Amelia has always taken very good care of her toys. She also can’t stand parting with anything. We hit Christmas, her birthday, or any other gift-giving occasion, and our extremely generous family showers her with gifts, yet nothing ever leaves. The result: shelf upon shelf filled with items.
This past year, something changed. It started right before her eighth birthday. Slowly, she started to realize that toys languishing on a shelf untouched helped nobody, whereas if they were donated, someone could get something they might not have ever had otherwise. She started designating items to go away, but it was slow going. Like, “Mommy, I went through the whole bin and found this Happy Meal toy I don’t want” slow. Still, it was something, and she found that she wasn’t missing the things she was donating, which led to her finding more things to donate.
This afternoon, we needed to move some items out of the way in the family room so she could play, and we made it back to the subject of donating some things. She was having trouble deciding about…well, anything, really. It’s tough to help people figure out whether their stuff is important to them, especially when you’re a mom looking at things from your perspective instead of your child’s. Faced with the prospect of her agonizing over every item, we arrived at a formula. An item needed to meet three criteria to make it to the go-away pile, and if it didn’t tick all the boxes, she kept it. The criteria were the following:
1. She’s owned it at least two years
2. She hasn’t played with it for two years
3. It has no sentimental value
Two years might seem like a long time, but it’s a meaningful cutoff where plenty of things will still go to charity, and it’s a less painful decision-making process for her than, for example, six months.
My fondest hope is that Amelia will grow up understanding the value of charity, the benefits of a decluttered space, and the power of decisive decision-making. That’s a lot to want from a nine year old, but I think they’re the type of lessons that are much easier to learn young. She found some great things tonight that will make some children very happy, but even if she’d have put everything back the way she found it and donated nothing, I’d still be just as proud. She’s a little girl with a big heart, and I’m a lucky mommy.