We had the perfect day as a family! It was just how I imagined. Sleeping in, a nice breakfast together, grocery list in hand and all 5 of us piled in the car headed to the farmers market. We got veggies and herbs and fruit and it was awesome. We talked on the way home about what we were going to make once we got there. I wanted homemade granola bars using the new honey and syrup we just got. I would cut them and even wrap them in paper with bakers twine. Did I have twine? I didn’t think so. I’ll use yarn and that will be just as cute. Maybe cuter. Pinterest, eat your heart out.
We pulled into the driveway and unloaded the fresh goodies. Then I opened the door I saw it. That GD Polly Pocket disco ball sitting there right in the middle of the entry. That disco ball I have picked up around the house over a dozen times and put back in that dumb pink van where it belongs. She barely even played with it, unless you count opening it up, dumping it out and running away to the next best thing playing. And I would use what little spare time I had to pick it up, put it together and put it away. Why? I am not sure. I guess I am a creature of habit.
There it was again, out of the van and nowhere near Polly. This is the moment that changed me.
I lost it. Not in a Jerry Maguire losing it kind of way with the flailing and epic speech, but in a silent, introspective freak out kind of way. I looked at my kids and said, “Guys, I am done. I am done with it all! The toys and crap and mess! We have too much stuff and you don’t take care of it. I am DONE!” And I walked away. I had said this a million times in a million different ways. But this time I meant it. Really meant it.
Our family was drowning in our stuff. It was taking our time, our sanity and our fun. It took our Saturday mornings and Friday evenings. I took away my perfect homemade granola bars wrapped in paper and yarn. It replaced our playing with picking up and whining.
We got the kids together, put everything in the center of the room and told them to choose three things that they wanted to keep. Three. Not four or five. Three. Non negotiable. Now, go. After some tears, they did and we put them aside.
I took a breath, grabbed some ziplock bags, turned on the tunes and went for it. No thinking, just packing. Loading dolls and puzzles and superhero sets. I zipped bags and bags full or plastic animals and metal cars. I packed, and packed, and packed. And with every objection they had, we talked about the kids out there that didn’t have many toys and how much they would love these. We talked about how much they would smile when they got them and how much they would appreciate them. We were spreading love and happiness with every single piece.
Then it was done. The Christmas gifts, the birthday gifts, the Target “ok, fine, just stop asking” gifts, they were all packed up.
Not wanting to lose momentum, I immediately started loading the car. I loaded and loaded and filled every inch leaving just enough space for the kids to sit down and buckle in. We were all buckled in and headed to an amazing organization downtown called Sharing and Caring Hands; it is the same one my mom took me to years ago when I needed to share some of my toys.
On the way we talked about how proud I was that they were bringing their toys to other kids that didn’t have as much. I told them how they were adding more joy into the world by sharing and that was a very good thing. I asked them to remember how excited they were to open that superhero castle and that would be the same feeling another kid would have the moment they opened it. We were not just giving our toys away, we were giving away joy, hope and love.
As we arrived, I asked the kids to get out and be the ones to unload. I didn’t do this to be mean, I did it so they were able to feel how amazing giving was. And they did it. They would stop every once in a while to say “good bye” to that stuffed animal and Matchbox car.
As they were unloading a family walled by as they entered the building. The two small kids walked over with wide eyes that seemed to sparkle as we continued to stack toys on the loading dock. They looked at each other, giggled and then smiled. My kids noticed, looked at each other and smiled back. After this they picked up the pace and it seemed that they understood, in a small way, what they were doing. They got to see that happiness right there in another child’s face; that was the moment I was praying for.
On the drive home we talked about how giving sometimes is hard, until you see the happiness it brings to others. That sharing is like telling people that you care and that they are important. And that the world needs more sharing and love and smiles. They said they understood. I believed that they did. I looked back and they smiled. I did too.
And when we got home — they played! Played for hours and hours and hours. They made forts and secret hideouts. I think that the removal of all the toys in the playroom actually made space in their heads for their imagination. And I swore from that moment on that I would never let another Shopkins or Power Ranger take that away from us again.
Me, on the other hand, I made granola bars wrapped in paper and yarn. Finally.