This past week I spent nearly four full days cleaning, organizing, and purging all three of my children's bedrooms. We don't have a play room in our house so all their toys are kept in their bedrooms and to say things had gotten out of control was an understatement.
Each room took from 4-9 hours. My middle child is relatively organized and her room was the easiest and quickest. My other two kids are not organized and their rooms each took me 8-9 hours to complete. When it was all said and done I have 12-15 bags of garage sale/donation stuff in the basement and probably took 9 bags of trash out of the upstairs of my house.
I used to do this twice a year with each kid, before their birthday and before Christmas but it had been more than a year since I had done it, making the accumulating of junk and unplayed with toys overwhelming.
This whole experience led me to reflect on American culture as a whole and our consumerist culture. We are a Capitalist society and are taught to buy, buy, buy from a young age. In our house we try not to over do it. I don't buy the kids toys unless it is their birthday or Christmas and then I set a reasonable limit, say $75 to spend on each kid, yet we still seem to accumulate a ridiculous amount of stuff every year.
Now that our kids are getting older and honestly are less into toys but more into board games, video games, books, riding bikes, and playing outside, it is easier to pull back the reigns on the needless purchases, even when it is the kids money to spend. We are trying to instill the value of being frugal in our kids, teaching them to budget, save, and plan. Hubby and I both entered our first careers with loads of debt and are just now managing to get out from underneath all that. We don't want our kids to struggle financially like we did.
So what is the solution? We're not perfect but we have been trying to get the kids to spend their money on "experiences" and to save money to help defray the costs of large family vacations. Last year we spent 3 days at Disneyland resort and together my kids saved $1000 of their own money in 15 months to help pay for that trip. I am proud to say they each purchased their own 3 day park hopper pass and had $125 of spending money for the entire trip to spend. They have been dying to go to Disney World and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and have just recently started saving for that trip for spring break of 2012. We've also done things like take them to Chuck E Cheese or a movie if they want to pay their own way. They enjoy these experiences so much more than a small toy that they will dump into the bottom of their toy box after a few days and never play with again.
I even do this with gifts for hubby. For Christmas this year instead of buying him some meaningless material good, I bought him an airplane flying lesson. He was so excited. One year for our anniversary I took us both white water rafting. It is so easy to just buy the easy thing at the store, the cheap perfume or the new watch but spending money on experiences is so much better. You'll have the memories that you can take with you forever and as an added bonus that is one less thing you'll have to clear out next time you are cleaning, organizing, and purging.