How Can We Appreciate The Finer Things In Life, When It's Surrounded By Crap?

by Katy on February 4, 2009 · 11 comments



My ten-year-old son made an exciting discovery in his room the other day — a 2000 peso bill tucked way behind the bed in a hard to reach spot. I didn’t think much of it at the time.

After much whining and pleading to check how much it was worth, my husband checked on the internet to check the value.

How about $133? You read that right, it’s worth $133!

What the  . . . ?!

So where did this money come from? We’ve never even been to Mexico since the kids were born!

Calls to my sister, and my son’s best friend brought no answers. Best guess at this time is grandma.

So we’re letting my son keep this money, which brought up the refrain of:

Ipod, Ipod, Ipod, Ipod, Ipod, Ipod, Ipod. Mom, I want an Ipod!

This has been a common theme with this kid, so I told him he could use the money to buy a used Ipod. Here’s the catch though, he has to go through his room and get rid of about 1/2 of all his stuff. His room is such an unmanageable mess that anything small, breakable and expensive would certainly slide down a pile of clutter, only to be stepped on and ruined.

I explained to him that the current state of his room showed that he wasn’t taking good care of his belongings.

How can we appreciate the finer things in life, when it’s surrounded by crap and clutter?

I have an apparently indwelling instinct to accumulate lots of stuff for no good reason whatsoever. This has led to my house being overly difficult to keep clean, and is a continual source of frustration. I’ve done an enormous amount of decluttering in the past few years, and my house is no longer the mess it once was, although it’s still more cluttery than I’d like.

I really don’t want my sons to carry my evil cluttery ways into their adult lives. I think one of the hardest aspects of parenting, is to impart good habits that don’t come naturally. How to teach a small person something you can’t even teach to yourself?

So we spent almost an hour today sorting through his toys. We filled two laundry baskets with stuffed animals to take to Goodwill. I held each toy up and asked, “Keep or Goodwill?” And I let him make each decision on his own, even if it was different from the one I would have made.

Tomorrow’s project is go through all his Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon cards and only keep the good cards. (How he amassed hundreds of these ridiculous cards I’ll never know, as I have yet to purchase even one.)

And when his room gets to the point of only having the toys and games that he uses and appreciates, then we’ll start a search for a used Ipod.  

And maybe, just maybe I can impart some non-cluttery habits into my kids that will take them into adulthood.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily February 4, 2009 at 7:25 am

We lived in a 2 bedroom apartment in Europe for 3 months last year. My girls (4 and 7)took one small box of toys and books. They spent a huge amount of time making creations out of paper and scotch tape. It was a wonderful learning experience for them (and for me!) as to what stuff is really important. We had culled our possessions before we left, and we culled them again when we unpacked. Thankfully the girls are still so thankful to have more than their apartment toys that they don’t want much of anything. I wonder how long this is going to last?


Mandy @ New Patriotic Homefront February 4, 2009 at 7:48 am

Bravo! What a great deal with your son. As a daughter of a pack rat who is trying to break the cycle, I really love this idea. I am also glad that you let him make the decisions. My mother would wait until I was gone to my dad’s for the summer and I would return some of my favorite toys had been packed away (for the yard sale we never had).

I will let you know that I am recovering quite nicely, I routinely clean out my closet and every time I move to a new place I seem to bring less and less stuff.


K. O'Shaughnessy February 4, 2009 at 11:59 am

I hate to be a Debby Downer, but you might want to look and see if your Goodwill is still taking toys. Our’s isn’t anymore since they’re afraid of being sued for selling toys that may potentially contain lead paint and all. All toys they now receive go directly in the garbage bins out back. I think it’s wonderful you got your son to purge his room. I’m going to see if I can get rid of some toys we as a family have outgrown in our playroom this weekend, but where to unload it all????????????


mindfulmama February 4, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Oh Yes! I had to look twice, because this post just surely sounded like my house, my kids, my habits completely. Katy – know that you have a sister in the cluttered-but-want-to-be-clutter-free world of parenting out here! We have just recently gone through something similar with our youngest son. His room is usually a complete and utter mess, and yet he still feels compelled to ask for more and more things. When he runs out of room to play in his bedroom, he brings the clutter to the other rooms in the house. That’s when I call it quits and get him to clean everything up, complete with goodwill bags filled.


Mandy @ New Patriotic Homefront February 4, 2009 at 2:06 pm

K –

I am sure if she can’t give it to Goodwill she could sell/give it away on Craigslist or Freecycle.



Kate February 4, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Ah Katy. Like mindful mama, I am in the same situation in my house. My almost 9 year old son’s room is so cluttered. Not with toys per se, but treasures. Models made from recycled material; meccano bits; notes he writes himself at night; collected rocks and sticks; little boxes …. stuff! Oh, and a few books of Pokemon cards, too 🙂 So this clutter mom is trying to teach her son about how to control the clutter. I need to be able to walk in his room without stepping on things!


Kristen@The Frugal Girl February 4, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Oh yes…this is always a struggle with my 9 year old son. I come by my no-clutter habits naturally, but he certainly has not inherited them. He has SUCH a hard time letting go of stuff too…it’s like pulling teeth, but I make him do it.

Hopefully something is sinking in!


Klara Le Vine February 4, 2009 at 11:32 pm


Want to be my mom for a while? (just forget that I’m already 63 y.o. and still need to learn to let go of stuff). I tried Flylady for a while, and tho it all sounded good, I didn’t really do alot of the program.


Kassie February 5, 2009 at 6:29 am

Control via containers…My daughter is obsessed with stuffed puppies, she is quite content with the $2 Thrift Store selection… she has a wooden crate in her room, when it is full she cannot buy a “new” puppy until she gets rid of a few, how she decides which ones go to the pound is her choice! I use the same container concept with all the toys, if its full it has to get purged!


Magdalena Julie Bragdon Perks February 5, 2009 at 8:28 am

Kids can make clutter out of anything! I didn’t have a lot as a child, but the cumulative effect of six girls in one house was sometimes more than my Mom could handle, and things would get tossed into boxes, stored in the attic, and handed down to the next child as appropriate. Children all seem to go through an obsessive collecting phase, and our job as parents to keep it from becoming a life-long habit. We are planning a move this year from a small space, to an even smaller space, in anticipation of building our first (and maybe last) house. I have to get rid of some stuff myself. Most of it will be saleable, though.


Mariah February 5, 2009 at 9:49 am

Oprah had a black comedian on a few weeks ago, maybe it was Eddie Murphy. They were talking about his kids and I thought some of his ideas were great whether he was joking or not. (I don’t have kids so I might not be the best judge.)

When Oprah asked him how he got his kids to clean their rooms, since if it’s really their room they should be able to have it how they want it. (Remember Oprah doesn’t have kids either.) He said it wasn’t “their” room. He explains to them that HE owns the house and it’s expensive and needs to be maintained and that he “rents” them their rooms. And keeping them tidy is the requirement of the rental agreement.


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