Trashy Parenting

We’ve been cleaning out the kids’ rooms today.  CLEANING OUT.  The kind of cleaning that involves boxes, trash bags, the vacuum, and a few tears.  Because my children, bless ’em, have inherited their mother’s tendency to hold on to E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.  I’m mature enough (usually) to fight this tendency in myself.  They’re not.

In an effort to respect their stuff, I tried not to do a total toss-it-all-to-the-curb cleaning.  There was a large box full of junk waste garbage treasures that I thought they might actually want to keep.  So last night, we went through the box, item by item, while they tried to convince me that their little lives would surely end if I threw any of this stuff away.

The items included many, many Happy Meals toys that had never been played with since the moment they entered our house, a hacky sack devoid of its stuffing, Hot Wheels cars without tires, and a purple plastic ninja whose head had been chewed off by our dog.

"Mom!" the little darlings begged in chorus, "we LOVE this stuff!  It’s our fa-a-a-a-avorite!"

And then, in a rare moment of inspired parenting, I made a deal with them.  "You can keep each of these things, but you have to spend 30 minutes playing with that item, and that item alone, tomorrow." 

There were looks of bewilderment all around, while they tried to imagine what they could do with a headless action figure for half an hour.  "If it’s fun enough to keep, it’s fun enough to play with for 30 minutes," I explained.

And wonder of wonders, the WHOLE BOX went into the trash, without argument.  Can it be that I’ve finally found a way to inspire them to throw things away?  I’m filing this one away to use again.

For more inspired parenting suggestions, visit Owlhaven’s Opinion Saturday today.  And stay tuned, because I’m so pleased about my kids’ organized rooms I may just post some pictures this week.  If I can find my camera buried under all the stuff I don’t want to throw away…. 

48 thoughts on “Trashy Parenting

  1. Holly Schwendiman says:

    My daughter actually prefaces every purchase of a new toy or object with a question of whether or not we’ll let her keep it or if we’ll sell it. Even though we’ve never sold anything, apparently those clean out experiences have left a mark. Crazy.
    Holly’s Corner
    Here via the Blog Party. ;o)

  2. Alexandra says:

    It’s been so warm here. I’ve had a burst of energy like it’s Spring! I did the same thing today…my garage is packed with bags of junk for donations. It feels so good to declutter!

  3. momrn2 says:

    We have the same thing happen everytime we try to clean out bedrooms. I am so trying your fabulous idea next time!! Great Thinking!! 🙂

  4. melzie says:

    Oh girl, I spent the day doing the same thing in my little slobs I mean angels’ room. Sorry to be them tho as I am just mean and toss them. If MOM has to pick it up MOM gets to decide where it goes (within reason)(mainly happy meal and broken stuffs). Now I am trying to clean out my sewing room and wishing MY mean ole mom would come be that stern with me and MY junk LOL. xoxo melzie

  5. Robyn says:

    Oh THAT is brilliant. Bravo! I have a toy cull planned for the next few days and I think that strategy is a new addition to my arsenal 🙂

  6. Stephanie says:

    Oh my word – that is a good one. I will have to try that on my dd (the packrat). She has such a hard time letting things go….. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Julie says:

    How does this work on husbands? Should I give him one week to play with every single set of golf clubs in the garage? Or one month to wear every shirt in his closet (4 months worth)? 🙂

  8. Megan says:

    Must be in the air because we totally did that this weekend too. 7 boxes/bags for the campus free store and 3-4 bags of trash and their own fair share of tears. The *finally* got into it and were donating things on their own accord and it feels really really good. I like your idea and will pull it out next time…

  9. Janet T. says:

    Oh, what a GREAT idea! My boys’ room is AWFUL and tonight when I was getting out their church clothes I told them that next week we have to clear out their room….looks of shock and anguish. Yep, gonna do it. I’ll probably need a dump truck to take all their junk away!

  10. Karen says:

    I helped my 8yo clean out her room a few weeks ago and it is the boys’ turn soon. I may need to take your suggestion, as theirs is the room that is almost wall-to-wall junk!

  11. mimi2six says:

    So…as I’m packing to move, if I haven’t used something in the seven years we’ve lived in this house…..I should trash it?? You’ve inspired me to be ruthless!

  12. Maine Mom says:

    We cleaned out our kids’ room a few weeks ago. We had a large green container and a basket that we said all the toys had to fit in (the toys that weren’t organized already). At first the girls tried to fit EVERYTHING into the container and basket because they couldn’t part with anything, so we put the few leftover toys that were still in a pile on the floor in a trash bag to give away and started over again with the overstuffed container and basket. We had the kids take turns picking out a toy that they wanted to keep and when the container and basket were full, we put the rest of the toys in a bag to give away. We ended up giving away a trash bag full of toys, the kids kept what they really wanted, and their room was much cleaner.
    I’ll have to remember your idea for next time 🙂

  13. Hero says:

    In our house, Happy Meal toys are relegated to bath toys only (if it isn’t suitable to get wet it gets tossed immediately upon arrival home which means he only gets about 30 minutes of play in the car). Then when they get cruddy from bath time, he WANTS to throw them out.

