Children develop an attachment to their toys, much more so than we adults do. There are many strong internal reasons for this attachment: emotions, collector sense, ownership pride, habit and sheer rebel refusal to follow your rules. Peer pressure and the effects of advertising are external reasons. Of course, there are more reasons, but they all fall into those two categories.
Identifying the reasons why your child is attached to each toy can help you find ways to deal with an overload of toys. The internal reasons require emotional intelligence and patience to deal with, while the external reasons need a firm hand to keep at bay.
You have probably realised by now that although your child usually plays with the same toys all the time, there is a reluctance of letting go of the ones they rarely or never play with: it’s got a lot to do with habit, and maybe even a feeling of pride of having ‘so many things’ to boast with when friends come over. I believe this to be the root of a lot of problems with adults when it comes to letting go of things: habit of ownership.
Here’s the trick: if you can determine which toys are only around out of habit, you could make those into display items somewhere out of reach (e.g., high, hard to reach shelves) or even store them somewhere else – and getting rid of them at a later time without the child actually realising these have gone. Of course, you have to take into account particular emotional attachment in this process: some of these items might actually have associated emotions. It’s up to your parenting skills to realise if that is the case!
Some of the external reasons can be controlled more easily than others through good parenting: advertising and peer pressure. Of course, you cannot eliminate exposure to advertising nor peer pressure altogether, that is pretty much impossible in this day and age. However, it is entirely in your hands to teach your child to deal with both of those in a productive way and not to give in to ‘temptation’ whenever the opportunity to ‘get something new’ presents itself.
It is up to you to give a positive example in that respect. If the parents go shopping, bring home and collect things that clutter up the house with all manner of stuff, how can you expect the child to behave any different? From your child’s point of view, you can do pretty much anything you want, anytime you want, you appear to have no limits. However, you are able to impose such limits on your child. That has to feel unfair. Sheer rebellious refusal is to be expected if you ask your child to let go of some of the toys, since you clearly do not have to do the same thing!
There are other reasons for not following your advice/orders/demands, of course, and much depends on the general disposition of your child. This is why I have chosen to use the term ‘your child’ here: each child is different, and whatever works for one child is not necessarily the right path for another one. While it might seem like a lot of effort and time goes into this decluttering business, you must include the child in the process of finding out what each toy is about, and work WITH the child rather than AGAINST it. Think about it: would you like to be robbed of something you are emotionally attached to?
Most certainly not! You’ll find that a certain amount of reasoning and finding things out will go a long way to eliminate clutter from the play space. You might even come across some hang-ups you foster yourself! The next part of the series will – finally – give you some practical pointers on this subject.
Ask the ClutterMeister
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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.