Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Too much stuff

I've been pondering this post for some months. It's a ranty one, so feel free to ignore it, roll your eyes or post your disagreeing comments. Of course copious amounts of praise and adoration would also be well appreciated.

Our kids have SO MUCH STUFF. When pregnant, I fell into the trap of reading, researching, browsing in stores, and making purchases that other people said were necessary to keep your baby alive into toddlerhood. Not only that, every source indicated that it was also vitally important to buy stuff that brought this change about AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. There were an amazing amount of devices needed to extend your baby toward the next stage of development - things to help them sit, things to help them crawl (and you can imagine the fervour with which I research this when I produced a child that **gasp** BUM-SHUFFLED. Google it - she's scarred for life ;)), things to make them eat, things to make them stand, walk, etc, etc. It's no longer okay to have a baby, just be... a baby. That's another post altogether though...

My brother and SIL (I'm getting good at these acronyms) were pregnant at the same time as us, and we jokingly made a deal to see who could buy the least baby 'stuff'. I think we won, but living in NZ, we weren't under quite the same onslaught of consumerism than they were in the US. Just. Even so, I sure made some unnecessary purchases, thanks to the cunning guilt marketing of 'stuff sellers', that advertised their products in glossy magazines, baby stores, everywhere an excited mother-to-be / struggling new mother might wander unawares. I can remember genuinely WORRYING that our bottom of the line baby gym didn't play music - I mean REALLY??? Are they scarred by this? Actually, don't answer that - maybe a little more Mozart and a little less Gwen Stafani may have made them more docile babies. Lets not dwell on this.

Recently I have been asked by some friends expecting their first babies what they need to buy. I suggested very little, because I truly believe now, that less is more. And this is coming from the woman who, though she bought fewer baby items than most, ensured that she bought the 'best' ones. The ones (aside from the baby gym **sigh**) that looked fabulous, were made locally, and built to survive a nuclear holocaust... and look fabulous while they did it. Did I mention that?

Now, after successfully managing to bring 2 children into preschooler-hood without serious mishap (don't mention the road incident) my list of 'essentials consist of:

* Somewhere for baby to sleep.
* A carseat - preferably one that rear-faces beyond 12kg. Google this if it sounds insane. It's NOT.
* Something to carry baby around in. I have always been a huge Mountain Buggy fan, but having a child with severe reflux, as well as a 16 month age gap, caused me to look at other options. These baby carriers are AWESOME. The Manduca still gets very regular use, and I expect to be using it until my kids are school aged. I am petite, yet can carry a 13kg toddler around on my back whilst wearing heels for several hours quite comfortably. Though there is the fact that I am Wonder Woman in disguise...

Moby Wrap, containing a rarely sleeping Caleb...

And the Manduca - it does front and back carries, and is much, much kinder to the body than the traditional front packs, such as the Baby Bjorn, that I persisted with for far too long.

Google both of these if you're remotely interested in the benefits (which are surprising) of baby wearing. And yes I'm a hippy.

* A mat for baby to lie on whilst on the floor.
* Clothes

And that's the list.

So this morning, I was tidying up the kids playroom. I was muttering about the screeds of mass-produced, gimmicky branded, plastic lying about, when I came across 4 cardboard boxes. I was about to throw them out, until I suddenly realised what they were.

My children have been playing with these boxes for weeks. They have been cars. They have been dolls houses. They have been boats. They have been beds. They have been picnic baskets. They have been jack-in-the-box-boxes. They are every conceivable item that a cardboard box should be to a pair of imaginative preschoolers, and I thought they were rubbish. Because they weren't plastic and colourful, with a logo on them.

Sad, huh? I've noticed with interest that since producing Sophie's play kitchen, her play has changed. She's using it far less than the crates and boxes that she used to 'cook' with and I wonder if we spoiled the imagination and fun by giving her a fancy one. Even if it was homemade. Tough luck anyway, Missy, I like it and it's staying!

It's so easy to buy toys, because they are so cheap these days. But just because we CAN, isn't a good enough reason for me any more.

I'm going to clean out the playroom. Thomas is going away, as are many of the other bits and pieces that limit play. I bet my children don't even notice.

Watch this, if you care to. It provokes a few thoughts...


  1. I hear ya sister! I totally agree and I'm itching to clear out Soph's room again. Our garage is filled with stuff to get rid of. I'm really tempted to have a garage sale - where everything is free. It would be awesome just to see everything dissapear.

    When I look around at the amount of boxes and cupboard that haven't been opened in months I think "do I really need this stuff?"

  2. Totally agree! We have been pretty lucky at limiting the amount of 'stuff' we have but its still taking over. My purchases before A was born were a carseat, a pram/buggy, and a teddy for the baby. We were given a cot and borrowed a bassinet, and were lucky enough to be gifted plenty of clothes. Later on we bought a highchair and a jolly jumper. TBH the thing we used most was the big rugs we were given for on the floor, and he enjoyed the mobile and play gym we were given but only for a few short months. Many of my friends marvelled at how we survived without a swing/exersaucer etc etc etc. Looking back I do wonder how I survived the first time around without my moby and I'm lusting after a manduca now :-)
    We have also been lucky in that we've on the most part convinced friends/family that one small wooden toy is better than a whole lot of plasticy trademarked ones.

  3. I try to not buy my girls anything unless its for birthdays and Christmas (and even then I try to make them things). I just don't believe in toys. P has a cardboard box that she uses as a car, and it has been well loved for many months now. I also try and keep the toys we do have on fairly heavy rotation.