Credit: Flickr Creative Commons (meddygarnet)

Once the decorations are down and the thank-yous sent out, it’s time to do a big sort—deciding what to donate, what’s been recalled and whether Barbie’s allowed to stay…

The holidays are an interesting time to be a parent. After spending the entire year choosing local, organic foods and focusing our buying on hopefully sustainable necessities we’re suddenly overwhelmed with baked treats (I’ve yet to find a wholly organic Nanaimo bar) and mountains of toys.

Early on in Maia’s life I was one of those parents who tried to manage what she got to play with—I sent out lists detailing toys that were made from natural materials and that encouraged open-ended play. I tried to suggest, gently, that plastic character toys and noisy electronic playthings really didn’t belong in our life. But rather than being effective, I tended to hurt people's feelings.

One of Maia’s grandmothers pointed out that she loved choosing toys for her grandkids, and couldn’t she just have fun? Then Maia decided she really did want a Barbie—a real Barbie, with real Barbie clothes, not a gender non-specific doll made out of organic felt…

So despite my best efforts the stuff showed up and I discovered the real choices came not with controlling things but with how we taught her to manage her new found excess.

So this is what the second week in January is for in our home. After the decorations have come down and the thank-yous have been sent out, we do a big sort.

First out are old toys and clothes she’s grown out of—she loves packaging them up herself for donation. The next round of sorting is storing away some of the gifts for later in the year when she’s not so overwhelmed.

Then we check for things she’ll never use or that may be on a recall list. I’ve learned that there are an awful lot of products that are sold for a while, found to be dangerous, then recalled.

Our final step is to put her new things away and let her enjoy them—whether I approve or not…


How do you manage the holiday influx of “stuff” in your household?