Uh, oh. Here it comes. My son is eagerly recalling a memory from several years ago of playtime with his siblings, and I know exactly what is going to happen next. “Mom, whatever happened to that toy?” Just as I am about to remind them the particular item in question was meant for toddlers and they are no longer two, another of my children promptly announces I have more than likely gotten rid of it; as I am want to do. Now I ask you. Why would I keep it? They hadn’t touched it for years! It seemed reasonable to remove the item in question, at least to my way of thinking. My kids, however, consider this the perfect opportunity to remind me – yet again – that this needs to stop. Some things belong to them, and they should be included in the decision to have it given away. Well, perhaps they’re right.
In a home where six people live, work, run a business, homeschool, play and sleep, space can be an issue. From time to time, it’s essential to downsize and streamline our belongings; removing items we haven’t used in ages and perhaps making room for new resources to further our family adventures. I don’t think anyone in my family would dispute these facts. No, it’s the manner in which we minimize which is in question. I have to admit, they have a point.
It made sense when the children were little that I be the one to sift through our belongings, donating what could bless others and organizing what was essential. However, the older our children get, the more it becomes evident I need to step aside and allow my children to make some of these decisions for themselves. And there are some valid reasons why.
I am a minimalist. I like the bare essentials. If I haven’t used something in a while, if the piece is not functional, or if I am just plain, old tired of it; it goes. While this might seem like a good thing – and it can be – it can also work against me. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten rid of something only to regret it six months later and curse my incessant need to minimize. Perhaps, just maybe, when it comes to my children’s things I might not be the best judge of what should stay and what should go.
My children need to learn this skill themselves. At some point, my kids need to learn the fine art of organization and minimizing. They might never pair-down to the extent I would, but neither can they rely on me to always do this for them. By purposefully setting aside time to do this as a family, they learn this skill for themselves and they have no fear something will be taken which has meaning to them.
My children have an emotional attachment. I see a bracelet my child has never worn. They see a well-loved, handmade gift from a friend. I see a doctor kit made for three-year-olds. They see a world of possibility, and childhood memories. Sometimes I don’t know which items my children have formed attachments to, and I would hate to give something away which I can never replace and has great meaning to them.
If I say it belongs to them, I need to mean what I say. How would I feel if a particular item suddenly went missing only to find it was given away without my permission? I would be hurt. My children are no different! Once something belongs to my children – whether bought or given – it belongs to them. Not me. I need to respect their right to keep that item or even get rid of it. It’s theirs. Personal property needs to be acknowledged.
It is essential to downsize from time to time. But these days re-organizing our home has become a group effort. Together we tackle our respective spaces and determine what absolutely must stay. I’m constantly amazed. You’d be surprised how motivated these children can be, cleaning better than I would have anticipated and often removing more than I would have dared. Items of value are stored with great care, and generosity is shown as they determine who would benefit from items they no longer need. Better yet, I don’t have to face accusations and our home is organized much faster than had I done this on my own. It’s an all-round win!
I’m curious, how do you tackle this tricky parenting choice?
“The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.”
~ Psalm 24:1