Having kids can be hard. It’s so easy to accumulate more than we need from gifts, to parenting tools, and cute excessive items. In my experience, it is much easier to focus on enjoying raising our children when there is less clutter.
Here are a few tips we used to help us keep the stuff to a minimum when we were expecting:
1. Make a registry and be picky about your items – Many people put anything and everything on their registry. I ask people to stick to the registry and do not bring clothes (people still will, but it keeps the excess down).
2. Buy used – babies outgrow their cloths and utility items (swings, bouncers, etc.) so fast. And because of the tremendous amount of people who buy new, it’s easy to find nearly new items for cheap on Craigslist or a local kids used items shop, like Once Upon a Child or Kid to Kid. I find that paying less makes it easier for me to let go of the item in the future or resell it for a fair price.
3. Limit toys, focus on interactive experience – both our kids fit all their toys and books into a backpack, with the exception of bicycles and chalk. Kids will make anything a toy, so Love typically has fun with rocks, sticks, washcloths, brown paper bags, etc. She prefers to be played with. It gets us all to spend quality time with one another. When you involve your kids in everything; be it sweeping, washing dishes, folding clothes… everything becomes a game and you’re able to get stuff done together. Sometimes much slower than usual 🙂 but I find more efficiently that trying to distract the kids and make time for them later.
4. Keep tabs on accumulation, learn to let go – I clean out all the excess only to find more excess six months down the road. With kids, you cant force people to stop giving, it’s a joy to them. Be specific about what you need if they ask. If not, assess whether the item is a necessity to you and your family.
Note: Not if you “can make use of it”… Anyone can make use of anything, but does the item add value to you or your children? If it’s a new toy, what toy can you replace it with? Often people send us so many clothes after the baby is born, too many to use, I re-gift them to friends who are pregnant or have kids, I throw them up for FREE on craigslist, donate or sell to a used kids shop.
The struggle I’ve experienced with letting go is guilt and fear. Guilt for all the money I spent and feeling the stuff didn’t get their money’s worth of use and fear that I won’t be able to afford it later down the road should I find myself wanting it again. Truth is, when I am not excessive, the small amount I own gets used and I feel good about having paid for it and having value added to my life because of it. And 99% of the time I really don’t need to repurchase stuff again. When I do I can always buy used.
My rule of thumb is: If it doesn’t add value to me or my family, it drags us down.