Prisoner of Clutter?

Toys? Root of Modern Clutter?

In the past few days the article “Today’s families are prisoners of clutter” from the Boston Globe has been trending all over my Facebook feed.  I’m not sure why this article got kicked back to life, since it is almost 5 years old, but it interested me nonetheless.

I was intrigued by the portrayal of 21st century kids as over-saturated with toys.  Growing up, one of my sets of Grandparents rarely gave Christmas or birthday gifts.  It was more of a special event when they did.  They raised 6 kids, who had kids, and there were just too many Grandchildren to undertake gifts for every event.  In contrast, my mom only has one Grandchild.  My daughter also receives gifts from aunts and uncles.

That can make for a lot of toys.

I can imagine this situation reaches a crisis if you have a few kids, and the stream of toys keeps coming throughout the year.

The article states that one problem with the avalanche of toys is adults’ unwillingness to part with the toys and their desire to save the toys for future grandchildren.  A result is Rubbermaid tubs in the garage and nowhere for cars.

What is the toy situation at your house?

I have been lucky to have other relatives in the family to hand things down to.  One child gets all of my daughter’s clothes, and the choicest toys and books.  I don’t want to overwhelm them with toys either!  Other items I sold at rummages (like the Melissa and Doug mentioned in the article) or gave to Goodwill.  Items we still have include Legos, dollhouse, Calico Critters, American Girl dolls, Barbies, dinosaurs, and wooden blocks.  Those items put together are probably more toys than I had in my whole childhood, and that doesn’t even account for the items we don’t have anymore.

It’s hard for me to refute the assertion in the article that today’s kids have too many toys.

Playing the Scenario Out

Will today’s children become parents with tubs and tubs of toys to hand down, passing along the clutter crisis?  I have found that every few years there are a lot of toys we can pass along in one way or another.  Kids make great leaps in terms of interests and maturity and suddenly you both know that an item has served its purpose.  The problem comes in when we — the parents — don’t want to let the toys go.  It’s not Great Depression mentality.  Maybe it’s closer to a wish to have another crack at reliving the joy of childhood.  Certainly some items are “keepers” but saving enormous amounts of toys for hypothetical kids to come decades away means the toys aren’t able to give someone else joy.  Saving things also make a lot of assumptions about what a future child would be interested in — My Little Pony?  Beanie Boos? Anna and Elsa?

I can’t say this article doesn’t hit a nerve.  Though we have come to the very end of the toy buying years, the article will stay with me as we go through bins of toys.  Today we have some Dora Legos, Princess items, games, and craft kits headed for new homes.  It’s a start.

What are your thoughts on the article?  I’m interested in the opinions of those with and without kids.








22 thoughts on “Prisoner of Clutter?

  1. Tim Kim @ Tub of Cash

    We have a stupid amount of toys at our place!!! Littered all over the place. And it’s all for our 1.5 year old! But, it’s not me or the wife’s fault! Since most, if no all, of them are from the grandparents, the uncles, the aunts, the friends. It’s a lot though. But what’s a good way to say no? I think it would be so much better if they could contribute to our son’s 529b for college (which is something that some places offer), but we haven’t set that up yet.

    1. Jen Post author

      It’s hard when people want to spend the same amount on your child as they might an older child or you or your wife. My inlaws have contributed to DDs college savings account, which is awesome! It’s embarrassing to say, but my 12 year old usually doesn’t even know what she wants for a gifts (because she has everything??) 😫.
      My inlaws also send a check for things like Halloween or Easter with instructions to apply it towards family fun. We appreciate that.
      What was the toy situation like when you were growing up? You are younger than me.
      The toys everywhere does get better as kids get older… as long as they don’t all end up in your garage or basement.
      Another way to slow down the amount of gifts is to ask people to bring their favorite book as a gift. This works for a 2 year old but not a 7 year old. Take advantage while you can!

      1. Tim Kim @ Tub of Cash

        My situation growing up was I made my own toys LOL. I really enjoyed fashioning make-believe toy guns out of cut-out boxes and stuff like that. And I remember inventing my own role-playing games and my younger brother always joined in with me. Good times. I think doing stuff like that probably helped develop some creativity. Whereas kids these days just get spoon-fed all these crazy gadgets and expensive toys that already have all the buttons and sounds and doodads right out of the box!

  2. wherethejourneytakesme

    As a new grandparent I try not to buy heaps of toys for my granddaughter – we also tend to buy educational toys or more old fashioned wooden toys and keep a few of these at our house for when she visits. We also prefer to take her places or bake and draw. She has a lot of toys at her house but this is mainly because her wider family spoil her. We buy little gifts for Christmas and birthdays and put money into a savings account for her instead of buying expensive toys.

    1. Jen Post author

      That’s terrific you have been able to supplement a savings account instead of a large quantity of gifts. My husband’s grandpa used to buy him US Savings bonds, and we cashed them in when we bought our house. They weren’t huge amounts of money, but there is a ripple effect. We had money for a down payment and later paid the house off. Paying the house off means we can save for our daughter’s college, which hopefully means she won’t have to take loans and be in debt. His gifts helped change the family tree!

