One toy garage saled, two toys received as gifts. Greetings from ParentalGrit, where we are exploring the wide world of Minimalism this week as it pertains to the family life. We opened up with an introduction to Minimalism on Monday and today we are exploring the impossibilities of avoiding some state of hoarding while trying to raise children. As a reminder, I am absolutely not a Minimalist; what I am, however, is an uncompromising and relentless cheapskate that my wife mostly tolerates. While ‘cheap’ and ‘minimalist’ are certainly not synonymous, there does exist some overlap that has drawn me to the Minimalism movement. Yet, no matter how frugal and ridiculous I am with spending, our house is bursting at the seams with toys, clothes, and empty diaper boxes that will be used as storage containers any minute.
I often think about what it was like to raise a child in like the 1800s or early 1900s. The kid would probably be completely naked as much as possible while rotating two of three disgusting hand-washed rags that passed for clothes. Kids probably would breastfeed until 14 just so the parents wouldn’t have to worry about food (no, I’m not a historian). For toys, a little kid might have nothing more than an old sock stuffed with straw and tied in a knot. Time have, however, changed from my fictional historical account. Kids these days don’t need an outfit for every day of the week, they need an outfit for every hour of the day. These 2000 outfits need customized accessories as well, so plan on 2000 pairs of matching shoes, 2000 complementing bows, and 2000 pairs of colored socks that don’t even show.
The toys and other necessities are even more out of hand. You don’t just need a crib, you need a co-sleeper, a 175-in-1 crib, an electric rocking sleeper, six different baby swings, a vibrating stand-along, and seven different varieties of pack-n-plays. This will get your child through his or her first year after birth. Now we transition into the stand-up doohickeys that play music, the 14 walkers, the riding plastic tractor, the plastic motorcycle, the plastic wagon, the plastic rocket ship, and the plastic Jeep that broke down within 40 minutes after receiving it. Whatever happened to the pioneer way of cutting the tail off a rattlesnake for 5 or 6 years or entertainment?
While my girls do not have everything I’ve listed above in those quantities, the surplus children supplies have certainly exploded throughout our house. As I mentioned before, I’m a ridiculously cheap person. My wife isn’t known for her shopping sprees either, so we’re always perplexed by the constant drag of accumulation. Where does it come from? We have the great fortune of having two girls with 8 older girls cousins, so the hand-me-downs fly in fast and often, but it still doesn’t explain it all. It’s like Toy Story, except the toys and clothes are breeding at night and multiplying by morning.
So rather than talk about Minimalism, all I’ve really done is complain about my cluttered house. But the truth is that parenting with less stuff is much more difficult these days. Advertisements claim that each and every product is a must-have to keep your baby or young child safe; it’s a con game that is guilting parents into buying more and more necessities. The parties we throw for children get larger and larger while the gifts received require a semi-truck to haul back home. Less time with the children due to work and other commitments often leads to guilty purchasing on the whims of the child.
It’s a never-ending cycle of accumulation and the reasons are many. If you’re noticing your house is starting to overflow, I’m not the Minimalist to fix it for you. I do believe, however, that it would benefit most parents greatly to start taking inventory on the contents their kids are acquiring. I don’t mean physical inventory (because that would make me gouge my eyes out with a plastic spork) but inventory of the meaning and usage of something. How much value is being provided by each of the items we acquire as a family? Are we sacrificing something for the future in order to take professional photos in 19 different matching ensembles to flood our Instagram accounts with? Does all this hoarding have negative consequences?
Like I said, I don’t have this figured out quite yet. But I look at my daughters and watch them barely touch 90% of the junk we’ve hoarded and wonder to myself if maybe Minimalism or at least the premise behind it might be worth further investigation? We’ll be back on Friday with a more in-depth dive on what Minimalism could look like for a family these days. Stay tuned…and if you come by my house some time, please steal something 🙂