Over the weekend, I spent several hours cleaning the family room and Maddie's bedroom, sorting through toys and getting rid of a bunch of things nobody plays with around here anymore. Since Maddie's the youngest, I can get rid of her castoffs without having to save them for the next up-and-comer. Yay! Less clutter! But also since she's the youngest, she has inherited A LOT of stuff. It was becoming difficult to navigate both rooms because of the amount of toys scattered around. I'd almost forgotten there was carpet under all that stuff. Can we say "bomb site"? Oh yeah, that bad.
Once again, I found myself asking "Why oh WHY have we allowed so much STUFF to enter our house?" She has WAY more toys than she could ever play with. She doesn't even appreciate most of the stuff she has because there's just way too much of it.
I blame it on birthday parties. I know *I* didn't give her (or her sisters) all that stuff - it must have come from SOMEWHERE! It's all those birthday parties, that's what it is. Every year, with three kids in the house, there are three new truckloads of cheap plastic crap that enters my house and commandeers every available space. And nowadays, it's not just their OWN birthday gifts that enter our home - it's all the extra tiny little pieces of dollar-store evil that they bring home in goodie bags from other parties. (Why do we call them "goodie" bags when they are pure EVIL?) I swear, when all that stuff crosses the threshold into my home, it does a little happy dance and then begins to procreate and produce even MORE stuff until I am completely overwhelmed and feel like throwing a match on it all and walking away.
I want to boycott birthday parties. Or at least birthday PRESENTS. Seriously, parents, why do we do this to each other? Why do we continue to subject each other to truckloads of crap that ends up taking over our homes? Why don't we band together and say "enough"? Why do we cave to the pressure of whiny kids who just HAVE to buy their friends yet another tamigotchi or barbie doll or whatchamacallit? Surely if we get together on this, we can create a force that would be greater than all the whines of our children, no?
Yet, as I say this, I have already made plans for Nikki's birthday party next week, and no, I haven't managed to convince her to tell her friends NOT to bring presents, even though I've TRIED. Sigh. Oh, I'm a pushover just like everyone else, I'll admit it.
Seriously, though, it's not just the clutter I'm concerned about. (Yeah, this is your warning - Heather's getting on her favourite soapbox again.) It's just so completely out of whack how much we own and how privileged our children are. I just wish it were easier to find some balance, but sometimes it feels like the only way that would be possible would be to pull our kids out of society all together. At this point, I'm not really willing to do that. Any other suggestions?
Here are some sobering statistics to chew on...
- North Americans spend $18 billion a year on make up.
- It would take $12 billion to provide health care for all mothers and their children.
- North Americans spend $18 billion a year on pet food.
- It would take about the same amount to eliminate hunger and malnutrition.
- North Americans spend $16 billion on perfume
- It would take $5 billion to provide universal literacy to every person on the planet
- North Americans spend $15 billion on ocean cruises
- It would take $10 billion to provide clean drinking water for all
- North American spend $6 billion on ice cream
- It would take $2 billion to immunize every child on the planet
I don't buy make up, perfume, or pet food, nor do I go on ocean cruises, but that doesn't mean I don't have lots of other vices and luxury items. I'm thinking maybe I should develop a "justice fund", and then every time I decide to spend money on a luxury item (at least those items I can't buy fair trade), I place the equivalent amount in the jar to donate to a worthy cause.
Of course, that doesn't solve my birthday party dilemna.