Friday, November 15, 2013

Every Square Inch

For modern American standards we live in a small house. According to the Federal Census site the median square feet of new home builds in 2010 was just over 2100 square feet. The mean was slightly large than that. We are four people and two cats living in 900 square feet.  Don't get me wrong, we are blessed. I am gratefully for every square inch but, I COUNT EVERY SQUARE INCH. Sometimes I see a toy and want to charge it rent.
Dear Enormous Elephant Given to  My Son Before Birth,
The only purpose you serve is to sit by J's door and get pushed over and laughed at 3-5 times a day. It is a cruel world that you inhabit, this ain't Toy Story. You are taking up entirely too much room in my little old house. So if you are going to stay, Imma gonna need more from ya. Mmm kay?
For ten months of the year I can usually combat my feeling of being buried alive by toys by breathing deeply and remember that MOST of the rest of the world has the opposite problem. There are SO many kids in this world that would see our modest house filled with all these toys and consider us rich. It helps to remember that and be grateful for it.

But, then the weather gets gets colder and the trees drop their leaves and shiver along with us. We get out our woolly socks and house shoes. We greet the day by heaping on our layers in a futile attempt to replace the warmth of the bodies and blankets that we left behind in bed. The shorter days and colder weather drive us indoors where we wonder why we ate sooooo many cider mill donuts in the month of October and complain about the pitfalls of less exercise and holiday gluttony. Then WE DESTROY the living room with our Hotwheels, trains, Legos, books, balls, airplanes, STUFF. It is a simple fact of life that more indoor play means more mess. 

J's birthday ushers in November and my seasonal panic attacks. This is followed by December which means Christmas. Again, we are blessed. This isn't a complaint more than it is just a fact. We have lots of people that love my boys. For the better part of the last three years J has had the distinguished role of being the only child in either of our immediate families. That is until Freddie came along this summer and knocked him off his high horse. But, having such generous family and friends means J got A LOT of new toys for his birthday last weekend. They are currently residing on our basement floor. I have not the nerve to move them upstairs just yet.

In anticipation of my "there is crap EVERYWHERE I look" seasonal panic attack, last year we specified "No Gifts Please" for his second birthday party. At that point J had no idea what a birthday was. I knew he would not miss the presents. Guess what. People. Still. Brought. Gifts. And not just one person or two people, EVERY PERSON. I lost that battle. I fear I am losing the war. When F gets old enough to receive his own toys. I may need a brief stay in a mental institution.

I severely limit the number of toys I buy for J and F. For the most part J has gotten useful items from us for birthdays and Christmases. In the past we have given new shoes, snowsuits, a balance bike, toys that drive them outdoors, toys that can be stored in the garage, toys that I don't have to look at strewn across my floors, toys that I don't trip over in the kitchen, I am VERY into these type of toys. But, I recognize that kids need some toys they can play with inside. They also need new toys to stimulate their brains and encourage new types of play. It is nice that we can restock on new toys for J's birthday and Christmas and that we have family members that enjoy giving him those gifts. I am simply looking for a balance that feels right for everyone.

To combat the gluttony of stuff we have, we do a toy exchange and store half them in the basement. If it were strictly my call I'd donate half our toys. But instead we rotate them every few months. We are going to have to make some tough decisions. My husband built these incredible and large shelving units that line our storage room in the basement and the free wall in the garage. But, those shelves are lined with bins that are full of stuff. We are quickly approaching maximum capacity, and with Christmas right around the corner, I foresee trouble...And a sparse room with four white walls...maybe a straight jacket and a little plastic cup of pills.

Is it in your heart to talk to your children about the dangers of over consuming? When can children BEGIN to grasp these concepts? I don't think J is there yet but I will be looking for ways over the next year that I can start having these conversations with him.

Have you set gift giving boundaries with generous family members? Have you donated your kids old toys? Or are you holding on to them for future children?