Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Toy Intervention

Three large lawn and leaf bags, each more than half full.
Three under bed box organizers.
One small toy chest.
One medium sized box.
One wooden treehouse.

This is what I removed from Caitlin's room and stuffed into our garage today. Every single, solitary Webkinz, Barbie and assorted other toy I could find, minus one new bear she just received at a friend's birthday party this weekend.

There were no tears. No wailing. No yelling, screaming or threatening.

What?! you ask, stunned by this huge household happening.

Well...! I asked the owner of the messiest room in the house to go and clean it. This was met by the expression of one who had just been asked to suck on used gym socks or swallowed a lemon or smelled something dead and funky. Not a pleasant expression, but I'm certain that if you have kids, you've seen it before. Since I was calm and somewhat rested (The twins only nursed twice last night! Whoo hoo!), I calmly asked her if she needed me to do it and to remember the consequences of me cleaning up her room: I would get a trash bag and remove all of the toys on the floor and put them out in the garage.

"OK," Was her immediate response. "Just don't take my books."
Flabbergasted, but not wanting her to think I was bluffing, I checked in: "Are you sure? I'll take every toy out of there." I decided to push the envelope: all of the toys.
"You won't throw them away, will you?"
"No. But I don't know when I'll give them back to you."
"Can I keep my books?" I nodded. "You can do it, then."
"Okay then!"

I leapt from my chair, whipped out three huge bags and got to work.

Like I said, I wasn't mad. She wasn't upset. What she is is overwhelmed by all of the stuff in her room. I don't blame her: she has friends and family members that give her toys all the time and that one thing that few others have: a grandparent that owns a toy store.

Sounds great, right? Not when your child breaks down in tears every single time she has to clean her room. Not when you have a small house and five people sharing it. Not when her bedroom is only 10' x 10' and it is stuffed to the rafters with toys, books, school papers, artwork and assorted Caitlin projects that always seem to involve torn up pieces of paper, rocks, a half dozen cardboard boxes and cutouts from magazines. (Just so you know, I'm not mad at any of the toy givers mentioned, either directly or indirectly, in this entry. This is just how it is around here. We have a kid, people give us toys. We have to live with the ever growing pile.)

She is overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed. My house is overwhelmed.

So I've cleared it all out. We are hereby instituting a moratorium on new toys, of any sort, being allowed into the house. Also, in case you were wondering, I am not unaware that her birthday is coming up. Birthdays, as you may have noticed, generally mean a sudden increase in the general toy population.

Not this year.

This year, friends and family, you will need to get creative. What she needs, far more than stuff is your time or attention. A shared experience. A date night. A sleepover. A movie. A hike. A bike ride. A ballet. Cirque du Soleil tickets. Take her to Art Camp for 3 weeks. (OMG! Have I mentioned how much my MIL rocks?! She does indeed!) Do the best thing for everyone involved and give her nothing at all. She doesn't need it and she won't miss it if she doesn't have it. As a matter of fact, inside two days she won't even care that all of her toys, save one, is sitting in the garage.

You could even consider it your Earth Day gift to her and the planet by not shopping at all. It is totally OK.

Just remember, the best "green" gift is no gift at all!

So what about you? Have you had a Toy Intervention?


Mary Kate said...

A grandparent that owns a toy store~ how cool! I can totally relate to being overwhelmed by clutter. I think your suggestions for Caitlin's birthday sound fantastic.

You need to have a garage sale and you need to invite me over ;)

BTW- I tagged you for a meme.

Missy said...

sort of. When we were having clean up issues with #1, I bagged up all toys/items that were not picked up and put in their proper spot. The toys then went up for "sale." #1 had five days to "pay" for the toys to get them back. She had the option of paying me for them with her money, or earning them back with extra chores. At the end of 5 days any toys left were taken to my office or given away. I think being overwhelmed is a primary cause for kids resisting room clean up. Also my supervisor at the agency told me about some research that she had come across showing that kids developmentally are not ready to clean their rooms without assistance until age 9. I try to keep those two things in mind when my head explodes upon entering messy rooms.

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Missy: Not until NINE?! I can't take three more years of this! No way! You know what, she's up there, after having cleaned up the remainder (think piles of torn paper, tissues, books and clothing that I found in/under/on top of everything) and is proud of the fact that her room is FINALLY clean.

Mary Kate: we might just have to have a garage sale. Although I'm not certain how excited she would be about us selling off all her gear yet. Maybe in a month.... A meme, huh? I shall go peek!

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Great idea - the kids do get overwhelmed by all the stuff. We all do.

The kids never seem to get old enough to clean their rooms without a lot of guidance...

alessa said...

Hell, I'm an adult, and hate to clean my room for exactly the same reason. I think I'll go down to, wait, I'm a pack rat! I can't get rid of my stuff! I may need it one day!

Nina said...

Oh my gosh. I will have to keep this post stored somewhere in the back of my head when my kids are old enough to clean their rooms.

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