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.