Let me start out by saying that my house is clean…usually. I have a cleaner that comes weekly to clean the kitchen, bathrooms, floors and tidy the rooms. In her tidying she’ll arrange papers, clothes and toys into neat little piles that gives a general (false) sense of order. After posting yesterday about preparing for the new year I went on an ALL-DAY purging spree and for the first time the kids got involved. When I say all-day, I mean I ran a marathon in less time. If you follow me on Instagram then you probably saw the gory details in my instastory. We started with a little corner shelf in the kitchen where papers and books laid semi-neatly arranged near the kitchen table where the kids do their homework. On the surface, it looked like a fairly innocent pile but after closer dissection we found homework drafts dated over two years ago and something in my head went OFF. My daughter is a homework hoarder so it was especially tough for her to let go of the evidence of her hard work but after explaining to her that the importance isn’t in what is on paper but in the knowledge that she now has from doing the work she was better able to let it go.
After drastically paring down the papers in the kitchen I turned the kid’s attention to their books. We have hundreds and hundreds of children’s books and no matter how many we give away they never seem to get down to a readable collection of books. Most of the books were collected and given to my children by my mother when she used to work at Scholastic Publishing. Trust me I am not complaining about having too many books…ok maybe a little, but I recognize what a blessing it is to A, have so many books and B, have a place to store them all. Even after all of the boxes of books that I’ve given away over the years it does bother me that we still have so many books that we’ll ever use or need and that we haven’t done more to give them away to schools, libraries and other public service organizations. It may be a little bit of a challenge to give away American books in the U.K. because of the different spellings of some words but I will start with my kid’s school and see how it goes.
On the bright side having so many books is one of the reasons that my daughter is a top reader in her class today. I used to have her choose a book a day to read and after a while she found the genres that interested her and she no longer needed my “encouragement” to read independently. I will be starting that practice with my son now, he’s a good reader but he can improve…but I digress. After culling through the books to extract the ones that are too young for my children we moved on to their toys. It is embarrassing and overwhelming how many toys my children have. Embarrassing not for the sheer volume but again for the fact that we haven’t done more to give them away. Like the books, I’ve given away lots of toys in the past but not enough. My husband and I don’t buy a lot of toys and by not a lot I mean we almost never buy toys outside of birthdays and Christmas, and even then we tend to only buy one or two big ticket items like the bikes they got last Christmas or the PS4 they got this Christmas.
So how did they accumulate so many? The number one culprit is FAMILY! My kids are the only children for several generations on my husband’s side so aunts, uncles and cousins pour upon them as if they were their own children and grandchildren and my parents and sister add even more. After family, the next major reason is birthday parties. My daughter has skipped birthday parties for the past three years opting for travel and experiences instead so her toys have grown less in recent years but my son only skipped having a party last year and his volume of toys is overwhelming. I can tell he’s overwhelmed because 80% of the toys that he received as gifts at his birthday party this year are still in an unopened pile in a corner of his room…his birthday was over three months ago. The Salvation Army held a toy drive at my job a couple of weeks ago and I’m kicking myself for overlooking the opportunity to get my son involved by donating at least one of his brand new, unopened gifts.
Finally, after clearing out two large bags of toys, one bag of books and 3 bags of garbage I sat my daughter down for a real come to Jesus moment about her school papers. We started with the corner shelf in the kitchen but she had a trunki and several bags filled with old school work. She put up a small fight but after she actually when through each and every folder she realized that she didn’t want or need to save the vast majority of all of the papers that she had been holding on to. She filled a large recycling bag by the time she was done and I’m super proud of her for letting go.
A key lesson from this purge are that we need to be more charitable.
I’m pretty good at clearing out and giving away the kids clothes. They wear a uniform to school so they usually outgrow clothes before they wear out clothes but I need to be more active with clearing out toys and books too.
Another lesson is to identify alternate gift forms for family and friends to give to or on behalf of my children.
My children each have 529 college plans to contribute to and as a family we can identify a charity to contribute to in lieu of receiving gifts.
I’m not done yet…I will do several deep purges throughout the year but I feel good that we’re off to a good start. Keep me honest, nudge me in the comments if you don’t see a purge from me in a while.
Happy New Year’s Eve!