A few years ago I read Marie Kondo's The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. It was rather odd to read. The author is from Japan, which obviously has many cultural differences from us here in America. I didn't really love reading the book, but I bought it, so I pressed on and finished it up. She promised it would change your life, and it is easily one of the top five life changing books I've read.
I want to write a bunch of blog post about it, because it really is "that" life changing, but today I want to write about simplifying what we buy our kids.
This morning I went to the book fair with Carly at her school. She had $6.00 in her wallet that Mike had paid her for doing IXL on the computer. It's online math practice. I don't know why he pays her for it, we don't pay the other kids for doing their homework, but for whatever reason, it's a deal they have going and it works nicely. It gives her a small amount of spending money for events like bookfairs and concessions stands. (Nothing will put a damper on a kid's overspending like saying, "You can buy it, but you have to use your own money." "Well, never-mind," they'll often say.)
Anywho, as she was getting out of the van she started to cry because she remembered she left her money by her cereal bowl, so Ella and I were able to come to her rescue. If you've been to a bookfair recently, you know 6 bucks doesn't go very far. But that's how much money she had, and I made her stick with it. She found another book that she wanted, over $6.00, so she quickly set it back down and bought a Wellie Wisher book for $4.99.
I had her take her Ziplock baggie of money to the register, even though she quietly asked, "Can you just pay?" and she bought her book with her money that she earned. Mike constantly reminds me, "Don't do for them what they can do on their own." If our goal is to raise them to be independent and confident, I have to let them pay their own way, order their own food at restaurants, etc. etc. even though for them and for me, it would be a lot easier to just do it myself. Since she's still young, only 8, I always stand close by to remind her and her siblings of things like, say "Thank You" and "don't forget your change." I want to encourage them to do what they can on their own to show them that they are CAPABLE, so that they will leave the nest ready to fly.
I'd told her up front, as soon as the paper came home about the book fair, we're only getting "one" thing. Not that we don't want to support our school and our library, but that we, as a family, and probably an entire society if were honest, need to learn to live more controlled lives. Since reading her book, we're trying to keep the rule of one, when we can, (of course there are exceptions to everything!) not only to decrease the money that we spend, but also the amount of stuff we allow in our home. She was happy as a clam with her one new book, although plenty of friends were buying multiple books and poster and gadgets. Trust me, I'm not judging you, if that's you, I've been there myself! She knew up front what was allowed, and there was no fussing over it. Just so much Joy for her one thing, and that she'd been helped out when she accidentally forgot her money back at home.
She recently had her 8th birthday, and the same rule applied. You can pick one thing. She had a long list that she was able to narrow down to a few things and then asked to be surprised. In an effort to keep her little, Mike and I went with a new doll from a set that she's collecting. If you saw my pictures on facebook, she was THRILLED! We'd told her ahead of time, this year, were only buying one birthday gift, so there was no disappointment when the day arrived. Only so much JOY!
Time and time again, Mike and I have gotten ourselves in and out of more debt than we needed to. You'd think we'd learn our lesson, but we still struggle. We live in a time where it's ridiculously easy to overspend. And were both guilty of doing it. We also live in a time where more appears to be better. The more gifts you get, the more you are loved. The more you're involved in, the better. Not true at ALL! I'm slowing learning to love a more simple life after reading her book, but I still struggle to say "No." Mike's love language is definitely gifts. We are always trying to find a happy balance in our home with gifts- love-money and -stuff. It's tricky and we aren't even close to getting it right. But we're learning the hard way.
But what is helping us all have peace is telling our kids up front, "choose wisely, you're only getting one thing." They know what to expect. The little ones only watch PBS, which is commercial free, and I rarely take them shopping to help them resist temptation. For them and me! When we go on vacation, we go to the playground instead of the "shops" because there is nothing more annoying than repeatedly hearing your kids beg for everything they see and saying "No-No-No!" When I take them grocery shopping, I have to say in advance, "We are not buying toys or candy" if I don't plan to let them buy anything that day. I like to let them help me choose cereal or ice cream so that they can feel like their opinion matters and to teach them how to make decisions. Sometimes I'll offer a pack of gum to really good helpers, depending on the day. The most important thing is for me to decide ahead of time what I'm going to do and make it very clear to them before we go in to help avoid the meltdowns at the check-out line, which still sometimes seems to be inevitable with a toddler.
I'm writing this to say, mostly reminding myself, it's okay to not follow the crowd. To keep up with the Jones. To make your own rules and to stick to them. If gifts is your love language, it's possible to do gifts in moderation. One really great gift is enough. Kids are great with one thing, it's really us parents who have accepted a mentality that if we love others well, we'll show them with lots of "stuff!"
Our kids HATE clean up time. I make them clean up nearly every single night before they go to bed. I love starting the day with tidy rooms. The easiest way to get a tidy room is to have less "stuff" to clean up. It is so much less stressful for them and for you, if clean rooms are your jam! The less you buy, the less you have to clean, and organize!
This is getting too long, so I must wrap it up, but let's not be a slave to "stuff." To over-spending. To "over cleaning." Less cleaning time means more playing time, more sleeping time, more reading time, more rest time, etc etc. Less spending could also lead to much less financial stress, obviously! Less stuff really will give you more JOY in the Chaos! I promise!
****The next time I blog, I want to write about getting rid of a ton of stuff that you already own. Stay tuned...