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5 Tips to Keep Kids Clutter at Bay

Kids can put a professional negotiator to shame when it comes to getting the toys they want their parents to buy for them. I can remember all too vividly when my 5-year-old niece approached me several years ago with a proposition:

“Auntie Del, can we go to Toys R Us?”

“Why do you want to go to Toy R Us, Tae Tae?”

“Cuz I want a Teletubby.”

“Those Teletubbies are expensive!”

“They costs $10 dollars, Auntie Del!”

Ten dollars was the hook, and off we trekked to the toy store. Come to find out the Teletubby cost $15 dollars. But my niece was sooo cute back then. When I looked at those adorable little cheeks and that heart-warming smile, I was done. My niece got the toy and I was out 15 bucks. Even though my niece may have fudged a bit (okay – she outright lied) about the cost of the toy, I still had one last chance to say no in the check-out line, but I didn’t. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

How many of you have been in a similar situation with your kids? You’re in the cereal aisle, and your child begs you for that box of Fruit Loops. He proclaims he absolutely positively must have it and that he’ll clean his room for the rest of his life if you buy it for him. You know his promise will never hold water, but you give in. If you routinely succumb to that not-so-subtle kind of persuasion, at least it’s a consumable item that won’t add to the burdens of your already cluttered household.

You’re still in good shape if your daughter changes the diaper and burps the virtual baby on her very own hand-held device you purchased for her last birthday. And thank goodness Tommy’s Spy Net Video Spy Watch can be tucked neatly away in a drawer in his room. Forget the fact that he’ll have to navigate his way through an obstacle course of clutter in his room to get to it.

If you’re lucky, your child might prefer the hottest space-saving electronic toys out there like the Wiki-Reader or Leap Frog Text and Learn. But I wager a bet that some of you parents out there may have to hunker down and prepare to activate those “no” muscles when your kid proclaims he absolutely must have the Avatar vehicles and action figures or he’ll die!

Kids are usually one step ahead of their parents when it comes to keeping up with the hottest toys before they even hit the market. They get bombarded with enticing TV and internet ads every day while you’re still laboring at work to pay off those credit card bills from all the stuff you bought them for Christmas and Hannakah. So parents, you’d better be armed with a little bit of Psychology 101 before that little tyke of yours challenges you with the top notch negotiating skills of a Wharton graduate. If not, your place will be overrun by toys and gadgets that your little one has completely forgotten about because something newer and better and faster has come along.

So I got to thinking! That’s right, I’m at it again. What can you do to keep clutter at bay when it comes to those sweet, loveable, adorable, demanding kids of yours? How can you get a handle on their insatiable appetite for the latest toys and electronic gadgets?

This list was a lot harder to generate because kids today are sharp and keeping one step ahead of them isn’t easy. If you happen to come up with any other ways to stop children in their Consumeristic tracks, would you post them in the comments section?

So away we ago!

Minimalism Starts Early: Manage Kids Clutter

Tips to Keep Kids Clutter at Bay:

1. Just say no. Practice saying no ten times a day in front of the mirror. This seldom used two-little word can work wonders to stop that “I gotta have it” kid in his tracks. You can also say “H-E- double hockey stick No!” for greater emphasis and effect.

2. Adopt the One-Container Rule. Designate a pill box, jewelry box, shoe box, storage box, toy chest or trunk. Tell them that all their toys (without exception) must fit into that container. If they want an item that does not fit, they will have to either donate, sell, barter or discard an item from the container to make room for the new purchase. The child — not you — must bear the responsibility of finding a new home for the toy … and throwing the unwanted toy away is not an option unless it is broken beyond repair. Your kid doesn’t think for one minute that YOU’RE going to get rid of it, does she. No way! Not you! lol!

3. Adopt the Work-Toy Exchange Rule. Think of an age-appropriate chore for them to do for a designated length of time. Cleaning their room, washing dishes, putting away groceries, and vacuuming the carpet are a few such tasks. Make the period of time significant enough that they will come to really appreciate that toy when they get it. Delayed gratification enhancers are great ways for a child to develop emotional intelligence. We all know that anything worth having takes time and consistent effort. They may as well start learning that life lesson early.

4. Set a Toy Limit. Tell them they are only permitted to have a set number of toys: 5, 10 or 15. If the toy of their desire exceeds the prescribed limit, another toy from their collection will have to be eliminated. The child must find a new home for the toy or gadget.

5. Community Service. Select an age-appropriate community service activity for your child in exchange for a toy she wants. I especially like this option as children learn altruism and philanthropy at an early age. We all know how miserable we can be if we spend too much time thinking about ourselves all day long.

Keeping it easy and breezy,

Vita Reid
The One Minute Minimalist


About Vita Reid

"You cannot Change What You Will Not Confront." T.D. Jakes. I am a 1993 graduate of Smith College, having majored in Psychology with a minor in Mathematics. I lived in Lawrence House during my senior year. I am an ardent bridge player and soon-to-be expert. My motivation to declutter, minimalize and clean my apartment began 10 years ago when I visited my friend's minimalistic apartment in Manhattan. He owned nothing. My motivation to speed the process of down-sizing my possessions along is fueled by a desire to entertain a world-class bridge player at my home during the world games to be held at the Marriott Hotel on Market Street in Philadelphia in October 2010. Being that I will be working almost exclusively from home when my voice over career flourishes, I would like to make my apartment pleasing to my own eye. Since clutter can also be an impediment to creativity, I find it essential to rid myself of it so that I can develop more creativity in many areas of my life, including at the bridge table, my blog posts and developing creative marketing strategies for my voice over business. This blog represents a diary of my genuine feelings moment by moment as I make the transformation from 12 years of disorganized clutter to owning only the bare essentials of life. May you find a few nuggets in the writings to inspire you in your life's journey. Keeping it easy and breezy in the land of less, Vita Reid The One Minute Minimalist


5 thoughts on “5 Tips to Keep Kids Clutter at Bay

  1. Hi Vita. I’ve noticed that Grandma has her hand the mess, too. So many toys come from her. Any thoughts on that?
    Thanks for posting, and take care. Beth

    Posted by afiveyearplan | February 18, 2010, 7:46 AM
    • I know just what you mean, Beth. Well-meaning relatives, me included, love showering kids with gifts. There are a few suggestions you can give your relative: (1) when a birthday or holiday comes up, suggest a few things your child needs; (2) ask grandma to contribute to your child’s college fund, summer day camp fund, or some other goal; (3) ask grandma to purchase a U.S. Savings Bond or open a money market account in your child’s name. Here are just a few suggestions. A follow-up post on this subject is soon to follow. Thanks so much for the suggestion, Beth.

      Peace and love, Vita

      Posted by Vita Reid | February 19, 2010, 2:07 PM
  2. Great points made. I think that when I have kids, talking to them about sex and drugs and alcohol will be easy. It’s convincing them that less is more that will be tough.

    David Damron

    Posted by David Damron | February 19, 2010, 3:23 AM
    • Yes, David. Indeed it will be difficult. Opening the dialogue early will be a great start.
      Also, monitoring their exposure to the internet and TV, at least while they are at home,
      will also help. It seems to me that consumerists are made not born.

      Thanks for dropping by the site. Come back again soon.


      Posted by Vita Reid | February 19, 2010, 6:19 AM
  3. it would be much better if we could buy a Jewelry box that is gem studded;””

    Posted by Marine Paint : | October 28, 2010, 11:22 AM

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