Reducing amount of kid-detritus

Guest post by Victoria Brooke Rodrigues
“Home is where the crap is” sign by Etsy seller DesignedByLaura

My name is Victoria Brooke Rodrigues, and I am baby-stuff-aholic. I wouldn’t say that I need professional help, but maybe that’s the denial talking.

Okay, so the truth is we don’t have nearly as much baby gear and toys as other two-child homes I have visited. But underneath that façade is the yearning. Oh, the yearning! That is where true addiction lies: like the alcoholic who will always be recovering and never recovered, my problem isn’t in the amount of crap I have but the heavy, painful WANTING I sometimes experience. And I hate when I recognize a feeling of WANT that flies in the face of the fact that our family doesn’t WANT for anything vital.

There are endless little things I WANT. Like this Speesees shirt with the horse on it… WANT! But I change Joaquin’s clothing twelve times a day, there is still no freaking way he could run through all the clothing he already has. Yet I have that shirt bookmarked, favorited, and watched on 10 websites and talk myself out of buying it every week.

What the hell is wrong with me? Probably a combination of the marketing of the “Baby Industrial Complex,” and too much of that quasi-free time I have, in which my body is doing something like nursing a baby, but my mind is free to wander through an imaginary toy aisle.

Then there is the fact that I live in a culture that says acquiring the thing you WANT means it’s time to find something new to WANT.

While every once in a while I give into my desires, I try to set an example for my kids that what we have is more than enough. Here are some of the ways I have learned to reign in overloading our family with all the kid stuff we each WANT:

  • Live small in general: We have a small house and keep our adult belongings in check. This makes it easier to clear out toys and kid gear, because everyone in this house has to share in a scaled-down lifestyle in order for our space to function.
  • Refocus stuff-driven celebrations: consider a birthday swap-party where kids can exchange gifts instead of overloading one child. Many parents express feeling like they have to out-do themselves every Christmas, birthday, etc; but if you start out small and keep the focus on what makes a certain day special, the stuff-aspect never has to get out of control.
  • Choose quality over quantity, however your family personally quantifies quality.
  • Pass it on: We had to let go of the guilt of getting rid Dear Aunt Mable’s baby shower gift and let things go when they are no longer useful or necessary. This is hard for me because I am a SAVER. I feel like the minute I donate that toy barn will be exactly one minute before Jonah would have started to show interest in it. But there is almost always someone else who can use your whatever-it-is. Even our miscellaneous puzzle pieces and Mr. Potato Head parts have been passed to artists for projects.
  • Keep perspective: Sometimes I like to look at pictures of old-timey kid-rooms to remind myself that the possession of hundreds of clothes and toys was not always default for a complete childhood. Every once in a while, when we visit some kid-friends, I start to feel guilty at how much smaller Jonah’s toy collection is. But then when we get home and he spends an hour playing with a bamboo stick, I know he has everything he NEEDS.

Comments on Reducing amount of kid-detritus

  1. I need to book mark this article for my mom for when I start having kids. This is also (part of) why I’m not telling anyone the gender of the baby till it’s here (though I doubt this’ll slow some people down if they’re really baby-crazy).

    • you know, not telling people really helped me! People gave gift cards at the baby shower, which I have been able to use on diapers and the likes. which is way way way more useful then some of the stuff we registered for! lol

    • not telling worked for us too. We also controlled a good number of gifts by having a blessing (people were asked to bring an item for the birth altar, and explain why they were contributing it/what it symbolized). This isn’t for everyone, but THIS REALLY WORKED:

      A friend of my mom-in-law wanted to throw us a shower, so we asked for her to throw a Book Shower. It was the best idea! We got great baby books and picture books.

  2. I am just now realizing that I have a problem with this too. And after we moved it dawned on me just how MUCH baby stuff we have. I always thought that because we hardly ever bought anything for Marley – and if we did, it was craigslisted or thrifed – that she just didn’t have as much as other kids. And while she probably doesn’t have as many toys as other kids – she has way more than she could ever want to play with thanks to friends and relatives.
    And we are taking small steps. We only keep a small amount of toys out at a time, the rest are in a closet. And we rotate them when she seems to lose interest in certain toys. We put those toys out and pull more out of the closet. It’s like all new toys every few weeks! We are in the process of giving away stuff to a battered women’s shelter tho. It’s just too much for us to handle and there are kids out there that maybe don’t have the toys and things to play with that a child should.
    Great post!

  3. We have a “one in/one out” rule with baby stuff — ESPECIALLY toys. If it’s not actively being enjoyed, it’s given away … in part because that means if I see something I want, I can feel ok about getting one now and then. 😉

    • We do, too! We also have a (generally followed) “two at a time” rule with toys – his toys are in a box under the crib and only two come out at a time. We switch them out for new toys when he seems bored – since he’s 5 months old, it seems to take a while for him to get bored! One plus we found to this system is that he also seems to get more out of each toy when he has the time to focus on it – like, he’ll learn the best way to hold each one to shove it in his mouth, and how to pick it up the easiest, etc.

    • My best friend’s husband started making her do that with her shoes, every time she buys a pair she has to give one away. I thought it was a great idea and started making my partner do it with his t-shirts (we could open our own thrift store with just his side of the closet…) It’s a great tip for baby and adult stuff! 😮

    • We also have that rule, as well as the “no retail” policy in our house. We hit up second hand stores and craigslist for “new” toys for the kiddo. We don’t feel nearly as guilty when we buy “new to him” things for him now that we are swapping one out for one in. My best friend and I also swap between each other. If a toy is losing interest with one, we’ll donate it to the other’s toy stash, and voila, it’s brand new again, and loved before it gets sold/donated.

  4. Great post!
    My munchkin’s favourite things to play with are cardboard tubes, different textured/sized pieces of fabric (tents/dressing up/doll dressing etc) and smallish pebbles, which she can make faces from, build with and line up 🙂 She has lots of ‘proper’ toys but doesn’t get nearly as much enjoyment from them, so I’m happy 🙂

  5. All my boy(who is 3) needs at this time of year are some wellies for the wet garden (It may be summer, but we live in Scotland – at least the rain is relatively warm at this time of year), a stick to poke things with and a bucket to collect up the snails he is so amazingly fond of.

  6. I am SO with you on the secret WANTing, Rod. For example, Sophie the Giraffe. God, do I want a Sophie. I mean, er, Miles wants one….
    But do we really need a $20 teether???

    One thing that really works for me is to consciously ask myself before making a purchase “will this make my life better?” Sometimes the answer is yes (removable bottom tart pan, for example – clearly can’t live without that!) but usually, well, it’s a no (sorry, dear Sophie, with your food-grade paint and natural rubber head…)

    • Oh I love me some Sophie, too… because we have plenty of baby-chewies, I actually bought it for a pregnant friend in Brazil, telling myself, “Maybe they don’t have Sophie in Brazil, and she will inspire a new market for healthy baby toys!” Over-rationalization.

    • I hate to say it, but if you’re only going to buy a few baby toys, you should go ahead an get Sophie. I never met a baby who wasn’t batshit over the silly thing. When I got it I figured it was a trade in for buying 3 cheaper toys she wouldn’t appreciate as much. (The spatula is a big hit too, and we already had that!)

  7. Ashby- I love Sophie too. If I could only choose one toy to purchase myself for the baby it would be Sophie. I’ve always wanted one!

    I’m a little terrified of the possibility for clutter with baby on the way, hubby and I are both terrible packrats. Gulp!

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