  14. Jenny D says:

    Love this idea and I will surely give it a try. We have had those very same conversations… “but I looove it, it’s my faaavorite”. If I find a “favorite” toy laying around, sometimes I’ll pick it up and put it out of sight. If they don’t ask about it or look for it within a week or so, I just toss it. Happy Meal toys can take over a house if left unchecked!! Thanks for the great tip!!!

  15. Thea says:

    That is a wonderful idea. My kids are still a little too young for that, but I’ll have to add that to my “when they’re older” arsenal! Thanks!

  16. hogphan says:

    So, did you do it for yourself too? Didn’t you say they have your tendency to hold on to EVERYTHING? Sorry couln’t resist asking!! dad 🙂

  17. DSW says:

    I love your blog! With 3 kids we have our share of happy meal/birthday party/little crappy toys that make me crazy laying all over the place. I have found that teachers LOVE these as donations to their classroom “treasure boxes”, and I am more than happy to share! Of course, then my kids just bring home more junk from the treasure box but at least it all gets recycled a bit!

  18. bombaygirl says:

    You know…you could have sold all their junk on ebay and b=made sh*tloads of $$! 🙂

  19. BarbaraLee says:

    I do almost the same thing. Instead of playing w/it I have a box in the garage and if they don’t go in it to get whatever for a month it goes out the door. It works pretty good to.

  20. Sharon says:

    I need to do this to my son’s room. He keeps everything too and it all ends up on the floor ‘in front of’ the toy box so he doesn’t loose it!

  21. Carrie says:

    Girl, I had to do the SAME thing this past week. I would’ve used it for my Tackle It Tuesday project (I actually did it on Tuesday) but I was TOO embarrassed to post a BEFORE picture of it. The stuff was a foot deep and there wasn’t carpet to be seen anywhere. (Even under the beds.)
    Now it’s nice and clean, two big bags of trash, a big box of stuff going to charity, the toy box can actually CLOSE, and I’m a much happier mom. 🙂

  22. peach says:

    I’ve finally been “white-listed” and can comment again thanks to the 2nd hand advice from GiBee via Carol. I am so glad to know I was a “blacklisted” character.
    Imagine if TypePad were doing an inspection on my “trashy parenting” or cleaning habits. I’m just glad to be able to write lengthy, comment-hogging comments again : )
    Loved this letter, Shannon. Made me misty-eyed and chuckle all in one fell swoop. I need to do this one sometime, too.

  23. Karen says:

    My kids aren’t bad– it’s the hubby who can’t throw anything away.
    I’ve learned to toss one item of his away each week. Woe is the day that he discovers half of his stuff missing.

  24. Sally says:

    My 12-year-old daughter (who will be 13 later this year)is STILL wanting to hang onto every single toy she has ever had in her life!! Does this “stage” ever end?? She hasn’t played with any of them in years!!

  25. Carrie says:

    That’s a great idea. Mine is a bit nasty because I just wait for them to forget about it and zap. Of course, I choose the ones that are totally useless and neglected. I remember my mother use to keep every single toy I have. It is indeed good to see those old toys which bring back happy memories. But they are just a waste of storage space. You don’t get to look at it every time anyway.

  26. Jenn says:

    Love the idea of playing with the toy for 30 min. I always ask my kids where they got the toy, from who, etc. If they can’t answer the question, then out it goes.

  27. KimC says:

    We periodically clean the girls’ rooms with a trash bag. After a week or two, I give back everything I think they need. This is a good time to get rid of hole-y jeans and badly stained favorite shirts.
    Then I give them whatever they want out of the bag – if they request it specifically. No peeking. So if, after a week or two, they can’t remember what they’re missing, then it obviously didn’t mean much to them and it’s out the door.

  28. rebecca says:

    We do similar thing with our kids. When they are away, I “edit” everything I don’t think they will need. If they can tell me what is missing, they get it back. I usually end up giving back two or three things max.
    Another thing I am doing (to help them get more involved) is telling them that if they get rid of some of the toys they have now (we set a price, like 2.00$ per grocery sack) and clean them out all by themselves, they can use that money to buy ONE more toy. It is a nice way to get them interested in cleaning out the stuff that they don’t use any more and gives them a little bit of cash to “upgrade”. They have no problem giving away the ‘baby” stuff to put money towards a new grown up toy or clothes. We don’t do allowance in our house, so this is good incentive for them….
    The 30 minute things is genious…

  29. zoe says:

    I got to the point with my 15 year old where most of the time I jsut let him be with his room as long as there is nothing GROWING in there! But if he lets that happen, I go in with trash bags!

  30. Jenny says:

    When my son Nathan refused to pick up his toys again, I literally put my foot down. Just tossed a bunch of those annoying action figures, spaceships, McDonalds toys and a little robot. We don’t have a garbage compactor so I just used my old cowboy boots! It was fun playing garbage compactor. Nathan put the toys in the garbage one by one and watched my boot come down. I made sure he watched each toy get crushed so he wouldn’t rescue them. They get recycled too (in a way) at the garbage burner.

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