Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread - Proverbs 30:8

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kids and Clutter - Play Offensively

Once again, a post written by the minimalist packrat has gotten me thinking.

When it comes to kids and their clutter, mine in particular, I have found that being on the offense (as opposed to defense) makes a world of difference. Once you figure out how to eliminate a majority of the clutter (the defense), you must change your game plan and think offensively.

One of the biggest ways I do this is through the celebration of birthdays. When our first child turned one, we did not throw a big party and invite all the family and friends within a 20 mile radius. (gasp) I determined early on as a parent that I was not going to set a precedent of "birthday party entitlement" for my children. When kids are 1, their birthday is the same as any other day. So why do we, as parents, create this big to do, which eventually turns into an obligation in years to come? Give the kid a piece of cake and love on them a little more!

How do we celebrate birthdays in our house?

Well, we talk about the upcoming birthday quite a bit and start planning for the big day at least a week in advance. We don't live within a 20 mile radius of family, so more often than not it's just the 4 of us celebrating. Some of the things we talk about and plan include how the cake will be decorated, the menu for the day and the overall plan for the day.

The birthday girl wakes up to streamers and balloons decorating her doorway and our dining area. In the past, the days' activities have included a trip to the zoo, children's museum and/or a family hike. Usually one meal is eaten in a restaurant (birthday girl's choice - within reason) and we return home for cake (which the birthday girl has decorated herself).

One year, when our oldest was 4, we focused on the number 4 as much as possible. We decorated with four different colors of streamers and balloons. We ate spaghetti and each person got four meatballs, and we made breadsticks in the shape of 4.

It's simple. It's child and memory focused - not gift focused. Most importantly, our girls love it.

So back to my original thought...get in a position where you can play offensively. Stop attending over the top birthday parties for little ones. Stop throwing over the top birthday parties for little ones. The only reason our children expect such things is because we have created the opportunity for them.

How do you play offensively when it comes to kids and their clutter? I would love to hear your ideas.


  1. We've been to a number of 'invite the whole class parties' (or whole Sunday School). Those parents may do it because they don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or it makes them/their kid feel special, but

    We have parties with a handful of closest friends. My daughter's party this year (7 years old) was with 6 friends and her brother.

    Inviting only her closest friends means that I know the moms and they know we don't like 'mature' type presents or excessive cost. My daughter got presents that reflected what she actually likes -- not just the latest fad toy.

    And because of the number of friends the party wasn't overwhelming. My daughter was able to spend time with each person and made great memories with friends.

  2. Thanks for your comment and for stopping by...

    I think the main reason we have avoided the friend party thing is that we have moved every 15 months in the past 4 years - not a lot of time to establish friends! We also don't live near family, so it helps us establish our own "rules".

    That being said, we have been to a few parties. We avoid going to parties where we hardly know the birthday child. We have been invited to parties of kids in our co-op and it's weird to me because we don't know them. Sure...our kids are in the same co-op class (once a week), but we don't really know them.

    We were recently invited to a party where guests were encouraged to bring food pantry items for the homeless shelter (in lieu of gifts). I like this idea - as long as the birthday girl or boy is on board.

    When I was growing up, I was allowed to have a friend party every 4 years (ages 4, 8, 12 and 16). I loved the anticipation of my "party year".

  3. Wow, moving every year and a half! No wonder you're so clutter-free.

    Growing up I had the typical large birthday parties and attended plenty of them too. My favorites weren't those giant parties though. They were small affairs that I remember the most fondly. On my actual birthday there would be family time, a cake, good food (and too many presents).

    Then on the weekend my mom would take me and two or three of my closest friends to Adventure Island for the day. It's a water park with big slides and we'd spend the day running around all over while my mom chilled out in the "calm" pool for adults.

    It was probably an expensive party for her to buy tickets for 2 or 3 of my friends, but they were definitely the ones I remember most fondly. 2 or 3 friends was the perfect number!

  4. Jill, how do you handle the invites for the parties that you don't want to attend? The ones where the mother's like, "you'll come, right? Oh, little so-and-so is so excited for your girls to come. You'll be there, won't you? You don't have anything else going on, do you?" Or when they strategically plan it during a normal playdate time or something. How do you field that? I'm always at a loss.

  5. Jen...honestly I haven't been in a high pressure situation like that yet. We have moved very 15months for the 4 years, so our kids haven't forged strong friendships yet.

    I also homeschool my kids, so we don't get whole class invitations. We have gotten a couple invites from fellow homeschool co=op kids, but they have been on Saturdays. I don't mind at all telling people that we reserve the weekends for spending time as a family.

    We've gone to two parties that I can remember in the past 6 years- both were kids of good friends of mine. But we also have moved away, so we are no longer obligated to go every year.

    This is a tricky issue....I'm not sure what the best answer is. I guess for me it comes down to figuring out what is more important. If it is a truly good friend, I would hope they would understand or at least respect my decision. Maybe you could suggest an alternative - a special celebration of sorts (a playdate, lunch) where the kids just play.

    I will admit that I am purposely sheltering my kids from a lot of stuff that seems harmless and normal. But I don't want them to feel a sense of entitlement towards some things (birthday extravaganzas, trips to Disney, ridiculous amounts of toys, etc). Although my decisions may not be popular with my kids or other adults, I still feel like I need to be true to myself and how I want to raise my kids.

    I don't think I've answered your question at all...but hopefully have given you some food for thought.

    I guess I would wrap up with this....ask yourself what is most important to you in these type of situations.