We’re Drowning in Our “Stuff”

About two years ago, my husband and I decided to finish off a room in our partially finished basement as a designated “playroom” for our two boys. Our thinking was that in giving the kids a space to call their own, we could reclaim our own living space and not be surrounded by brightly colored plastic crap all day long. I’m happy to say we accomplished this goal: the toys stay in the playroom 99% of the time, and our living room now no longer resembles a daycare each evening. However, something interesting has happened. The playroom goes mostly untouched.

Yup, that’s correct. Out of sight, out of mind apparently! There are the occasional rainy weekends when my boys venture down to the playroom, but at 6 and nearly 4 years old, the majority of their “stuff” goes untouched. They simply don’t need as much stuff as they have.

This realization brought my back to my own childhood. I was fortunate to grow up under the same roof as my parents, brother, grandmother, grandfather, and great-grandmother. Doing so gave me a nearly daily reminder of what life used to be like during the Great Depression, thanks to the ever-present voices of the elders in my family. Any complaints I had about life were met with swift, harsh reminders about how lucky I was. One thing my grandfather frequently remarked about was how my brother and I treated our possessions, namely, how we had no appreciation for what we had. I may have silently rolled my eyes 30 years ago, but he was correct. We were children of the 1980s. Plastic toys were everywhere, and we balked about cleaning them up off the floor of our room. If something broke, we threw it out. We were used to disposable things. He had relatively few toys as a child, and what he did have was made to last. If he was careless and broke something, there was no replacement.

Thinking about this over the past few months, watching a layer of dust collect over our playroom, I’ve decided that our whole family has entirely too much stuff. Yet still we collect! We shop. We buy more. Why? I have no idea. My sons are the only grandchildren on both sides of the family. They have more toys than they need, yet this is how they spend their afternoons and weekends:

…nary a toy in sight. I caught myself, a few weekends ago, wishing for a house with more closet space, a bigger kitchen. Nonsense! What we need is less stuff. Our house isn’t the problem; our mindset is. We have spent several weeks purging the things we truly don’t need or want, and the kids have hardly noticed. Of course, they each have their “prized possessions” which I would never touch, but we have started packing away things we don’t use, then revisiting the things we have stored to see if we can simply donate them to people who may actually want and use them. We’ve started having more conversations about “needs” versus “wants”. We are trying to be less impulsive with our purchases.

These can be hard conversations to have with kids. If you have elementary to middle school aged kids, you may want to check out The Story of Stuff video with Annie Leonard, the executive director of Greenpeace. It’s a relatable, easily understood video that does a great job of explaining why we should all try to consume less and reuse more. If you’re looking for motivation for yourself to kickstart some spring cleaning, check out Staging Your House for Living, over on the website Becoming Minimalist. Fair warning: you may want to immediately start decluttering after reading it. Happy organizing!

7 thoughts on “We’re Drowning in Our “Stuff”

  1. I agree and recommend you read “The life changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo. Her book has completely changed my families mindset about our stuff and finally my home is tidy all the time. I decluttered all my life and seemed to get nowhere but that has all changed now.

  2. This is so wise!! I’m 65 and wish I had read this 30 years ago! I see this with my grandson. He has many, many toys from relatives. Yet he still mainly plays with his cars and trains–his true loves. In the end you end up donating most of the toys. Think of all the money that could have been put in a college fund and how much less you would have had to clean up!

    1. Thank you for the kind comment! Yes– you are SO right. In fact, we just went through the “stuff” today and managed to purge a sandbox, water table, plastic slide, and plastic tool set. None of it had been touched in over a year! It’s all about the art supplies and matchbox cars here 😉 They would be totally fine with 1/10th of what we have I’m sure! Happy to see that you are also finding this to be true 🙂

  3. I love this – especially the line about changing your mindset. I took away a BUNCH of Lillian’s toys when she was having a hard time listening, as a consequence. I packed up a big garbage bag full and put it in the garage. She only asked one time where a certain toy was after that and when I reminded her that I “threw it out” she said “Oh OK” and played with something else. That was really eye opening to me, that she didn’t even miss that bag of toys. So now I try to be more conscious and not buy as many toys. She doesn’t need them!

  4. This is SUCH a great post, what a wonderful realization to have when your kids are young! So healthy for everyone!!!

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