Christmas, children and clutter

The first book I ever wrote, Never Alone, was the story of an Australian man who was rescued at the age of four from an orphanage in Palestine just before the Second World War began. His eccentric guardian was not the world’s greatest carer and the child owned only one toy, a soft kangaroo, which was given to him by a kind nurse while he was in hospital at the age of six.

When the little boy and his guardian finally found a ticket out of Palestine, back to Australia, in the middle of the war, they had to pack their belongings. Unfortunately for him, his carer gave his kangaroo away, saying, “You’re too old for this now. We’ll give it to someone who needs it.”

That’s not decluttering. That’s just mean.

With Christmas coming up, lots of parents clean out their children’s old toys in preparation for what they know will be a massive influx of new things. I will probably be doing the same myself. However, with this story in mind as well as my own memory of one of my own toys going “missing”, I’ll be sure to discuss any downsizing with the children in question.

It’s far better to teach your children how to look at their possessions rationally and to model a healthy ability to clean out, even if they don’t do it the way you want them to immediately, than to get in and have a massive chuck out without their permission or input.

If you can see that your children have not played with certain toys for years, but they have a lot of trouble letting them go, you could try helping them pack them up in boxes and storing the boxes for a while. After a certain amount of time – say six months – you could review it together and ask them if they still want to keep the boxes.

Above all, communicate with your children, at least for your own peace of mind. You don’t want to be hearing about the fact that you threw out their prized jellybean collection, or whatever it is, for the next 35 years.