I hate clutter. It honestly is one of the biggest triggers of stress in my life (apart from the whole writing-a-dissertation thing). I get rid of my clothes so much and so often that I sometimes regret it—I am TOO overeager when it comes to throwing things out. This morning, I thought, ‘man, I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of all but two of my earrings.’ Sometimes, you just want to wear a nice gold hoop, ya know? But, apart from those fleeting moments of regret (which really are fleeting—I’m sure I won’t think about gold hoop earrings again for a year), I’m really happy that I’m not a packrat.
What does hating clutter have to do with parenting for social justice though? TOYS and consumerism. They creep in, and YOU CANNOT STOP IT. If you don’t hear from me in the next few weeks, its because I’m drowning in a terrifying tower of toys. My husband loves buying A toys, so it seems like every week, a new Amazon package shows up at our door, adding to the pile of toys in the corner of our family room (not to mention the section of the basement of toys he’s already grown out of). You know that scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when they are in the vault in Gringotts, trying to get one of the horcruxes (Helga Hufflepuff’s cup I think?), but the other objects are magicked so that they multiply every time they are touched, which means that Harry, Ron and Hermione almost drown/get crushed to death by shit?? That’s me, just with toys. Every time I turn around, it’s like they multiply. (was that Harry Potter reference lost on everyone but me? Lol)
Look at poor Ron and Hermione, about to get crushed by the ever expanding pile of
NOW, if you’ve ever given A a toy or present, THANK YOU. I am not complaining! (though it sounds like I am, doesn’t it? Need to work on the tone of this post…) And if A were old enough to understand, he would say “ANK U’ in the nasal-y way that he says ‘thank you’ right now (its adorable, btw). I am not ungrateful for your gifts or ignorant that my privilege has brought us to this moment. Drowning in a toys is related to our family’s class privilege: we have the means (and our friends and family have the means) to buy presents for A when they want to. Obviously, I am so grateful for that. I am grateful for the enrichment and entertainment the toys provide. I am grateful for the love for A that these gifts represent.
But at the same time, toys are inherently linked to capitalism and consumerism: I don’t want A to think he needs THINGS to be happy and to have fun. Ever since I got pregnant, I have been brainwashed into thinking I need all of these THINGS in order to have a safe pregnancy/be a good mother. The purchasing of things does not define the quality of a childhood. Even apart from toys’ consumerist essence, I think a decluttered space leads to (1) a more appreciative attitude towards what we DO have and (2) a calmer and more mindful outlook. Gratitude and mindfulness are two of the most important mental strategies I want A to cultivate.
For now, though, I’m too tired at the end of the day to deal with all of the awesome, fun, and colorful toys we’ve amassed. Consumerism in a capitalist society is nearly impossible to avoid, so I’ve learned to live with some clutter in my life. I will write in the future on my experiments in cultivating A’s gratitude and mindfulness despite (because of?) consumerism.
Happy wiping (and hopefully decluttering),