Simplified Chaos

As I wander through the maze of duplos and army men and dolls with no clothes and dreadlocks, I wonder to myself.
How in the world did we end up with all this stuff? And why am I the only one who doesn’t think the floor is the appropriate place for it?
Yesterday I made a decision about Christmas this year. I’ve been dissatisfied with the traditional American Christmas for several years, and we as a family have tried several different things to change how we celebrate to really reflect the meaning of the season, but somehow it always ends in a suburban stuffed to the hubcaps with noisy, annoying, and generally pointless toys. (Sorry, Mom, it’s the cold hard truth)
Last year we asked for donations instead of gifts, we even suggested a few charities that we enjoyed. And it worked great for the adults. But guess what? We still came home with a huge load of toys to somehow stuff into already-full toyboxes. I should clarify by saying that my husband and I are each the first in our generation of our respective families to have children. He has two siblings and two grandparents, and I have four siblings and three grandparents. Not to mention our parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, all of whom want to give the most and best gifts to our kids. Our kids have so many people who love them, and that warms my heart in ways that no one who hasn’t had children could understand. But I love my kids, too, and I don’t want them to grow up feeling entitled to the biggest and best toys, I don’t want them to feel like they are the center of the world, and I want them to know that Christmas isn’t about getting gifts, it’s about God giving the ultimate gift. 
So yesterday, I called all the grandparents and great-grandparents and told them that we would like them to limit Christmas gifts to two gifts per child, and suggested that they focus on something to be experienced or to build memories with that family member. (ie. A book with Grandma’s voice recorded reading the story, a trip to a local zoo or museum, or even a visit from long-distance family members) I also begged them not to feel like they had to “fill” a box or bag with cheap toys and crayons and other little things. And to insure that no one had hurt feelings, I explained my reasoning: to make my children more selfless, well-rounded human beings. 
I expected complaints, kick-back, maybe some declarations of intent to ignore my pleas,  but instead I recieved support, agreement, questions and clarifications, and all around… could it be… relief? Can our society have seriously come to the point where we buy mountains of kitsch every year for people we love out of a sense of duty? Ick. 
I’m inspired by stories of people who live in 600 square feet with 4 kids, who have and give their kids only the necessities, and the excess goes to kids who don’t have as much. By people who own stuff, and aren’t owned by it. I spend so much time every day taking care of stuff, it feels like I don’t have time for the really important things, like reading to my kids or playing ball with our puppy. I wish I had an answer for it, too, but I don’t. All I can do is take it one step at a time. 
How have you simplified your life?

 

 

This is what blogging looks like at our house. 

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. raspberrychai
    Jun 14, 2014 @ 22:19:25

    Going to stop being lazy and leave a comment! Haha. I could not agree with this post more. It’s obvious to me already that Abrielle has soo many things and we have generous family members who love to give her things. In my case, I’m fortunate that all our extended family is pretty careful about asking me what things would work for us. I always use space as my excuse (because it’s true). No big plastic toys, because we can’t store it!

    We are having a “friends” birthday party for Abrielle this year, but I’ve specifically asked for no presents, or if people must bring a gift, something consumable (craft supplies, stickers, clothes, etc). I didn’t want to throw a party, have 20 people show up, and end up with 20 additional gifts for my tiny 2 year old.

    It is ridiculous and the kids can hardly even enjoy the gifts when there are so many.

    Reply

  2. babyblurbs
    Jun 14, 2014 @ 22:31:50

    What a good idea! I love the idea of consumable gifts. To carry it over to the “adult” world, maybe kiddos could give Grandma or Auntie a “Cookies in a Jar” with a note that says, “Some assembly required, please call for assistance” and have kiddo’s name and number on there.
    Really good thought, and you’ve made me realize that I need to start thinking about Birthdays, too.

    Reply

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