Monday, January 07, 2008

The Rule of Finite Spaces

The post-holiday weeks can be very stressful for parents, who have to try to assimilate all the cool new stuff that their kids get into playrooms, bedrooms, and living rooms. Most conscious consuming parents out there implore the relatives to limit gifts; we ask for no gifts, experience gifts (like lessons or museum memberships), consumable gifts (like art supplies), or green gifts. But do the relatives listen? If you are a parent you know the answer.

So what to do with all the new stuff? I have tried to teach my children The Rule of Finite Spaces. We have a basket for doll clothes; when the basket is full it is time to donate some doll clothes to children who have less. We have a hamper for dress up, two shelves for books, a basket for stuffed animals, you get the picture. My children are only 4 and 7, but even they can see that when the basket/box/shelf is full, something has to go. Many parents feel a need to get rid of some older stuff with the holiday onslaught of new stuff. Some moms I've talked with do their playroom "clean out" while the kids are asleep. While I've been tempted to go that route (because it would save me from the endless "But I still play with that, mom!"), I feel like my children would miss an important lesson.

The ability to let go of attachment to your stuff is a process, and it's not necessarily easy. As a child I was a "saver." I saved all my birthday cards, photos, mementoes, souvenirs, etc. If you can believe it when my mother finally made me clear out boxes from her attic in my 20's I found boxes of stuffed animals and my Girl Scout uniform (I know, "what a loser!"). Clearly I was attached to my stuff, and it was hard to break out of that. Ultimately, though, I found the ability to let go of once prized treasures quite liberating.

I am trying to teach my children these lessons in increments:
Our stuff doesn't define us.
Our homes are finite spaces.
If you got something new, let go of the old one and give it to someone who has less.

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