In previous years I’ve made the mistake of quantity over quality feeling the pressure to supply a big pile of gifts, only to witness present fatigue as the kids stormed through the pile of wrapped presents flinging each to one side to reach for the next. It was clear there was too much. I’ve now learnt to manage expectations in terms of the actual gifts my kids are going to receive. We tell them they can have “something to read, something they need, something to wear, something they want and something to share”.
Something they need could be a new duvet cover or an alarm clock, so they don’t need to have their mobile phones in their bedrooms to wake them up. The wear part can be a pair of trainers they’ve been coveting or an impractical party dress. Sharing presents are family games or activities which bring us all together rather than isolating the children in their bedroom. If the something they want is just too expensive don’t be afraid to tell them so. They’re children - they’ll get over it.
Invest money in memories not stuff
Children love the traditions of Christmas: our children always get a new pair of PJs or onesie on Christmas Eve. I’d have to buy them new ones anyway so I may as well make it special. Rather than letting the children come into a room full of presents, we hide gifts around the house and call it a Treasure Hunt, thereby keeping the excitement going for longer.
Presents include ‘Christmas Promises’: these hand-written age-appropriate ‘coupons’ are placed in little envelopes (think the sort florists use) and are to be redeemed when the children want. They are all about spending time rather than money on them so maybe a movie night at home (they get to choose the film and snack), after school deluxe hot chocolate, stay up an hour later than usual, a pamper night, a friend for a sleepover or ice-cream for breakfast. Top hits have included a bag full of two pence coins to spend at an arcade and a recipe with money attached so they picked and paid for the ingredients themselves.
Now the kids are older we ask them to fill a bag for the charity shop before they can expect to get anything new. We’ve also introduced a shopping trip to buy for gifts for those less privileged processed through schemes run by charities such as The Salvation Army and Family Action. Children can then feel the pleasure of giving but also appreciate how lucky they actually are.
The Christmas season is such a wonderful time of year. So wonderful in fact that we’re even willing to put up with the cold, windy, rainy days; as long as it means that Santa is coming soon! Christmas means family, friends, good food and happy thoughts. It also means, presents! Parents love watching their children’s face light up every time they open a gift on Christmas morning. But when all of the turkey has been eaten, all of the guests have left, and you’ve got a playroom that looks like a bomb went off in a toy shop, what then?
In order to deal with the cluttered toy-crazy chaos of Christmas with children, it’s best to start beforehand. Children grow out of their toys, and a great way to declutter is to have your children decide what they want to keep and what can go. I would suggest an afternoon where parents spend time with their children going through their toys. Then, as a family, they take the toys they don’t play with anymore to a charity shop, shelter or preschool. This is such a lovely way to bond as a family while helping your immediate community and teaching your children a valuable lesson.
While you’re at it, take a look through the closet; children do tend to grow quickly too! After the Christmas morning madness is over, it’s worth having a second look with your children to see if they received any presents that can potentially replace older toys, and repeat the process!
Christmas is fun, but it can also be stressful. By doing the above, not only are you keeping clutter to a minimum, you’re also creating a nice family tradition while helping out the community. And after all, isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.