  3. Flo

    I definitely agree with this! I’m continually amazed at how over the top kids parties are these days. We went to a party a few months ago for a one year old and I couldn’t believe the number of gifts that were there. For a one year old!!! The kids across the street have more outdoor type toys than our entire neighborhood probably had when we were growing up. And what is sad about it is these days most of the stuff never gets played with because kids are too busy playing on video games. I’ve quit giving toy gifts for my nieces and nephews, they either get gift cards or cash. I’ve been in too many houses that are completely overrun with toys. (not that I have room to talk either LOL)

    1. Jen Post author

      I know… it’s a bit of a sore subject. Flo, I thought immediately of the mutual social media persona we know whose child has every single AG item. It blows my mind. When there is everything, all the time, how do you develop a long term relationship with a special toy?
      Don’t get me started on electric scooters! Maybe for a teen trying to get somewhere, but don’t people want their kids to be active?

    1. Jen Post author

      I still can’t quite drill down into what we are holding on to …. fear that the years to come we will be sad about having grown up kids and wish we had the My Little Ponies to remember those years by? Lack of trust that the future can match up to the recent past? It’s something emotional to be sure.

  4. Message In A Fold

    My household doesn’t have toys…unless I change that to tools – adult boy toys – and we have a lot of them!

    Over the last month and a half I have been going one room at a time and getting rid of furniture and general STUFF that hasn’t served a purpose in years. Other than just because it has always been there. I’ve made about five trips to the Goodwill. Do I regret it? Not one little bit. I haven’t missed anything that has left.

    Currently, I am working on my craft room….adult girl toys. Purging like mad the stuff I haven’t used in years. The back of my car is filled to the gills with stuff I will be giving to the Goodwill. And my recycling dumpster is full to overflowing with things that should have been tossed long ago.

    I feel for you and totally understand the angst that goes along with parting of each toy. The memories that often accompany each one. I enjoyed your post.

    1. Jen Post author

      Hi Leslie, Always special to hear from you. I remember you at church every week when we take a moment of silence.
      You are right about the difficulty of parting with childhood treasures. While some things are great to keep, perhaps we should try to inwardly celebrate that our kids are moving on to conquer new things that will continue to enrich us.. be that baseball, ballet, or the marching band at school.
      I always appreciate your wisdom!
      Good luck with the craft room.

  5. dorothyeatingreal

    I pretty much had them all gone, then came the grandchildren…yep… so I am battling the crush of toys again. One solution is have things they think are super cool. Sometimes they ask “Nana can I take this home?” And sometimes Nana says yes.

    1. Jen Post author

      I’ve seen that move… my mom tried to send her dollhouse home with us. It’s more special at her house! LOL! Seriously though, it’s wonderful that you see your grandkids enough to stock toys.

    1. Jen Post author

      Hi Delores… we definitely have keepers, like dolls and wooden blocks. I still have toys my mom saved for me… Fisher Price house!

  6. Fiscally Fit Chica

    I don’t have kids but my niece has a lot of toys and books – from 2 sets of grandparents and me. My mom is a bit of a shopaholic and she had sent my niece so many Elmo’s she asked my mom if she had an Elmo store. My sister is good about getting rid of extra toys though.

  7. Mrs. Kate Singh

    Well, I get tired, oh sooo tired, of cleaning up toys and my boys have toys! They are really hard on them so some get destroyed beyond Gorilla glue surgery and wind up in recycling on trash night, boxes and boxes have gone to the Church daycare, to Goodwill, to other children…and now I’m down to two tubs in the garage. Maybe three when I get organized again. My boys were getting toys all the time because we love the thrift store and I have many friends with older children that hand things down. But I just keep the giving train going on down to keep the toys down to the minimum, blocks, dinosaurs, trains…anything beyond that is just mess.

    1. Jen Post author

      I hear you! The things that really drive my crazy are small toys that get separated from their home. The Barbie shoe that just becomes part of the landscape after a while. We do pack boxes for Operation Christmas Child, so that has been a good home for small items!

  8. Rob and Becky

    We changed from a large house to a small house, and we got rid of so much stuff. BUT, it still wasn’t enough, so we recently got rid of another huge batch. BUT, it’s still not enough for the much-smaller house. So, this is a big challenge for us. We will clean out some more soon. Because we had to put it all in storage while looking for a new house, we did keep some questionable items because we did not know if we would need them.

    I kept the Thomas train set (huge) from when my boys were little, and a bunch of Legos. Each girl who still lives at home kept a few keepsakes from their childhood, like their American Girl dolls. All of them basically don’t play with toys anymore, except the youngest, who just turned 13, and has a very few she holds on to. Board games were kept, as were a few learning games, such as “Tote and Tiles” and a couple other Discovery Toys. A few puzzles were kept, but I knew we could get more at yard sales easily. I kept one small crate of toys like Transformers for my nephew and he played with them weekly when he is here, and he also plays with the train and the Legos. We find that badminton and croquet are used, as well.

    1. Jen Post author

      We have a small house, too, and one of its blessings is you can’t keep or buy everything out there. Sounds like you have kept some things that will be meaningful and enjoyable in the future, as well as by the kids you take care of sometimes.

      Going through stuff is just an ongoing process here 😃


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s