This post is 3 of 3 in my Simplify The Gifts Mini-Series
Toys and an overabundance of gifts is its own special challenge.
One thing we can do to slow the piles of presents is to redirect well-meaning family members toward alternative gift ideas.
Start the conversation with “I have some fear in telling you this.”
Try explaining to family members how the kids don’t play with the toys they have and they are overwhelmed by all the stuff. Let them know that the kids have expressed a desire do things instead of having things. Grandparents might be able to pay for music or dance, sports fees — things of that nature.
Some grandparents even ask for wish lists. If so, that gives you an opportunity to provide suggestions of items the children need or would enjoy well beyond the holiday, like memberships to zoos or science museums, etc.
You can request joint gifts wherein everyone chips in the gift money they would have spent to get the kids something significant and perhaps beyond the budget of a single family, like a play structure, a bicycle or set of skies.
Depending on your relationship with the gift-givers, you can limit the gifts. Let them know that there is simply no more room for toys, so each grandparent may give one item. Be firm.
Gift giving gets tricky when you’re dealing with people whose love language is gifts, meaning they express their love by providing gifts. They may take offense at any suggestion you make of limiting the gifts your child receives. In this case, I recommend giving them the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman and then discuss it. Ask them what their love language is, talk about the rest of your family, and let the gift-giver know what the love languages of your children are.
Please remember that we can’t change other people.
In our culture, there is this idea that in order to show children our love, we must give toys in abundance. And it’s very challenging to go up against that concept.
In cases where the gift-givers just won’t stop giving, we have to accept it. Please don’t allow gifts to divide the family. Instead, learn to graciously accept the gifts, set them aside, and then donate the excess.
Yes, this is challenging for children to understand. Explain that we need to share with other children who don’t have things to play with, so we’re going to pick out a certain amount of toys to keep, and then we’ll give the other toys to the less fortunate.
If your children are like mine, no matter how much you coach them, they will blurt out the truth when asked about a gift: “Mom gave that away.” Don’t apologize; own your decision. “Yes, although we appreciate all we were given, we simply have too much and so we have let some things go.”
Purging The Toys
It is possible to create decluttering traditions. For example, if you incorporate Santa Claus in your celebration, have the kids pick out a certain number of old playthings for Santa to take back with him. Your children can set out the toys they no longer enjoy on Christmas Eve and in the morning they find brand new gifts under the tree. One in, one out — courtesy of the Jolly Old Elf.
Box all their current toys prior to the gift exchange. Even if you don’t have space to store it, a sealed box sitting in the corner of the room is easier to deal with than knee-deep toys.
Then allow the kids to play with all the new toys for a few weeks and then do a big clean-out & sort. Pull out everything from under all the beds, closet, toy box, shelves — and the previously taped up box. Pile everything in the middle of the room. And then say, “Pick out 20 items you want to keep.”
With the little ones, you’ll need to supervise. But as they age and have done this a time or two, you can leave the room until they are done picking out their items. When they have decided what they want to keep, assign a space for their belongings that is their own personal toy box. Then sort (and discard most of) the remaining dirty laundry, garbage, and donations.
This doesn’t account for sets like LEGO®, LEGO® DUPLO®, trains, etc. Put the sets into their own containers. Rotate sets on a weekly or monthly basis.
Don’t put broken toys into the giveaway box. Thrift stores end up paying a lot of money for solid waste containers, so save them the hassle and pitch the trash.
Don’t be a fixer. If a toy breaks, then remark, “I’m sorry that happened. I guess it’s time to throw it away.” Some children may be emotional about a broken treasure, but it helps them learn that if they really love something, they need to take care of it.
I prefer sorting after the holidays because often kids aren’t as interested in the new toys they received. If you sort beforehand, they may get rid of things they actually enjoy in anticipation of items they think they will enjoy more. In my experience, old favorites usually remain so.
After you have decluttered the toys, you’ll likely have the pleasant experience of children engaged in more and deeper independent play.