In the past, I was a mere Ninja Purger. But in my journey to simple living, I have become a Master Purger. Allow me to explain.
From my daughter Rowan’s birth until she was six years old, we lived in a smaller house. For the last three years of that time, we were actively designing and building our current home. I had been learning minimalism for years, going through spurts of purging our house of excess belongings. With a child in the mix, the amount of stuff that was accumulating in our house became overwhelming.
Because our relatives lavished our daughter with gifts, and because we were first-time parents who overdid things out of fear we were “doing it wrong,” there was a lot to simplify. Rowan’s outgrown clothing was easy: I just rotated in the new sizes, and rotated out the old sizes. Baby and toddler gear was also pretty easy. We found new homes for things we no longer needed. Toys were another matter.
Until about age three, it was easy to discern the best, most enjoyed toys and eliminate the rest. But by the time she turned three, I had to up my skills to Ninja Purger level. I would wait until she was occupied downstairs with my husband, Greg, or when I knew she was napping downstairs. Then I would hit her room and start eliminating things. My process was to put things into a box and close it, and put it on the shelf in her closet. If a few months went by without anyone missing the items, I would donate the box. Nin … ja! No one was the wiser, or so I figured.
Once when she was about four, we were in her room playing, and she casually said something like, “I used to have XYZ, but I don’t have it anymore.” There was no angst, no freak out, just a calm assessment. I just rolled with it, and my Ninja practices continued.
Over the next two years, as we were preparing for our move, I started talking to Rowan about how we need to make space in our lives for new things, and give the old things a new life somewhere else. There were multiple little conversations like that, and sometimes she was game to give some of her toys away. At other times, she balked.
Fast forward a couple years, and she actually REQUESTS a purge from time to time. “Mom, I’m feeling like it’s time to purge my closet.” Be still my heart!
She’s gotten quite good at dealing with her room, but her art cubby (a small area off our den) is another matter. This is where all child craft projects go to live out their lives. The multiplication of crap in this small space is phenomenal. When I can’t even walk in there due to stuff all over the floor, I start my cajoling and pleading. Sometimes she is game, but only if I help her. This is usually a frustrating process because she wants to keep everything but have me help her find a place to “put it away.” Not happening.
Once I was so desperate, I offered her $30 to give me 30 minutes in her art cubby BY MYSELF with a black trash bag. I promised to respect her wishes on things she explicitly said not to purge, but otherwise, I was to be left unattended. Clearly, she was nervous about this. She gave me some instructions, and I set to work. I completely filled a giant trash bag with odd detritus and craft projects past their prime. I organized and put stuff away in the cabinets. It was a glorious sight when finished, and she was … thrilled. Completely and utterly joyous at how tidy it was.
How does this long story relate to money?
Over the years, when Rowan wants to buy some “cheap plastic crap from China” (which, incidentally, is how I refer to it, and is now how SHE refers to it), I remind her that she’ll love this thing until we get home and then abandon it on the counter. It will get moved to her art cubby when we tidy the house, and ultimately, I’ll purge it on her behalf. She has really embraced the concept, and now a brief reminder will make her rethink her purchase.
The best part is that after only two “paid” purges, she now asks me to help HER purge her art cubby, and she is quite willing to do a job that is almost, almost equal to my efforts. This cooperative purge just happened recently, in fact, and afterward she said, “I really love cleaning up and purging with you!” Hooray! Master Purger in the making!
How do you help your kids downsize their belongings? Share your techniques below!