We’re baaaaaaack… Today, we thought we’d dive right in with this series, and cover purging with your kids. Things are a little different since the first time we covered this topic, but we thought we’d highlight a few of our favorite points again today, as well as a few updated takes. This is a little bit of an old post, revisited… along with some great tips from readers in the past, below. So here we go!
Once upon a time, we decided to begin simplifying over the holidays. I wasn’t sure where to begin. But it’s one of those things where you just dive in and start. I was completely overwhelmed, and then I was a total purgaholic. Before I knew it, I’d filled twenty five bags to the brim and was abstaining from sticking myself in a bag and on the curb because sometimes… that sounds nice. What?
We made the choice to change our lifestyle. And it’s working. Slowly but surely are the key words here. But as you guys know, whenever you make a choice to change something in your family, it also has to happen as a family unit for it to be successful.
Enter : tiny mess-making, stuff-hoarding offspring. When we first started, this was about what they were. Now that they’re bigger, it’s honestly gotten easier to make them a part of the process. I think we can all relate to the kid conundrum and this angle of cleaning up our act.
Let’s just keep it real. While I would like to say that when we first began, we held a family meeting that was full of come-to-Jesus-kumbayas, and that each child is a perfect angel donning a halo who now cleans their room unasked on a regular basis… let me just say that would also be a boldfaced lie, and we totally purged behind their backs. All the obscure toys… the tiny forgotten pieces…the excess… it went to a better place. (See: anywhere not in our home) The things that they weren’t playing with because of all the stuff. I think that when we first began, it felt really extreme because we were honestly coming out of baby mode, and looking for less. I simply wasn’t prepared to make 1 million tiny decisions with my three children weighing in on the matter with whiney objecting voices and clingy grabby hands. For our own sanity, we chose not to involve them. We put them in front of a movie and snuck out of the room with trash bags in hand.
Sometimes progress for the sake of progress is a necessary evil in the land of all things toy purging. I’ve found that if we didn’t start the way we did, we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. It would have been agonizing and unnecessary. Why allow my three year old to cry over the rando happy meal toy he forgot about six months ago?
Do you know what happened when we were awful parents and purged behind their backs? They never even noticed. When we pointed out how much more space they had for their favorites, they thanked us. They were excited. They played with the toys they have. And never once missed the mylittleponymutantninjaturtletoy that came with a side of fries.
It was a small miracle in our home.
Because of this, we were eventually able to establish real systems in our home, that they could be a part of. And help maintain.
When it comes to involving your children, there’s a difference between the initial purge, and establishing a lifestyle.
The initial purge : Progress is important in the very beginning to stay motivated. My children were very young when we started. They don’t understand all that much, and honestly what they don’t know won’t hurt them… This may not work for everyone. It was kind of key for us.
Establishing a lifestyle : Because it’s a two sided coin, our children were very young when we started. There’s time to establish this with them. They’re very impressionable and easily influenced.
I’ve found, when it comes down to it, children will surprise you. But they’re all in different places as far as wrapping their brains around the concept. When we started, my seven year old had the bleeding heart. He cries for people he sees on the side of the street holding a cardboard sign. He would come home, empty his piggy bank, and make us turn around to go back and give a homeless man a few dollars of his own (hard earned) money. My three year old, on the other hand, hid toys in every nook and cranny, because he’s not quite there. He still thinks sharing means he will never see said item again. We’re working on it.
A little patience in this process goes a long way. This is the world that we’ve created for them, after all.
Now that they’re older, we’ve stayed consistent, and we’ve seen the fruits of our labor. They’re now in charge of purging their own spaces, and have a rational understanding that they need to be more giving with their things. It’s been a game changer in maintaining our home. Do we have our moments? Certainly. Are we a little behind right now since our home is for sale? Absolutely. But without further ado, here’s the helpful… and not so much that we’ve found works for us when it comes to purging with our children.
Necessary parental perspective inserted here: we realize this isn’t what’s best for everyone. It’s simply what worked for us, and our children at their ages. Here’s a few thoughts we have on the process.
