This is the week we have off of circus, and one of our major tasks is getting the kids to clean their playroom.
I say, “get them to do it” because, well, that’s what we do. J and I could go down, bag all the trash and get rid of old or broken toys and get the whole thing done in about an hour-and-a-half. But we don’t. First, it’s not our mess, and second, it’s not our stuff.
Children do not have an oversufficiency of autonomy and control. And now that I have a daily look at their judgement, I understand why. But that’s still not a good reason for me to arbitrarily and without warning or input go steal their stuff. They have to learn to take care of their possessions. They have to learn to cull and get rid of things that are no longer of value. They have to learn to discern between a treasure and junk. And they have to learn that they have rights when it comes to material goods. Limited rights, yes. But those are still rights.
Last night we cleaned the Miscellaneous Small Toys Bin and the Stuffed Animal Bin. The process is, we dump the bin and then they each pull [x] number of toys they want to keep, with [x] being a value set by us depending on storage constraints and other factors. Then they swap and rearrange. Then J and I pick the toys from that bin that we want the kids to keep. The selected toys are re-binned, and the remainder are sorted into piles to throw away, recycle, give to friends, or give to Goodwill.
The MSTB is my second-most-loathed bin, after the Projects Bin. The MSTB is where plastic drinking cups are stored “because Pickles was sick and needed broth,” or a bent slinky is kept because “that’s the experimental evidence that the warp coil worked!” After a few months, though, neither child is as attached to the fantasy that prompted whatever toy to be kept, and they can part with it.
The Stuffed Animal Bin is far more perilous. I couldn’t, for instance, tell the kids they could only keep some of the plushie Pokemon, right? My god, Budu would cry and cry, and Munchlax would be depressed for weeks! How could I part the Pokemon from each other, are you kidding me? And how could I get rid of Caracole? Or Pato? Or Turret? These are members of the household, I know their personalities and backstories!
We did, in the end, leave some small number of stuffed animals on the floor for giving away. Ones the kids were never super-attached to, or have outgrown or replaced. I’m pretty proud of them for being able to recognize that they don’t have to cling to every possession.
My kids do not live in a scarcity economy. Everything they need they have in abundance, and much of what they want. Feeling that, believing that, is still a difficult thing, though. I’m proud of them when they can manage it.