Kids, Clutter, and Christmas Gifts

Most parents & grandparents enjoy giving gifts to little ones at the holidays. Isn’t that wonderful? Generosity is a tangible way to express love. However, many people feel that their space is already overcrowded, and the idea of bringing in more “stuff” is unsettling. Furthermore, when a large number of friends and family members contribute, it can feel like children get more than they can even enjoy.

Here is a four step solution:

1. Take time during the days leading up to Christmas to clear out your space.

Walk through the house and gather items to pass on to someone in need. If your children are old enough, invite them to help. This could be clothing, books, toys… whatever they are willing to release. If children are reluctant, consider offering an incentive, such as “When we find 20 things, we will all go get pizza!” Be sure to follow through by having them join you on the trip to donate to a local charity.

2. Limit the toys children get on Christmas morning.

There are many ways to set a limit, depending on what is important to you.

  • Establish a boundary that relates to your faith, such as, “Three gifts from the magi, three gifts for you.”
  • Conduct a family gift exchange where each person pulls a name out of a hat (works especially well with the extended family.)
  • Give each child a large, decorated box and then limit his/her gifts to whatever fits inside that box.
  • If you see too many gifts walking in the door, set a few aside for a future celebration, such as an “A” on a test, an accomplishment, or to acknowledge a kind gesture.

The idea here is to put some sort of “cap” on how much a child receives at once.

3. Consider giving gifts that the child can look forward to.

Examples here include:

  • Coupons redeemable for special treats
  • Waivers for specified chores
  • A gift certificate for a hotel night away (bonus points if there is an indoor pool!)
  • Supplies for an upcoming vacation, summer camp, or trip
  • Tickets to a movie, museum, sporting event, show, etc.
  • A voucher for the gift of time to work on a project

4. Create holiday traditions and memories that have nothing to do with gifts.

Over time, these anticipated events often end up meaning more to children than the presents under the tree. Some ideas include:

-> Attend faith services and special events that align with your beliefs.

-> Take an annual trip in the car to look at lights around your town while everyone sips hot chocolate.

-> Countdown the days before Christmas with a calendar or other system.

-> Watch holiday movies or television shows.

-> Bake cookies, decorate a gingerbread house, or prepare food gifts.

-> Serve your community by giving to Toys for Tots, Operation Christmas Child, or a local charity.

-> Hang a stocking on a chlid’s doorknob late on Christmas Eve with a special treat to munch on in the morning. Older children might enjoy a few printed games to keep them busy while they wait for everyone else to wake up.

-> Have a traditional meal on Christmas Eve, Christmas morning or Christmas day (and it doesn’t have to be fancy – we have Chinese every Christmas Eve!)

The possibilities are endless, and will vary by the age and stage of your children.

 *     *     *

Gifts are not a bad thing or a commercial “sell out.” We all love to give and receive. But keeping “presents” within the larger context of a holiday celebration will provide enduring joy that lasts well into the new year.

What clutter-free gift ideas do you have?

18 thoughts on “Kids, Clutter, and Christmas Gifts”

    1. It not only makes space in your house, but it gives the kids (who don’t have any income) a chance to feel like they are giving at the holiday season. I can just imagine your little cuties picking out what to give away:)

    1. Oh it is hard, Meg. Especially when there is so much adorable stuff out there, and much of it is reasonably priced. And I think buying gifts for loved ones is terrific. It’s all about boundaries… and communicating with the grandparents!! 🙂

    1. Oh, I love a zoo/museum membership, Kelly. Memberships are wonderful gifts, and you can keep using them over and over. We have many happy memories from taking our girls to an aquarium nearby – worth every penny and just as much (if not more) fun than a toy!

  1. These are fantastic tips! We definitely limit the number of gifts and we work on donations prior! Hopefully we are sharing the spirit, because there certainly is a wonderful message in the holidays to be taught to our little ones!

    1. Couldn’t agree more, Jodi! Sharing the message is really the best way to celebrate! I’m so glad to hear others embrace these same ideas:)

  2. So many great tips here!

    Having your kids be a part of the decluttering of toys and bringing them to the donation location is a powerful way to share our blessings. Even if your child is resistant, it’s an important part of learning to let go. Offer the option of bringing 3 items to give away. As a parent, you are modeling letting go as well. My clients comment that once they start releasing, their kids do too.

    Thanks for sharing these ideas as a part of the holiday season.

    1. I love hearing this feedback from your clients, Ellen. I agree that donating… “releasing”… can be so hard at first, but then it gets MUCH easier. And if you can get your kids to be part of the process, they also get to experience the true joy of sharing and helping. Thanks for these nice comments:)

    1. Well that is just an awesome idea! I might have to share that out, if you don’t mind. No fun to drive if you don’t have money to go anywhere, right? Terrific:)

    1. Well, it’s always harder with girls because there is just so much cute stuff out there! But I like the idea of minimizing the plastic toys – they tend to take up a lot of space! A trampoline is so fun… can’t wait to see the photos of him jumping!!

  3. I have been trying to slowly weed out Dino’s toys, so many are broken or missing pieces. Then there are toys he doens’t play with anymore…we need to donate them. I also told him he is only getting a few things this year, since he will be getting toys from his grandparents and aunts and uncles.
    karen recently posted…Dinosaur Reads…My Profile

    1. Good for you getting rid of the broken ones!! So many times we have ideas of repairing things, but that rarely happens. And donating is such a great way to share the spirit of the season, right? I think kids don’t end up caring if they get fewer gifts. A couple of new toys and most kids are thrilled! Sounds like he is a lucky guy having such terrific parents, and a generous extended family as well:)

  4. Yes, yes, yes!! With four kids the amount of gifts just gets insane! We usually try to clean out their toy bins before Christmas and giveaway the (few) toys that are still in good condition, and toss the broken ones, which usually consists of most of the gifts from the year before (I have rough boys). These are all very great suggestions to avoid going into the New Year with extra clutter!
    Brittany M. recently posted…Happy SITS Day to….ME!!My Profile

    1. I wish more people would have the courage to throw away the broken toys, Brittany. Oftentimes people think they are going to fix them, but then they rarely get around to it, and the broken pieces pile up. I affirm you!!!!

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