Once a week, I try to choose one area of my home to organize and declutter. I recently read the article “Does Your Child Have Too Many Toys” on Yahoo! Parenting. For my family, the answer was a resounding “yes!”. Which was why I had been putting off organzing my daughter’s room for as long as humanely possible. One of the tips in the article talked about keeping their play area simple. “Rotate toys to refresh kids’ enthusiasm and limit the overwhelming sense of ‘too much’” . That was my plan for the day, I was going to help her pack up the mass and just keep a few items selected by her on display.
As I opened her closet door I stood there staring at the mess. Play clothes, dress up accessories, books, stuffed animals – you name it and it was there. I kicked a few stray toys back into the closet and quickly shut the door. I decided I would need to start small if I was going to maintain my sanity. I got on the floor and looked under the bed – I mean how much stuff could fit under a bed?
Apparently, a ton of stuff can fit under a bed.
It was the dumping grounds for all the dolls. There were just so many, all tangled together by their hair and skinny little arms. I started pulling them out and lining them up on the floor. I gave my daughter the task of separating them as I went spelunking for more. Once we had them all out from under the bed, I stood back and was shocked by the sheer quantity of dolls and accessories.
When I think back to my childhood, I have vivid memories of playing dolls with my sister. We had about four dolls each and one of my grandmother’s old suitcases filled with doll clothes. We usually got a new doll on big celebratory occasions like birthdays and Christmas. For other special occasions such as; getting good grades on our report cards, school concerts and dance recitals we would receive a doll outfit.
For us, getting a new doll outfit was usually more exciting than the doll itself. We would rush to our old suitcase to see what already existing items we could use to accessorize our doll’s new outfit. We would spend hours searching for the missing shoe, the pocketbook with the pearls on it or even the big pink sunglasses. My sister and I would sit together on the floor dressing our dolls and showing off our creations to eachother. It was one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon.
I sat her down and tried explaining the concept of quality over quantity. I told her stories about my sister and I and our shared suitcase of doll clothes. It was no surprise that she found it shocking that between us we didn’t have more than ten dolls. I explained to her how special that handful of dolls were to me and how I treated them with the utmost care. Brushing their hair, picking out their clothes and accessories – the opposite of stuffing them in a tangled mess under the bed.
I was embarrassed by the message I had sent my daughter over the years. That dolls are to be collected en masse. Toys are disposable and there is always a new one to “get”. I knew this wasn’t the way my parents raised me, so why was I raising my children this way? I knew the biggest problem was using new toys as a reward system. When I thought about it, that would be the easiest change to make.
Instead of giving toys for their accomplishments, I should be giving them my time. A trip to the movies, a tea and hot chocolate date, endless rounds of her favorite board game or even reading together for as long as she wants. I asked my daughter to make a list of activities we could do together as a reward, and I was amazed by how long the list was. More importantly I was surprised at the simple nature of her requests;
- Watching a movie and making popcorn at home
- Making rainbow loom bracelets together
- Drawing with sidewalk chalk in the driveway
- Going for a walk
I could go on, but I know you can see where this is going. All my daughter really wanted was to spend more time with me. As we sat together packing up a few toys to store away, she surprised me again. “Mom, I don’t think I need all of these dolls, I think we should give some to kids that don’t have any.” I couldn’t have expected a more perfect way to spend an afternoon cleaning up toys.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.0