I don’t know about you, but I don’t do a big spring clean. I am more of a fall cleaning girl. Something about the holidays, having so many people over to our house, my son’s birthday in December, plus Christmas makes me feel like I have to clean and get rid of things, I guess to make room for new things. Hangs head in shame. That sounds awful. My family and I have become the definition of consumerism and I don’t know how we got here. It feels so selfish, wasteful and counterproductive to everything I dream of for our family.
I don’t want to raise my kids to run out and buy every new iPhone the day it’s released. I don’t want my kids to think they don’t have to take care of what they have because we can just buy a new one. I don’t want to raise entitled children who rely on instant gratification, who don’t appreciate what they have or overvalue material things. And I don’t want my family to live in a home filled with crap we don’t need.
And yet, here we are, every closet bursting, every drawer overflowing, a garage we can’t walk through, and birthdays and Christmas presents on the horizon. Gross. Just gross. And here’s the worst part, we don’t buy toys all the time. I’ve been telling my kids since July that it’s almost Christmas and to ask Santa for what they want. We don’t reward with toys, we pay money for grades and chores and rewards are experiences or last year’s Halloween candy, so how did we get here?
I’ve tried to resist it, y’all, I’m the mean mom. When we go to the zoo with Nana, I don’t let them go into the gift shop. I want them to appreciate the time with their grandmother, not the stuff. I don’t give into toys at Target and I Instacart so we’ve eliminated the excess from the grocery store. That’s what it is, that’s what’s eating me, the excess. We are so blessed, but the excess is suffocating me. The material things are eating us alive. I’m over it. But I face resistance on every front, especially in our culture. I can’t do it anymore.
A couple of weeks ago, we cleaned out my son’s room and we threw away three garbage bags full of broken toys and trash and we donated four garbage bags of toys and clothes to the local women’s shelter. Y’all that’s seven giant bags that my six-year-old had crammed into his room. As we went through his belongings, I would ask him if he wanted to keep or donate. I’m embarrassed to say he donated toys he begged for last Christmas that he has never even played with. Pure madness. As I sit here completely grossed out, with children who would circle every item in a Target catalog, I have to Christmas shop and so do you. Here’s how I’m changing our family Christmas story and how my children learn to consume.
Prepare Your Home
This is exactly what I am spending the rest of November doing. I am going through every room in the house starting with the kid’s rooms and playroom and cleaning out what is broken or no longer played with. There is going to be new toys for Christmas, I may be over the excess, but I’m not the Grinch. So we have to make room.
Not only should you clean out your kid’s rooms, but get them organized with space for new treasures so they can actually see and play with what they have.
Include Your Kids
It took my son and me hours to clean out his room, he was not impressed with how long it took or how much work it was. Afterwards, we sat down together and talked about it. I told him that this is why I say no to toys at the store and reminded him to remember this day when he asks for a new toy. At six, he is actually starting to grasp the concept of only asking for what he really wants, but we have a long way to go.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
If my kids insist on keeping a toy that they never play with, I sneak it out to the garage for a while. If they never ask for it and never notice it’s gone, then I eventually donate it. I’ve even explained this concept to my son and he agrees that if he doesn’t remember it, then he probably doesn’t need it.
Encourage a Hobby
My daughter wants to play tee ball this spring so she will need a bat, glove, and cleats come March. Instead of more toys, Nana is getting her tee ball supplies. We will have to buy them anyway and my daughter is going to be super excited to open up a bunch of pink tee ball gear on Christmas!
Be the Giver
Bake cookies or Christmas treats with your children and give them out as gifts. Have your kids decorate bags to put them in and create Christmas cards. Teach your children about kindness, giving and serving so they remember what is important not just during the holiday season, but all year long.
Teach them Gratitude
Cultivate a grateful heart in your children early so that they can appreciate what they have. When you are teaching gratitude, focus on the important things, not material things. Talk about how thankful you are for food, good weather, people, your health, your home, your schools, churches, doctors, teachers, and relationships. Remind them to be thankful for simple, yet important things.
Give them Experiences
Create a holiday season of fun experiences. Each year I take my children to see Christmas lights, we drink hot chocolate by the fire while we watch Christmas movies, we play games, visit Santa and play with friends. Fill your babies with Christmas memories, not your house with more stuff.
I am on a mission to take back the reason for the season and I will not be spending 2018 getting rid of this year’s Christmas haul. My children will still open gifts but this year they will be giving more and doing more which is the greatest gift I can give them. Presence over presents.