Edgy Mama: Pre-holiday toy clean-out

While we’re on the subject of toys, it’s that time of year again. Not just the holidays, but the dreaded pre-holiday toy clean-out.

Many parents take this annual opportunity to help their kids clear out toys they haven’t played with and no longer want — to make way for the new (and we hope, fewer) toys that will arrive with the holidays. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or the solstice, there’s probably gift-giving involved. And if you have children, the good and bad news is that toy-gifting may be involved.

Good news because distractions in the form of new toys give parents a break over the holidays, when there’s no school and it’s cold outside. This is bad news because, well—more toys.

We’ve tried to teach our kids that you’ve got to get rid of the old to make room for the new. And despite the wrenching emotional process, less clutter is better.

Toy clean-out with my girl is relatively easy. She’s already given away or gotten rid of lots of her old toys. Of course, she’s 10 now, and other than Legos, she doesn’t really play with toys that aren’t hooked up to a screen. She’s also the oldest of all her cousins and doesn’t mind passing toys on to her younger sibling and various cousins. She even enjoys putting together a bag of her lightly used stuff for the Salvation Army this time of year. We’ve sufficiently guilted her into feeling overly fortunate. But that’s what parents are for, right? Love, support, food and guilt are just a portion of what we give our children.

With the boy, it’s a different story.

He adores his toys and his books and his stuffed animals. And he plays with them all. Unlike the girl, who has never been in her room except to sleep, he’ll play for hours in his room. He’ll turn it into a minefield of tiny plastic pieces surrounded by tableaus of stuffed animal fantasy sequences, often involving the garroting or other physical punishment of said beasties.

I’ve got baskets set up on his bookshelf and in his closet, such that cleaning up his room consists of shoveling whatever’s on the floor into the containers. We gave up on keeping the toys separated and organized years ago. This is one reason the pre-holiday toy cleanup can be daunting.

The other is that he’s loath to part with anything. The freebie toy from Burger Hell means as much to him as the 2,000-piece Playmobil zoo. Any and all toys could be an important part of a future tableau or fantasy game.

And he notices when toys suddenly go missing.

“Mom, where’s my little penguin that beats up the Tyrannosaurus rex?” he recently asked.

“Ummmmm. I think it went on a trip to Goodwill,” I mumble.

“What???? You gave away my penguin. He was special!”

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth follows until I convince him that the plastic turtle I didn’t give away may have sufficient powers to overcome the T-rex as well.

Even knowing drama would ensue, I dragged him to his room last week, committing us both to a prolonged and painful session of cleaning out toys.

I managed to dump some broken pieces in the trash and start a shoebox of cheap plastic toys that he thought he might be able to live without. As always, I wonder how he’s accumulated this stuff. We rarely visit fast-food restaurants, and we hardly ever purchase toys. Where did it all come from?

After about an hour, the boy and I had gone through about half his baskets. The give-away shoebox was almost full. Success!

We decided to take a break, then look through his books. That was even harder. The boy’s still attached to his basketful of baby board books. He says they remind him of being a baby. As if that was a better time or something.

Ultimately, he agreed to part with one tome: My First Winnie-the-Pooh. But only if he could give it to his newest baby cousin.

I agreed to mail it to her, but then the book fell open, and I re-read the first poem, which begins:

“So wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
“There’s always Pooh and Me.”

Then I got all teary and held the book to my chest and realized that there are some things I’m not ready to part with.

Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.

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11 thoughts on “Edgy Mama: Pre-holiday toy clean-out

  1. BGreenleaf

    Don ‘t ever give away Pooh!!!
    I just read Winnie the Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner to my 2nd grader. She had to read the very last paragraph as I melted into tears…..

  2. Ken Hanke

    And despite the wrenching emotional process, less clutter is better.

    What you call clutter, some of us call character.

  3. “What you call clutter, some of us call character.”

    Just don’t ask me to clean out your character, Ken!

  4. Ken Hanke

    Just don’t ask me to clean out your character, Ken!

    That, I fear, is even more hopeless than tackling my clutter.

  5. kentuckyfarmgirl

    My daughter is the same! Still plays with all her animals, stuffed, plastic, paper… notices when anything goes missing … sets up elaborate fantasy worlds involving all kinds of perplexing, adorable, creative, relationships, more traditionally female-oriented play probably (family units etc versus garroting), but still the complex scenarios, the imaginatino of it all! Yes, bins. Occasional frenzies of sorting the stuff, lessening the older she gets … but under the bed containes and bins and boxes. Has your son’s room ever been a fort complete with wall-to-wall sheets and blankets tied to curtain rods and you can’t even get in the door?

  6. Oh yes, kentuckyfarmgirl! The other day my boy had the retractable dog leash tied across the doorway to his room as a “trap.” In reality, his entire room was a trap, and the blankets he’d tied to the top of his bookshelf pulled one of his gargoyles down and broke its wing. After emergency surgery, the gargoyle is almost whole again. I explained that gargoyles should be scarred anyway. Just thankful it didn’t break the boy’s head when it flew off the shelf!

  7. kentuckyfarmgirl

    The tying of things together has been a theme throughout, since she was barely 2… tying of one thing to another, across beds, across rooms. I went in her room yesterday, and there were 15 of those teeny tiny little dogs, about an inch long, and she had all of them tied around the neck, and then jointly tied to a main string, hanging from a bookcase. At first I thought it was a mass hanging, then I realized they were leashes of course, duh, made of very thin yarn and it must have taken her forever. Are you allowed to be in the room or in earshot when the play is going on? She looks up at me if I enter, with a certain look, and I say, leave, right? and she politely and apologetically nods, yes please. And waits for me to go. I swear I am going to nanny cam some of it because it is so amazing and precious but she’d kill me if she ever found out wouldn’t she. I think maybe our kids should take some of those rope courses, knot tying and the like… and I’d love to hear what researchers would say about this inclination. I’m quite sure they must be gifted in some way, yes ? :)

  8. kentuckyfarmgirl

    Yes, well, I hope the former! It’s like that Robin Williams spiel, when he said parents dream of their kid saying “I accept this Nobel Prize and thank my parents”, but it could end up being more like “you want some fries with that?”

  9. Mama

    Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland were always your 2 favorite books growing up. You could recite all the Pooh poems.

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