‘Tis the season for running up credit card debt, acting less than human while shopping, and purchasing things that are not needed or wanted, and will be end up clogging landfills in less than a decade. While we are far from living as minimalists, we have come a long way in reducing our clutter – at least with regard to the toy situation. After reading Simplicity Parenting, and considering how having too many toys can cause frustration for both the child and the parent, we packed up most of our daughter’s toys and put them in my closet. Very few were missed. I’ve actually been sorting through them recently while deciding whether to rotate some of them back into her room. One thing we have realized is that often we would buy her toys because we wanted her to have a full set of something, or we would use it as a reward or present for something. She doesn’t watch tv with commercials so she is not being inundated with advertisements for toys and games, and the only exposure she has to the toy craze is when we go down the toy aisle at the store (which we keep to a minimum). So we accept full blame for bringing in so many toys up to this point. But we have been making a concerted effort to reduce the toy mess and drastically reduce the influx. Last Christmas we bought Kyri clothes, a book/CD set, her own cd player, and some Leapfrog Tag books and games. I love the Calico Critters and have encouraged her to play with these animal toys over dolls. She does have a few Barbies, mostly received as gifts but I have no plan on getting her more – how many do you really need?! Even so, there is a lot of room for improvement, and this year we are really changing our gift mindset.
This year, as we have discussed our Christmas gift buying, a couple of decisions have been made. We are not going to buy a toy for Kyri “just because.” I really think this is where people get into trouble around the holidays. They get sucked into the gift buying frenzy, and feel the need to just buy presents, presents, and more presents, with little regard to whether the recipient wants or needs these items. I have been guilty of this – its like I have a number in my head of how many gifts I “should” get Kyri and I feel bad if I haven’t gotten enough to reach this number. I stress that there isn’t going to be “enough” under the tree. This year we are not getting stuck in that mindset. We have already decided that gifts will be mindful. Clothes – things she needs anyway, will be under the tree. Craft supplies, which she LOVES and that require imagination, will also be under the tree. We just put a bookshelf in her bedroom and we are building her personal library, so a book or two to add to her personal collection will make a great gift. Educational gifts – again, this can be dangerous ground. I can easily justify gifts because they are “educational” so I have to really think about this. But one item that I think we will consider is a globe. We have a wall full of maps for our homeschool and I really think she would enjoy her own globe. She seemed facinated with them at the bookstore and she really enjoys finding countries on the map, so a globe will make this a lot more exciting for her.
For Ender, at six months he needs very little. Kyri wants to get him his first teddy so I think a trip to Build a Bear Workshop is in order for this. Some basic cloths perhaps and maybe a couple of age appropriate toys. We purged most of the baby toys for Kyri we had years ago. Again, though, we don’t want to go overboard. A couple of simple, imaginative toys (and NOT plastic!) will go a long way I think.
Honestly, we don’t want to bring any more toys into the house without careful consideration, and gifts from family and friends are an easy way for them to slip in. Mounds of plastic toys that leave little to the imagination – these are the toys that we want to avoid and are also the toys that tend to be given as gifts at birthday parties and at Christmas. While I miss seeing family around the holidays, I will say that this is the upside to living out of state – we opt out of the gift giving part of the holidays and it works for us. It can be awkward telling family members your rules or guidelines for gift giving. Its easier to just avoid the gift exchange all together. We keep it simple around here and are happier for it.