Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Purge

We have too much stuff. Too many toys. Too much clothing. Too many shoes. Too much food. Just too much. I feel smothered under the weight of it all.

The maintenance of all this stuff isn't just in the preparing and cleaning and organizing, though. I spend much of my day begging the kids to play with their toys instead of getting under my feet while I do chores or hanging and climbing on me while I nurse the baby. I spend too much time trying to keep clothes available and folded for children who either wear the same handful of outfits over and over or routinely strip themselves. Too much space in my home is given to clothes that my children don't wear or will likely wear only once and promptly destroy and permanently stain. I spend too much time corralling shoes that my children take off as soon as they get outside. I spend too much time making meals for children who barely eat or get more food on the floor than in their mouths. So much energy. So much wasted breath. So much irritation.

This occurred to us last night as we sat wearily watching our children not play with toys scattered so wide and deep that neither of them could move too far. The girl child squealed her displeasure as she was pinned between the toy barn and the bookshelf. The boy child winced in pain as he stepped on toys.

We talked about purging the area of all toys with more pieces than we care to keep track of and any toy that the kids don't use for its intended purpose.

Soon after they went to bed, I set to work clearing the shelves of toys in an effort to make the daily toy soup look less like gumbo and more like, let's say, chicken noodle soup. Just fewer, simpler, more useful ingredients. I have little patience or energy for much else right now.

Homeless, jobless Little People (the Fisher Price variety, not dwarfs)? Gone. What's left? The farm and the firehouse and their respective employees and supplies. And we're not hiring any more workers.

The ball towers that clatter and shatter to the ground daily at the hands of Fiona? Gone. In the attic until they're old enough to actually play with them.

The accompanying balls? Gone. Nothing worse than chasing down little balls night after night.

The miles of race tracks that become guns and swords with which boy child tries to "get" his sister? May soon be gone or put away.

The blocks that are dumped and ignored and stepped on 20 times a day? In a sealed container on the shelf. They must ask to play with them.

Train tracks? In the closet. They must ask to play with them.

The baby toys in baskets for when Owen is ready play with them? Gone. In the attic and may be leaving for good. Fiona just dumps and ignores them. Owen probably will, too.

Puzzles and games? Up high, out of reach. Danny must ask to play with them.

Electronic educational toys? Up high, out of reach. Danny must ask to play with them. 

The Leap Frog cash register and grocery cart? Soon to be gone. In the attic or out the door. I can do without these battery-sucking educational toys that mimic real life. My kids simply run each other down with the grocery cart and the girl child tries to eat the coins. Danny is more interested in going to the real grocery store and probably learns more there, too.

I went through their rooms this morning, too. More ball towers, broken toys, toys with missing pieces.
What's left? A few cars and trucks, some of which belonged to my younger brothers. The older a toy is, the longer my kids will pay attention to it, oddly enough. A kitchen set in Fiona's room with dishes and cookware. Baby dolls. Books. A few rattles and baby toys. And that's it.

So what do my kids play with? Balls and cars. Musical instruments. A container full of McDonald's Happy Meal toys. The farm and the firehouse and the Little People zoo. Sometimes blocks and train tracks. Books.

And, of course, whatever is not a toy is infinitely more fun than any toy on the shelf. They stand on tables and chairs, rifle through the silverware draw and scatter spoons and forks, drum on my pots and pans instead of the drum set we have, swat each other with bar rags, run the loop downstairs, turn lights on and off, climb the stairs and the bookshelves, hide in the curtains, cram their little bodies into small baskets that they just dumped their toys from, "help" us cook and work on the cars, "help" us work in the garden, and on and on.

Right now, my husband is unloading a few bags of toys at the thrift shop and has been instructed to not come home with any new ones. The river of plastic and stuffed crap from China can just keep moving past our door.

I've had enough. I already feel ten pounds lighter. I may put a moratorium on thrift shopping indefinitely. The kids are just as happy playing with dirt, sticks and stones and the handful of toys that I've left them. They are just as happy playing hide and seek and Simon Says and even making up their own games instead of games with too many pieces and rules. They are obviously more interested in real life than toys. And that's as it should be.


Glennon said...

yes ma'am. we are in the middle of the exact same thing. we were made to travel light, i think.

thanks for this. more purging for me tomorrow!

Kelley said...

Aw, man...the ball towers were my favorite when I lived at the Meehan residence...

In my clear-thinking pre-parenthood years, I am full of these same ideas about using not-toys as the majority of toys and primarily second-hand items that will be hid for periods of 2-3 months and rotated in and out. Remind me of these ideas when I eventually succumb to the wishes of the children and the world of advertising.

Heather said...

Isn't that half the battle? To avoid subjecting our kids to endless advertising? I found that when my kids watch commercial TV, the requests for toys -- and plastic, battery operated, broken-in-two-seconds toys -- go way up. When we spend our time otherwise, they stop asking.

We constantly purge the useless junk that floats in from grandparents, yard sales and sources unseen. Less is more.

And amazingly, the kids are learning. One of mine just asked to go through her books with me and asked me to sell 2/3 of them so that she could find her favorites in her basket instead of pushing aside all the ones she doesn't like.

justine said...

this is my final frontier! toys! i have such a hard time with this cause they entertain themselves so much more readily if there's crap around for me to grab and shove in front of them. but then I see sam is good at cleaning up when I say no treat til it's done and he's happy to pull things our of the toy cupboard when there's nothing out he likes. so gee, just gotta go for it! thanks for inspiring - I'm still scared!