1 Lead by example, be vocal about parting with your possessions, demonstrating how much easier and quicker it is to keep the space tidy. Talk about how serene and spacious everywhere feels. How you value the calming space more. How you don’t use this item and that it is just gathering dust. Would someone else get more pleasure from this than me?
2 Make a list together of all their favourite activities, things they’ve done and would like to do. The things that have made them happiest. This is very revealing and the majority of the list will probably be experiences, not actually involving any possessions. Children most cherish family experiences and attention. Use this to help them understand that the possessions themselves do not make them happy.
3 Get their agreement to box up all of the toys and possessions they rarely use and agree a date in the future, say three months from now and label this box with this date. Put the date on your calendar, if by this time, they haven’t wanted to retrieve anything or they simply cannot name the contents of the box then they can make a charity donation and positively influence the lives of others less fortunate.
4 Thank the possession they are considering giving away for the joy it brought them and send it on the next part of its journey, perhaps enabling a child less fortunate to enjoy it via donation. This can help them to part with their things in a positive way, feeling in control and the altruistic nature can feel rewarding in itself. It may also help to agree that for every thing they part with they get to ‘do’ something with you, an experience or outing.
My son gave away a toy dinosaur along with various other toys; we gave it to our local charity. Later that week we went into the charity shop again to donate some more things and he started pulling my sleeve and saying ‘Mummy look, that lady’s buying my dinosaur!’ He was so pleased with himself and was happy to see it going to another home. I reinforced this with ‘maybe she’s buying it for her grandson who likes dinosaurs, I bet he’ ll love that, just like you did when you were younger, well done, it was so kind of you to pass it on, now that you don’t use it anymore’.
5 Most importantly don’t let all the ‘stuff’ into your lives in the first place. Why/how are they acquiring it? Are they bored? or looking for fulfilment in possessions? What are you modelling? Do you go shopping for fun when you’re feeling like this? How do you feel when you’ve bought stuff? Happier? Encourage relatives to buy experiences rather than possessions at Christmas/Birthdays.
Become aware of the consumerist society we live in today, constantly being bombarded by marketing messages. This affects not only us but our children too and they don’t have the life experience we have to be able to recognise it and deal with it. Food chain companies giving away toys simply to get your money, but there is always one more toy to collect. TV adverts, internet ads, magazines, junk mail, supermarket and shop layouts. Encourage your children to do or make something rather than buying something and do this yourself, again overtly verbalising your actions and motives.
6 Give them the responsibility of cleaning and dusting their bedroom in exchange for a reward. Keep being verbal yourself about how quick and easy it is to dust or keep things tidy and organised when there is much less stuff around. Also help them to find a place for everything they own, and again role model this for them yourself with your things.
Help your children to understand that personal belongings are not the key to happiness. Loving relationships and shared experiences are far more fulfilling to us as humans.
Can you relate to any of the above? Any more ideas? Please leave a comment below.
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