I sometimes find myself staring down roomfuls of toys with the eye of the tiger. Especially around the holidays, when we are bound to end up with even more stuff.
I have decluttered in front of my kids (to get them involved in the process) and I’ve done it when they are at school, but the stages of cleaning out their toys are always the same for me. I start out strong, and then I lose major steam.
I hang on to the belief that one day I will be able to heartlessly toss out every kid thing in my path, but until then, these are the typical things I run into when trying to clear out children’s toys:
Stage 1: Anger
I enter the room like Rocky in the ring with a Russian on steroids. I see materialism and excess, and I furl my lip. I want to get it out of our lives with a big TKO.
My trash bag and donation boxes are ready. The toys have taken over, and we need to take immediate action.
Stage 2: Determination
The plan of attack starts out pretty quick and dirty. The first toys to go are the obviously outgrown baby toys, goody bag rejects, and broken fast food toys.
Go go go, Mom! Have no mercy. Mercy is for the weak.
Stage 3: Nostalgia
Wait a minute, is that my baby’s old rattle? How did that get in there? Rattles, blocks, and baby socks seem to always find their way into the toy boxes when the kids are asked to clean.
What kind of a monster would throw out every last one of their baby toys? Maybe I’ll just keep the rattle and a few blocks and store them away.
We’ll donate those later … when I’m ready.
Stage 4: Attempted Detachment
Ohhh, look! It’s the little Dollar Store train that we bought that one time on vacation. He played with it for days with Grandpa, and I remember him admiring it on our road trip when I looked up in the rearview mirror.
He’s 8 now, but he might like it again one day — I’ll just hold on to it and put it in storage for later. When I’m ready.
Stage 5: Denial
The “wait, not yet” pile begins.
Hey, there’s that nice dinosaur he got for his birthday. He got it from his grandparents and it wasn’t cheap; maybe we can keep it just a little bit longer. We shant be wasteful! I hate to let it go. Maybe little brother will play with it one day.
Let’s just keep that one in the toy box for now.
Stage 6: Guilt
Wait, why are all of these toys still here? The “wait, not yet” pile is bigger than the donation and trash piles.
I’m an adult. Why can’t I throw out this stuff?
Am I just afraid deep down that when the “stuff” isn’t here anymore, I might forget how young, sweet, and innocent the kids were once upon a time?
So I push the “somewhat lightened” toy drawers back under the activity table and I close the lids to the still full toy boxes, and store away the bins of the “not yet” toys. And I wait. Until I’m ready.
Until I come full circle back around to the overwhelming feelings of materialism, disgust, and chaos.
Until it becomes ridiculous to hang on to all of the things I can’t seem to detach from right now.
Until the day I’ll be able to let go of my kids stuff — and my kids — just a little bit more.