Rachael Rachael, a mom of two daughters, is a freelance editor and writer who enjoys gardening and dreams of keeping chickens in her suburban St. Louis backyard. In her spare time, she helps to edit her husband’s science fiction books. Read more of Rachael's work at www.rachaelsjohnston.com or contact her by emailing rachael@mumblingmommy.com.

“It’s like you’re running an underground railroad for toys.”

The teacher for the Sunday school class my husband and I belong to had announced that our church was in desperate need of new and gently used toys for its annual Christmas toy and clothing giveaway for the needy.

I quietly remarked to my husband that I had done my part by smuggling a few of our kids’ gently used stuffed animals into the collection barrel that morning, and the week before that I sneaked in two baby dolls, and the week before that I dropped in an unopened art kit.

Which prompted my husband to whisper that statement in my ear, “It’s like you’re running an underground railroad for toys.”

I probably de-clutter more than the average mom. I get twitchy when plastic play sets spill off the shelves and when stuffed animals seem to crawl out of their storage bins.

Purging is on my mind especially as Christmas nears, when I start wondering how to fit the new with the old. The 18-inch dolls might own more furniture than we do. We could establish a small city with all the Little People in our collection, and the Barbie dolls could start a commune. And, have mercy, more is coming in just a few days.

I once tried to be democratic and give my 5- and 8-year-olds a say in what got donated to church or sold in the next garage sale, but one child was willing to give up certain toys while the other insisted those toys all needed to stay. Every last one of them. There were arguments and crying, and a few insults were hurled between siblings, and, after it all, the play room may have looked worse.

Sometimes, the 5-year-old will hand me one measly broken plastic yo-yo that she received in a birthday party goody bag and generously announce she is willing to part with it. That’s why I find it more efficient and painless to smuggle out the less-loved, less-likely-to-be-missed toys.

We are fortunate to have so much. To have family and friends who love us. To have money for luxuries. To have a house that, while not large, has a spacious carpeted room in the basement dedicated solely to toys.

This is a first world problem none of us has learned how to solve. We take the edge off the clutter conundrum by giving or requesting experience gifts like zoo memberships, practical gifts like clothes, and consumable gifts like craft supplies, but stuff still finds its way into our houses. We donate, sell, and throw away stuff so we can buy more stuff, but it feels wasteful and stressful, and the kids feel entitled.

So I continue to smuggle toys to the church donation bin and to thrift stores (and to the trash bin), and I limit my own purchases for my children and put careful thought into what I do buy, in hopes that maybe we can make a difference. Maybe my kids will be better people for not growing up surrounded by so much excess, for being able to walk through the play room and through their bedrooms without tripping over the trappings of materialism. Maybe the less-privileged kids on the receiving end of our donations can have something to smile about this Christmas.

To fellow parents out there who also are sneaking out toys under cover of night, keep up the fight, and good luck with the coming influx.

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Category: Christmas

Tags: Christmas