By Marta Jiménez-Lutter, Swap.com
“Not Snuggles!” whined my son when I attempted to clean out his pile of stuffed animals. It wasn’t only Snuggles, a fluffy white teddy bear; he found renewed interest in every single item I tried to pack away. He had not touched Snuggles in years. In fact, Snuggles lived at the bottom of a pile of equally unused and unloved stuffed animals, but when I went through them, ready to give them a new home, he claimed each one was important and meaningful to him.
Most kids would react the same way when we try to give away any of their possessions. It’s easy to get caught up on our kids’ attachment to their things; they are a piece of their childhood that they – and we – don’t want to give up.
To make the process of letting go a little easier for them, and us, we have to turn donating or selling outgrown, unused items into a positive, fun experience. We can easily accomplish that by getting our kids involved. In turn, cleaning out closets can become a teaching tool.
1. It’s Personal
The first step is making sure we acknowledge that their attachment to their things is worth our respect and understanding.
Children have a tough time letting go of their possessions, no matter how unimportant and unloved they might seem to us. To them Snuggles, or their version of it, has a personal identity and life.
To a young child, we can explain that living in a pile of toys and getting little playtime makes Snuggles sad. Finding a new home, with a young kid who will play with it, will be much better for the beloved bear and it will be happier.
The goal is to show them that their unused items will go on to have further uses, a second life. If the process involves selling the items at a consignment sale or store, older kids can learn how commerce works first hand and how to turn a profit from items they no longer use, while giving those items a second life.
A great, easy way to illustrate this point is visiting a consignment sale or store and letting your child pick a new toy or piece of clothing. You can then explain to him or her that the item belonged to another child before them and now it has found a new person to use it, love it and enjoy it.
2. Small Steps
Tailor the experience of donating or selling to their developmental level. If it’s the first time you’ve involved your child in the donation process, start with something that your child will not mind giving up, like clothes. It will be easier for any kid to give away a pair of pants than a toy, game or stuffed animal.
As they get older, pick small sections of their toys, be it a section of stuffed animals or baby toys, and go through the items together. You don’t want to go through clothes, toys, books and movies in a day. It would be completely overwhelming for any kid, and frankly, most parents. . Take care of the rest of the items you want to remove from the house when they’re not around.
Breaking down the process will not make them feel as if you’re getting rid of all their stuff at once. As they grow older, you can organize your clean up seasonally, going through clothes at the end of each season and toys before Christmas or their birthday. Knowing new toys are about to arrive will make the whole process less painful.
3. Planning Ahead
Decide what you are going to do with their stuff yourself before beginning the process. Are you donating everything to a charitable organization? Are you donating some and selling some at a consignment sale?
You can explain to younger kids how they are growing up so they need bigger clothes or big kid toys, for example. If you are taking the toys to a consignment sale, take them with you on a slower day and let them pick one new item in exchange for their old stuff.
The older kids can be an active part of the consignment process. They can help you decide what to donate and what to sell. They can also become part of the pricing process in case of online sites that allow you to price your own items (like swap.com).
Have your child go through the items they want to sell and make sure they are in good shape, as many consignment sales and stores will not accept damaged articles. Help your child figure out how to price each piece. Pricing their items will give your kids a very real sense of the cost of things. They will also learn how, by buying and selling used items, their money can go significantly further.
When you receive your consignment check, you can allow your kids to either keep some of the money for savings, a special treat, a combination of both, or also to purchase new clothes and age appropriate toys with the profits.
4. Making it Fun
Don’t forget to try and make cleaning out their stuff a fun, positive experience. You can make collecting, donating and selling a special time together. Pick and old book and read it to them again before it goes away for good, or tell them a story about how they used to love to play with the pretend phone or keys.
As kids grow, in the pre-teen and teen years, the clean up process can be a rare opportunity to have their undivided attention. As you are busy going through clothes and toys, talk to them about what they remember about those items, what memories they have of certain books or movies. Who knows? You might learn a thing or two while cleaning out closets!
About the Author
Marta Jimenez-Lutter is a journalist by trade, a super mom of two boys in the Chicago land area, and has recently joined forces with Swap.com to spread the word about their awesome service that users tout as “the most convenient online kids’ consignment store.”