I have four kids. We have a lot of stuff. This is one of those things that truly no one tells you about before you have kids.
Remember Pig Pen from Peanuts? That’s who my children look like, walking along with a cloud of papers, gum wrappers, plastic animals and assorted miniature toy weaponry swirling around them. The objects eject themselves out onto coffee tables, under dining room chairs, between couch cushions and sometimes, remarkably, into the shower stall.
Babies require a lot of equipment, so if you’re a parent of a newborn, you might be thinking that the amount of stuff in your house reduces as the child gets older. But it doesn’t. The thing is, when they’re babies it’s really stuff that YOU need. Most of the baby stuff really falls under the category of ‘baby-holding-receptacle’ such as the swing, the playpen, the car seat, the crib, the sling and the snugglies. And the second set of stuff consists of ‘baby care and cleaning’ equipment – clothes, bottles, wipes, diapers, jars of food and cookies. Regardless, it’s stuff YOU decided to take.
When they hit about the age of two-and-a-half, all of a sudden these newly minted mini-adults (with minds of their own, which is so annoying) want to have their own stuff with them, all the time. When they go out to a restaurant, over to a friend’s, in their rooms, in that special corner of the family room…they like to take stuff with them. My seven-year-old has what he calls a Shelf of Treasures in his bedroom. Compared to his teenage sister’s Room of Junk down the hall, it’s quite reasonable.
A quick scan of my children’s rooms at the present time reveals the following:
- My teen daughter’s make-up collection. Of course I think she’s beautiful without it, but every time she goes out she has to buy the next new perfect colour of nail polish (“Don’t you love it Mom?”) or lip gloss.
- My teen son’s collection of empty coke cans. It’s frightening, to think that he can drink all of that, and I still have to wake him up 14 times every morning.
- My tween daughter’s Toronto Maple Leaf obsession, coupled with her somewhat dubious arts and crafts skills, and a collection of approximately 417 stuffed animals.
- My seven-year-old son’s car parts. He gets the chance to go to a racetrack once a year and always collects bits of fibreglass cars, broken tail lights, pieces of rubber – I don’t even know if I’m environmentally ‘allowed’ to throw this stuff out, but I do. In little pieces. At the bottom of a green garbage bag.
My husband also likes to collect things – he has every jersey and T-shirt he ever wore in a high school sporting competition, taking up valuable storage space in our already overflowing basement closet. I’m not sure if it’s the appeal of seeing his last name on the shirt that he loves, or if he thinks just maybe one of our kids would like to carry on in his track and field footsteps… in a somewhat mouldy and uncool piece of clothing apparel that is way past its best before date. While he stoically hangs on to these reminders of his athletic youth, he finds no issue in throwing out every piece of artwork his own children bring home. Now, don’t get me wrong – I support this as a rule. There’s only so much artwork we can hang on to, and let’s face it, most of it isn’t very good.
BUT the mistake he makes is to place it on top of the recycling bin, where the kids can not only see what he thinks of their work, but they inevitably recycle it back out of the bin, and back on to my kitchen counter. The same applies when he decides to clean out the garage, putting old outgrown favourite riding toys, broken sports equipment and disintegrating pool noodles on the curb, right where the kids can see it. A piece of advice to all you crazy garage-purging Dads: Don’t put this stuff out in full view of the kids. Either break them up into tiny pieces and stuff them in a bag or you might as well just save yourself the trip to the end of the driveway because those suckers are coming back home quicker than Lassie with a message from Timmy. (The kids can walk right by an empty bin and not think to bring it in to the garage, but a full one catches their eyes immediately, particularly if something red and plastic is sticking out of it.)
We’re born with nothing, and we can’t take it with us when we go…but in between we all seem to need a lot of stuff. Hey, stop looking in my closet, husband. I need that stuff.