(Just a little food for thought, these are just a few things we won’t be doing with our kids. This section could also read: Things Ashley has already messed up royally)
1. Use of the guilt tactic.
I joke around about guilt. And I struggle with guilt. I’ve struggled with letting go of guilt and the process behind it. I don’t know if it’s our generation, or our culture, or a little bit of everything… but I can’t let this trickle down to my kids. This is the reality I’ve created for my children. It’s not fair to throw it back in their faces. Ever.
It may gain me immediate results with the traditional, “You know, children in (fill in the blank location) have a lot less, and you have all these toys…” But we all know where guilt will get you. It teaches them to do something for all the wrong reasons with negative consequences. Bad feelings should never be associated with those in need. And more importantly (which I believe is an important life lesson) gifts should never come with strings attached. I think we communicate this when we use guilt to get them to do what we want them to do. It’s a powerful tool and can have majorly negative backlash when used in a bad way.
2. The fear tactic.
“I’m throwing all of these away if you don’t clean up, now.” Y’all. Once upon a time, I used this. I just don’t want to give my kids a fear complex when it comes to cleaning up. Like throwing things out is a bad thing. I think it’s easy to resort to this one when we feel like they’re not listening.
Because we did take the time to purge, we were later able to establish systems with our kids that they could help maintain. But it all starts with that overwhelming process of the initial purge.
If we constantly threaten them, and then I do include them in the next purge, with the intent to let them choose what they want to get rid of or give to others, won’t they have negative feelings associated with that? Wouldn’t it actually encourage them to hoard? I think it’s important that we never use something we want them to do on their own, as a punishment in other situations.
With those gross notsomuches out of the way, here’s a few positive things we’re proactively doing, to instill a lifetime of gratefulness in our family. They’re little tactics woven into the very day for positive reinforcement.
1. Lead by example.
We’ve let them see the change in us, and our family. Mommy and daddy cleaned out a bunch of bags, and took them to the donation center. We have closets of food and clothes at our church for those who don’t have as much as we do. We are called to help those who are less fortunate than us. We don’t eat out as much anymore. It’s changes that are adding up to make a big difference, and all those little changes are related to each other. They see this. And because of that, they have questions… which leads me to…
2. Regular discussion.
Now that our kids have seen, they have questions.
We’re far from perfect. We all go through cycles, and that’s normal. We’re not looking for perfection. When they see us behaving a certain way, they ask why. Just like anything that you want to be a regular part of your lives, you work it into daily conversations. It means honesty and encouragement on our end. We’re doing our best. Because of that, they’re learning.
3. Focus on experiences.
While the latest and greatest in toy land is fun, it can take a toll on the parents who are desperately trying to simplify their lives with their children. It calls for preventative measures and active changes. We’ve started to look at alternatives in little ways, like trips instead of the typical toy influx… and experiences more than the actual things all of the time.
Does this mean that we’re always good at it? Nope. Christmas just happened. Grandparents give gifts, too. Sometimes, we even get carried away. Sometimes, dare I say it, I think that’s okay. I think it’s important to try to find that happy medium, though. This includes time spent together, rather than always adding to the clutter. Even projects as a family (like a child from Compassion) are something we’re working on to give them a healthy, global perspective. Widening the view and taking off those horse blinders in all things accumulated lego land, is the goal here.
I’ll go back to the original statement I’ve said time and time again… It’s not the things that are bad. It’s the excess. There is a lot to be said about all things in moderation. There’s a never ending conundrum of living with children, and we hope our perspective helps a little.
In the end, I still believe that your children will surprise you. Mine surprise me, daily. From potty training to generosity, let them make some of their own choices. Once you’re at that place, past that initial purge (if you choose to do it like we did) and see what happens. It’s a healthy part of maintaining a simple lifestyle. That isn’t always easy for us. But we’re working on it. We’re not looking for extremism or perfection here. Just a place of instilling some realistic perspective into their lives.
I think this is what is so interesting about it all. There is no magical formula. No snapping of the fingers or waving of the magic wand. It’s an organic process that will change with you as your family grows. And it’s a gargantuan learning curve, if ever I’ve been a part of one.
So how do you involve your children in this process? What’s your policy in your family and simplifying your lives? Any tips? We’d love to hear!