped a pretty penny on x,y,z, and you see dollar signs and tears when you consider donating it or throwing it away. You avoid it altogether, because, in a sense, you feel your hands are tied and you’re just stuck with the item until it breaks or your babes outgrow it. This is why we currently own four of those Disney riding/push toys that play delightfully obnoxious princess music.

3) Sentiment.  Grandpa and Grandma So-n-So bought that. And that. And that. And those too. As a matter of fact, they probably bought 85% of the stuff your children own, right? It’s hard when you attach a piece of someone you love to an object, isn’t it? “We can’t donate that book…Auntie wrote her a letter in it.” “We can’t throw away that doll. Yes, I know, its arm fell off two years ago, but Grammy brought it over for her 2nd birthday.” You feelin’ me?

4) Laziness / Procrastination. Guilty! It takes time, effort, and some serious willpower to clean out your kids’ toy stash. Most of the time, I don’t know where to start, I don’t want to complete it halfway, or I’m too tired to explain, rationalize and argue a toy out of the house. “But Mooommmm…I played with that yesterday!!!” (Yesterday being 32 months ago.)

5) Denial. First, denial in regards to quantity… “My kids don’t have that much, really. I mean two bins of baby dolls aren’t excessive, right? All of the play food fits well in that tub. Yes, a six year old could take a nap in it easily too, but that’s beside the point. I just need to organize it differently.”  The truth is: There.Is.Too.Much.

Secondly, denial that your sweeties are really growing up in the blink of an eye and have outgrown their old toys. A good friend of mine made this point, and I completely agree that it has hindered me as well!  I remember struggling so much to get rid of a musical toy that my firstborn loved as a baby. I held onto it until my third child was about six months old.  That means that toy was a fixture (seriously, it was a large toy) in our home for four and a half years.  Letting it go was, in a sense, finally admitting to myself that the babies had outgrown it, and I didn’t like the idea that I was watching little bits of the “baby” stage of our home fade away.

So, where do we go from here? How can we peacefully and practically purge the excess?  Seriously.  I’m waiting for you to tell me! lol No, really, it is a hard question when you’re dealing with all or any of the issues mentioned above.  I don’t know if it’s going to work forever, but here are some of the ways I’m trying to shift my own perspectives and change this on-going dilemma in our home:

1) Love revisited Trimming down and getting rid of things can also be an expression of my love for my kids. By setting a more minimalist standard, we’re combating entitlement, greed, hoarding tendencies (C’mon, you know it’s true!), and I’m instead instilling in my little ones a giving heart, a less-is-more mentality, and the chance to build trust in me when I say, “Let it go! Let it go!”  (I’m sorry, I can’t help myself.  We have four daughters.  Frozen-Fever isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  lol)  Teaching them to let go of belongings in order to bless others and make room for new experiences and special things is a form of loving them.

2) Guilt revisited I recently read this post written by a fellow blogger, that I highly respect, and she mentioned that when we give our possessions to the less-fortunate, we shouldn’t give them our junk.  That really struck me as a great point.  So, now, when I find myself in a mental tug-o-war, because something seems too costly to discard, I think of the sweet hands that the item will find its way to, and I feel grateful, not guilty.  My children are blessed beyond blessed and have more than enough material possessions. Some sweet babies aren’t so fortunate.  Sometimes, I’ll take it a step further and pray a blessing over that item before sending it on its way – “Lord, please bless the little person that this item finds its way to.  May it bring them great joy and cause them to feel loved. Amen.”  It’s a gift to be a giver, and I pray my children pick up that truth early on.

3) Sentiment revisited I am a card-hoarder.  There, I said it.  I hoard greeting cards.  I have saved a bazillion of them – cards from my husband, aunts, grandmas, mom, friends, children, co-workers…  You name them, and, by golly, I have a card from them.  I have twenty-five cards each from them…  Yes.  But, that’s starting to change!  Just this year, I started something major…I put some in the trash!  I know, right?!  *Praise hands!* I’ve been liberated!  I read them.  I smiled.  I got the warm fuzzies, and I threw them away.  I only kept one if it held more meaning than the previous ones.  For example, I have some beautiful cards from my wonderful grandma.  Even if she just wrote, “Love you, sweetie” in it, I saved it.  Knowing I have a ton, I’ve started keeping the ones with the more lengthy notes or precious life-nuggets and parting ways with the many others.  I’ve been doing that with all of the cards I come across now.  That being said, I think it’s a beautiful thing, to have an attachment to something from someone you love, but there needs to be a rule, goal or boundary set in place.  My wedding band is precious because of the relationship it represents.  If Nana buys the baby a bath toy and a special teddy bear for her first birthday, there’s a good chance that the teddy bear should be held onto for the long-haul, but the bath toy should make an exit at some point in the near future.  Give yourself permission to not place sentimental value on so many things.

4) Laziness / Procrastination revisited Get over it and get on with it.  Really.  It sounds harsh, but it’s the truth, right?  We are the adults here.  What are we waiting for???!  Our children aren’t going to come to us saying, “Mom, Dad, I’ve thought about it, and I think I can part with 40% of my blocks today, a dozen books, and seven stuffed animals.” It just doesn’t happen.  Our children don’t know that more isn’t always better, and truthfully, if they are drowning in toys, drowning in options, let’s care enough to just take action.  So often, you read testimonies of parents admitting, that once they got rid of a great deal of excess, their kids were happier!  They read more, used their imaginations more, and were less cranky!  Say whaaaa?! Yes, I’ll take that today, and tomorrow, and the day after that.  My mantra has been “A clean home is a calm home,” and I stand behind that statement 100%.  I need to make an intentional effort to see it become a consistent reality.  My kids deserve a calm home, my husband deserves a calm home, and I deserve a calm home.

5) Denial revisited When we moved two and a half years ago, I remember sorting through all of my two daughters’ belongings in order to pack up anything and everything I could prior to listing.  They were four and two and a half years old at the time. We did not have a toy room in that home, so I pulled out a storage ottoman in the living room, and each girl got ONE baby doll, ONE puzzle, ONE coloring book, etc.  For SIX whole months, my children thrived and were content with just ONE, small box of toys!  We didn’t even unpack until months after moving, and knowing what I know now, we probably shouldn’t have.  I often say things to make myself feel better and to excuse myself from the chore of sorting and pitching items. It’s time to come out of the fog of denial, realize that I’m not doing anyone in our household a favor by holding onto these things “for them” – am I, after all?  If I dig deep, I bet it’s safe to say, I’m not just holding onto things for them… it may be more for me.  I understand that it’s hard to let go and it can be even harder to admit that our kids have too much or are growing up and away from things that they once treasured.  I mean, you’ve cried through Toy Story 3, too, right?  Let’s take a page from Andy’s mom, accept that seasons come and go, and let’s break out those boxes and trash bags with a heart of celebration.  It’s time.

If you saw yourself in this post – join me!  Let’s take care of, not just our homes, but the people in them by taking steps and making changes.  Let’s give ourselves permission to let go!  Let’s rejoice in the gift of giving, and let’s find more meaning in moments than in material possessions. “Too many toys” no more.  Let’s rally the troops (even if it’s just you and your own two hands) and embrace the “less is more” mentality.  Not only will our homes become cleaner and calmer, but our loads will feel a lot lighter, literally and figuratively, and not just for us, but for our families also.

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