Too Much Stuff!

We go all out for Christmas. For some families, it’s the number of presents under the tree; for others, it’s the size of the biggest gift that impresses. Some even go into debt to make this one day special.


After all the boxes and paper and trees have been recycled, we still have mountains of new things to find a place for in our toy boxes and closets. Last year’s Lego set has been upstaged by this year’s hottest theme set. The one we got a couple of years back is probably missing several parts by now.


The bottom line is: we have too much stuff. We have more games than we could play in an all-day marathon. More toys than we can store away and sometimes, more shoes and clothing than we could wear in a month. How can we teach our children to responsibly deal with too much stuff?


Christmas isn’t the only season for giving. Gathering up lesser used items and outgrown clothing makes room for new things. Someone can benefit from these gently used items. They need them and the people who make these items available appreciate the donations. It’s a win-win to gather and donate items we no longer need to those who will appreciate their use once again.


Let’s face it. Some things just need to be thrown away. If the item only carries meaning to you, it probably is taking up valuable real estate for the real keepsakes and clothing you still cherish. Boxes of dried flowers and ticket stubs from bands your kids wouldn’t even recognize are probably not needed in 2018. It’s okay; you can throw them away.


One word about cleaning out. I find that a cluttered desk contributes to a cluttered mind and inefficient work. I have also learned that tackling one stack at a time rarely accomplishes cleaning off the entire top of the desk. I get distracted too easily. I’ve learned that the best way to clean off my desk is to put everything in a plastic container and sift through it over a few days. When I’m careful about putting papers in their place instead of stacking them on my desk, I have my workspace back and most of my cluttered mind feels less cluttered.


Teach your children the same principle. Dump out the toy box on the bed and then begin putting away the most cherished items…the ones they will actually enjoy playing with. Ask your child if someone else might enjoy some of these items and place them in the “donate” box. Let your child go with you to drop off these items so that they can participate in the giving. If there are still too many toys, rotate them. Put some away on the top shelf of the closet or in the attic to bring out on another occasion.


If your living room is getting full of toys in all the places where your feet like to walk, try making the stray toys disappear. Just explain that they must have lost their way back to the closet and see how long they are missed. These might need to become the rotating set or even the donated set. Encourage your children to keep a watchful eye on their belongings because they never know when a toy might get lost out there on their own. That’s right; there’s no need to lecture or explain because the logical consequence for stray toys is that they might disappear, at least for a while.


Don’t let too much stuff ruin your holiday. Take steps to manage your belongings and teach your children to do the same. Remember that your example is probably the best teacher, anyway.

Dr.  Matt Crain writes weekly for the Sunday newspaper from this Connecting Fathers and Families ministry.