HOW TO: Cut Back on Accumulating ‘Stuff’ With Your Family

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Saying no to ‘stuff’ is a hard thing to ask parents wanting the best for their children. But in a culture which equates purchasing things to being happy, parents need to stop, pause, and think about what they are teaching their children when they choose to buy, buy, buy more and more stuff, stuff, stuff. Accumulating seems to be the most favorite family time activity in many households. Ask yourself if items you’re considering are truly necessary purchases, or whether you could simplify situations and your life without spending money on ‘things.’ For your childrens’ development and best interest, here’s how to get a handle on your home’s stuff situation, and how to say “no” to too much stuff.

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When we fill our homes with piles of stuff we think our kids need, we end up with households stocked with mindless kiddie accessories, most of which have nothing to do with the most important ways we relate to our children. We are going to have to take a minute, look around, and see how useful the things we buy to care for our children really are. It is fun to see the creativity people use to impress us to buy their products. The pictures look glamorous. The item seems high end. We know for sure certain parents will notice, maybe even envy, our choices. We believe we are doing the absolute best for our children. The truth is, we may inadvertently instilling in our children a sense of entitlement that psychologists point out may be harmful to them. “When almost all your energy is indiscriminately devoted to fulfilling your child’s desires, it’s no wonder that they’ll come to see the world as revolving around them. As such, they’re unlikely to give much consideration to the wants and needs of others,” says psychologist Leon Seltzer, PhD.

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Nix the Guilt

As parents striving to teach our children how to live well on this planet, we must instill in them healthy ideas about ownership and possession.  As we teach them to conserve the planet, we must also teach them to conserve Mommy and Daddy’s pocketbooks. Remind them before entering a store what they last received and ask them when was the last time they played with it. Be clear that the goal of the outing is not to add to their plethora of things. The pretty, expensive toy that only holds their attention for a moment, just adds to the collection of instantly gratifying whatnots which clutter your house with toys rarely utilized.

Fewer Toys Means Kids Spend More Time with the Toys They Have

“It’s not about the toy, it’s about what the child does with the toy. It’s much better to have one toy that the child plays with 10 different ways than the child has 10 different toys that the child plays with in one way,”  says Pamela Paul, author of Parenting, Inc. “One interesting thing is that the more buttons and batteries the toy has means the less sounds and noises the child is making. How are you pushing your child to be creative and teaching them to grow if their toys do everything for them?” Our guilt from hearing them complain of boredom sometimes urges us to change their state of discontent as soon as possible. We try to fix the problem. Most times, this is a problem they need to fix for themselves. If they are sitting around bored, eventually they will correct the situation on their own. If not, suggest tangible solutions to them besides, “Go play.”  Remind them of the coloring book still unopened Aunt Sally gave to them for Christmas. Sometimes they just need a reminder of all the cool things waiting for them in their rooms or backyards.

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4 Responses to “HOW TO: Cut Back on Accumulating ‘Stuff’ With Your Family”

  1. anne-marie says:

    such a great article! We have three wee darlings, and these two rules preserve our sanity: the kids must donate a toy to charity to receive another, and they must contribute their allowance to any new toys they “really want”. They think twice about new toys, and any allowance they don’t spend we match and put in their bank accounts – so they learn to save as well.

  2. Francia McCormack says:

    I love that idea!

  3. sushanta says:

    What a great read!
    I am sharing this article on our Empowering World Change (an environmental awareness program) Facebook page. (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=88208220879&ref=ts)
    I have a 9 year old and I am proud to say that he does not have a clutter of toys. Lego has been ruling favorite since he was 1 year old! We follow the same rules as Anne-Marie + additional chores to get anything. I am personally against clutter myself.
    Thanks for this article.

  4. kaisukas says:

    Anne-Marie: That’s a great idea. Friends of mine, who have already teens, used to match any allowance that the kids had saved since the last allowance day. I will surely be using the same principle once my sons are old enough to get allowance.

    We are against paying kids for doing the chores.

    As for the clutter. I do have some good rules set down, that actually work. My older son goes through all the toys that he no longer wants or plays with, before every Easter, Christmas, and Birthday. He also has set amount of bins labeled and that can only hold so many toys. My youngest is 16 months and really hasn’t received any new toys. I saw a nice set on sale at Target and I bought it for him either for Christmas or for his 2 year birthday in February but reading this article made me reconsider. Maybe I should just return it. I feel guilty not getting him anything, but I do understand that he is only 2 and won’t realize that or remember. I suppose, I’m more concerned of other parents looks on this.

    Any suggestions?

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