De-clutter your kids’ Christmas

If you’re like us, people bought your children way more than they need for Christmas or Hanukkah.  (Okay, maybe you had something to do with it, but I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad.)  I decided I would go to the toy store to get “a few things” and ended up finding all kinds of goodies that were just too cute to leave there.  In my defense, I was able to pawn some of the items off to my brothers (at market value of course) to give to the kids, as they hadn’t shopped yet.  I also got sucked into a bit of the “best toys of 2010” frenzy and I ordered not one, not two, but FOUR Singamajigs.  (What on earth made me think that was a good idea, I’ll never know.)  And of course, Zach turned one on December 17th, so I had a bit of parent’s guilt going on, thinking I needed to make sure his birthday was special and that he received more than his sister did.  (As if a one-year-old would ever know the difference.)

The point is that now we’re in Florida with a minivan that was already full on the trip down, and I have no idea how to get it all home without paying money to ship some of it.  (This is something I am in principle against.)  I had already been thinking that we need to come up with a family tradition related to receiving and giving gifts that fosters gratitude, sharing, and putting others ahead of ourselves.  So here are some ideas to ameliorate the excess and put the focus on others.

1) A no new toys policy – A friend of a friend has four kids and a rule that they buy no new toys for their children.  For birthdays and Christmases, they receive some new gifts from family and friends, but they never buy anything new themselves.  They buy toys at yard sales, consignment stores, and the like.  I LOVE this idea because it probably makes taking the kids shopping anywhere (like Target or even the grocery store) a much easier process.  I was going to adhere to it except I have found myself incapable so far.

2) A three gift policy – My mom told me Kathie Lee Gifford said on the Today Show recently that they give each of their kids only three gifts on Christmas because that’s how many Jesus received.

3) A giveaway policy – We’re toying with the idea of asking the kids after every birthday and Christmas to choose one item they receive and give it away to a child in need.  As they’re a little young right now, we can do this for them this year.  (I think some Singamajigs might need good homes.)

4) Leave some things at grandma’s – Some of our new toys are going to have to stay here.  And that makes sense anyway so that the next time we come, there are already things to play with that will seem new to the kids.

5) Ask for what you need most – Set up 529 college plans or savings accounts for your kids when they are born, and have family members put money into them for each birthday and Christmas in lieu of buying other gifts.  When they receive cash gifts, have them save a percentage in these accounts as well.

6) Periodically purge – After every event in their lives when your children receive new toys and clothes, go through what they currently have and get rid of a set or proportionate number of old items that they can live without.  Then take a special trip to a homeless mission or Salvation Army and have your children personally deliver the toys they are donating.

7) Set a budget – It’s a simple concept, but not easy to adhere to.

8) Stay out of toy stores – This Christmas was only the third time since I’ve had children that I went into a Toys ‘R Us.  Every time I do, I have a list and end up buying things that weren’t on it.  It’s a dangerous place to go.  I’m going to refrain from going and instead use Amazon where I can get free super saver shipping and avoid paying sales tax.

9) Give the gift of time – A former co-worker’s twin daughters were premature and spent a lot of time in our local NICU.  The girls are 10 now, and every Thanksgiving they still bake cookies and take them to the nurses at the hospital to thank them.  I read about another family in the book “Crazy Love” that spends its first hours on Christmas morning making hot chocolate and going downtown to hand it out to homeless people.  I really wanted to do this but the truth is I got lazy about it.  I hope next year I am more motivated; perhaps we can come up with our own idea that is similar but will be “ours.”

If you’re feeling a bit over-indulged like I am, or just that as the New Year approaches you want to “get organized and de-clutter,” let me know if the above suggestions are helpful.  I’m always looking for new and great ideas!  Now I must go and find a way to convince Zach that his new toy cell phone is just as cool as my real one (because he’s screaming about it).


4 thoughts on “De-clutter your kids’ Christmas

  1. ok, if both of our families are around here next december, lets you and i make a pact on some of these things and hold each other accountable.

    i had such good intentions this year. really. with my over-the-top nesting i thought i was going to punch out homemade gifts for EVERYONE and actually even thought at some point that i wasn’t going to have to buy anything (a goal. a delusion). hundreds of dollars past the budget later, i have a stack of amazon boxes that reach the ceiling. not good.

    granted, i do realize i DID have a real and valid reason for not “getting it all done like i wanted”… namely a nearly 6 week old baby girl. but still….

    so next year, these are my lofty, but COMPLETELY DOABLE IF I PLAN AND STICK TO THE PLAN, goals:

    – no new toys or clothes. if they need clothes, we go to the thrift store, or i buy them at garage sales…i have totally scored tons of great stuff this way and need to avoid target and other stores completely when it comes to these things.

    – a very strict christmas budget. i love the advent conspiracy mantra…worship fully, spend less, give more, love all. its not the actual $$$ figure that matters, its how it is spent and given away that matters.

    – focus more on giving more PRESENCE (ourselves, our time, our support) and less presents.

    – BEFORE christmas, go through toys and clothes with girls and have them pick a number of pieces to give away (and not the crap stuff either).

    – a facebook friend did the “25 days of giving” with her family… she planned out followed through (a novel idea) on 25 days of creatively giving away gifts, cookies, donations, time, etc. etc. to the people around them (neighbors, mailman, shelters, organizations). she did this with her kids…

    – advent calendar activities that incorporate giving of ourselves, our time, and our resources to others leading up to Christmas.

    – i am seriously considering the 3 gift policy.

    – i am seriously considering trying to do all homemade, baked, created, or fair trade gifting next year. again, completely doable with purposefully planning and organization and self management (i.e. stop blowing my time away on worthless things).

    – we purge very frequently and plan to continue it.

    – avoiding toy stores like the plague.

    case in point….. sydney, my almost 3 year old’s absolute favorite gift this year? the ziplock bag of an assortment of plastic/rubbery animals i picked up at a preschool consignment sale for about $1. not the new clothes, cool wooden blocks, wooden train set (both of which were bought used at the sale as well), books, dvd’s. etc. etc. etc. we could have easily stopped at the animals and she would have been just as content and happy.

    ok, so this is a blog post in reply to a blog post. sorry. but i am feeling your pain/resolve etc right now, christine, and am determined to do things differently next year.

    i read of a family who has been gift-free for a decade now. no gifts for each other on christmas… and yes, they have young kids. but they give much to others…. the kids pick out living gifts from world vision and compassion catalogs each day for the 12 days leading up to christmas. they give MUCH. and they celebrate Jesus on christmas day… not things. its radical. its foreign to me and many would say extreme. but the point is that the parents created a culture within their family, over time, that is now normal for them. and they look forward to it each year. not saying I or you have to do it the way they did… but I CAN start making positive changes now that will be part of my family’s culture and expectations in the years to come. check out the story here:

    1. It’s a deal on the pact. I actually had another idea for next year. We should get all the neighborhood kids together to bake cookies on a Saturday afternoon and sing all the Christmas carols we know during the process. Then, everyone packs up the cookies and heads over to a nursing home and we carol around room-to-room to some of the folks who can’t get out of bed and hand out the cookies.

  2. P.S. I unloaded all the new toys into the house today and through the process, had Eliza help me pick out toys to give away. She was actually cool about it when I explained we were giving them to kids who don’t have toys. Now three bags of stuff are in the trunk and I have to figure out where we can actually take them for children who are really in NEED.

    1. yes, i need to find that place too. maybe we could post on the local listserves and ask if anyone knows of a place? i have an entire tub of clothes to give away as well and want it to be a place where there is real need.

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