Dear Santa – all I want for Christmas is a clean house!
With the holidays right around the corner, we are bracing ourselves for the barrage of toys that will descend on our home. I’m not referring to the choice few coming from Santa, but to the inevitable masses from well-meaning family members, despite our yearly pleas for gifting “experiences” instead. Although I am overwhelmed by their generosity, in an effort to make room for their gifts, we clear out the excess, broken and lackluster toys.
Historically this process took place under the cover of night while the children were nestled all snug in their beds. This year we felt our kids were old enough to be included in the process. We wanted them to learn the valuable lessons of less is more and donating to those less fortunate. Our process is threefold.
First, my husband and I walked the talk
We phased out our own excess, explaining our actions to our kids as we cleared. In all honesty, clearing our clutter has been an ongoing process. It began shortly after we moved into a larger house that we could “grow” into. Early on, we noticed the empty spaces quickly began to fill, especially after the birth of our second son. As a solution, we keep a donation box in a communal closet. Little by little, we fill it with the unused and unloved. Once it’s full we drop it off at our local donation site. Around the holidays and in the springtime we do a larger purge.
Second, the set-up.
We prepped our kids with the instructions that they would be sorting through their toys. We told them that they would be giving them away to a new home where someone will love them again and play with them every day, just like they used to. Making sure we emphasized how fortunate they are to have so many toys, we reminded them that Santa and our relatives would be bringing them new toys that we had to make room for.
Lastly, the purge
We began with choosing between 2 items. Once the favorite was picked we put it up against another and so on until we were left with a few loved items from each toy category. For smaller items like their Hot Wheels, we lined them up on the table and had them each pick out 5 favorites. Then a Christmas miracle happened…the boys didn’t fight over the 5 cars they each wanted to keep. My full throttle, back pocket threat of, “if Santa sees that you have too many toys, he may not bring you any new ones,” went unused. They were actually making decisions and filling the box.
All and all, the entire process took my kids forever and a day as they meticulously sorted through the drawers and cubbies of trucks, tractors, planes, and trains. At long last, they were left with truly treasured toys. Also, the timing couldn’t be better. Since they were looking forward to what they’ll find under our tree, their anticipation seemed to oust the separation anxiety. Once the boxes were filled, we donated them. We made a “ceremony” out of it. We thanked the toys for letting us play with them and wished them well on their journey to a new, loving family.
I may never have a clean house, but in the end, my boys seemed to embrace the process of decluttering. I can only hope it began laying the groundwork for the notion that more processions do not equal more happiness and that joy can often be found in giving to others. After all, ’tis the season.
Danielle Venticinque lives in Saint Paul with her husband Don, their 2 boys and a 75-pound mutt. She writes for Summit Hill Living and moonlights as an actress. Follow her “likable” Instagram at daniellexxv