No Stuffed Animals Are Safe

I’m the polar opposite of a hoarder. When my husband can’t find something, he often asks if I’ve thrown it away or donated it. It’s too easy for me – the thrift store is on my way to and from daycare and has a drive thru window! I don’t know if any of the stuff you donate actually ends up at your local store, but once my husband spotted some salt and pepper shakers just like the ones we have. What are the chances someone else donated another set of wooden salt and pepper shakers that looked an awful lot like a certain part of the male body? (I think they were supposed to be mushrooms, but come on!)


Luckily for my husband, his stuff is much safer now that we have kids. It’s much more rewarding to clean out a huge basket of stuffed animals than to thin out our closets of clothes or shelves of books. Also, I think we just don’t buy as much stuff for ourselves as we used to. It’s getting harder now that my older daughter is three. Recently I spent an afternoon gathering stuffed animals to donate while she was away. I only chose things that she’s never played with. Even if she used to love it, it made the cut and I held onto it. But if she’s not shown interest in three years, it was out the door. And of course that evening she’s looking for her purple and red stuffed rhino that’s been buried in some basket for three years and SHE CAN’T FIND IT. Oh, the mommy guilt. I totally caved. I emptied the entire bag out and somehow explained how all those stuffed animals got into that bag. (I was just taking them for a ride in the car?!)

Christmas shopping for my girls is starting to stress me out already. Maybe we’re horrible parents, but we really haven’t bought much for the baby. We haven’t had a Christmas or a birthday for her yet, so there haven’t been many occasions to buy her much. Having two girls only two and a half years apart means I can hand stuff down, but I am starting to see that soon they’ll want their own things. And the out of sight, out of mind mentality no longer flies with my three year old. She knows which things are hers and remembers everything!  This year, while I can get away with it, I’m trying to buy them things they need. Even the three year old doesn’t yet have things she wants. I know how lucky we are! So, the little one (<12 months) is getting a fun towel, a rattle and some clothes. The big one (3) is getting a big girl water bottle so the sippy cups can go to her sister. She’ll also be getting clothes, a bag for her yoga mat, her own gardening tools and other things like that instead of bulky toys to take up space we don’t have. I also figure her grandparents and other family will be getting her toys.

How do you manage all the stuff that comes along with having kids and do we really need all this stuff!? I was just starting to think about this when I was invited to a parenting workshop this weekend to discuss parenting in an era of consumerism and affluenza.  This workshop was created to help parents find ways to challenge the culture, de-construct the messages and live more simply.  The facilitator, Linda Scacco, a licensed clinical psychologist who teaches at the University of Hartford in the Psychology Department started out the workshop by having us watch this:

Then we discussed things such as What are the consequences of living in a highly materialistic, consumer-oriented world? What is the impact on our families and on our children? How do we counter the messages as we try to live lives of value within our families and how do we counter the messages for our children? In two hours we were barely able to scratch the surface of questions like these. Linda recommended several books regarding this subject that I hope to check out when I have more time to dig into this subject.

I’m certainly no expert on all of this – but I do know I’ve got way too much “stuff” at my house!

14 thoughts on “No Stuffed Animals Are Safe

  1. Great topic! I put the stuffed animals in a bag in limbo where they stay for a time out. No tears? Off they go, especially if they are those dollar store toys that accumulate when Grandma is around. I find them easier to get rid of books and educational toys that I see the kids use and discard in cycles as they develop new abilities.

    I used to use the PBS documentary “Affluenza” in my college writing courses until its look began to appear outdated, hence too far from students’ experience for them to take it seriously. The ideas, however, remain fresh to me. I also have Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture by Juliet Schor on my shelf. It’s a bit more of a manifesto than a how-to, and it most likely says mean things about advertising, Jenn, but Schor does make some interesting points.

    As the kids get older, they have less stuff; it’s just more expensive. When we moved my 9th grader into his new room this summer, I was astounded by how little he saw fit to keep. As long as he has his ipod and his phone, he is pretty much set. I could learn from him, I guess.

  2. I’m right with you, Jenn. I throw away/donate EVERYTHING on a regular basis. Purging feels sooooo good…even if someone misses something they haven’t played with in forever, which happens A LOT! 😉

  3. Pare down. Amen. Except for stuffed animals. Anything with a face needs a home and I can’t part with it. Because I’m crazy. Apparently.

    1. You and me both. I can’t get rid of any of her stuffed animals! And we have a LOT because they are just so cute!

  4. Uh-oh, I am the hoarder mom who goes to the thrift store and buys your cast-offs, Jenn. I buy stuffed animals at Goodwill for my dogs to play with (50 cents for a toy they are going to shred into bits in a day? Perfect!). That colorful toy with the plastic loops in your first picture is a favorite of my grandson’s! Don’t toss it! I watch “Antiques Roadshow” faithfully, and I am sure something you are donating is worth $60,000! And I’m going to find it at the thrift store and buy it for $2!

    But you — and George Carlin — are right. I need a 12-step program to help me get rid of my stuff. If I didn’t live with other people (and therefore I have to keep up appearances), I would definitely be a candidate for “Hoarders.” I feel so bad for those people! I don’t keep food with mold growing on it, though, so perhaps there is hope for me.

    I admire your discipline tremendously.

    1. Well, I am glad they are going to good use 😉 My dog loves stuffed toys too, but she’s so good about knowing what’s hers and what belong to the girls – if only the girls respected that too!

  5. My older boys have small boxes in their room. If they bring something home (that I consider junk), it either needs to go in their room (off the floor) or in their box. If I have to pick it up off the floor, it ends up in the trash (and most of the time they don’t even notice). They get so much junk (plastic trinkets, etc.) from school, church, etc. that it gets to be unmanageable. We try to be intentional with gift giving in our house, too. Since our boys have birthdays in Nov, Dec and Jan, this time of year can be difficult with regard to ‘stuff.’ My Bible Study recently started Jen Hatmaker’s “7 – Staging Your Own Mutiny Against Excess.” It is a real eye-opener and deals with all sorts of topics.

  6. I JUST had a convo with my husband a few days ago about how much stuff we’ve accumulated after becoming parents. We did a big purge and brought an entire car load of stuff to our local thrift store. I find this topic really interesting because I think I’m a believer in that we have way too much “stuff.” Sarah recently mentioned something on her FB page about this too and I really enjoyed it!

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