There is a challenge that exists today for grandparents and parents alike. Grandparents want to find the perfect gifts for their grandchildren, and many of today’s children often already have more toys than they know what to do with. Parents also struggle with the issue of having too much toy clutter in their children’s bedrooms.
I frequently get calls from parents who have contacted me because they are struggling with their children’s clutter. Often, grandparents are major contributors to this clutter. Parents cringe each time another gift is lovingly delivered, because it will inevitably require a place to live within the already crammed storage spaces of their child’s room. The following is a list of helpful suggestions for dealing with this issue as the holidays approach and children’s birthdays come and go.
Communication Is Key
If you are a parent with this problem, having an open conversation with your parents or in-laws is a good place to start. Help them understand that your child does not need more toys and that you don’t have room for them. To ensure that the conversation stays light and positive, be sure not to blame them for the clutter that your child has already accumulated. Then, provide them with a list of suggestions for useful gift ideas and be sure that they have several options to choose from. Because grandparents struggle with finding gifts that will actually be appreciated and used, a list of ideas is sure to be well received.
As an alternative to traditional gifts, provide your parents or in-laws with ideas for tickets or gift certificates that offer fun or educational experiences. Experience gifts offer the additional bonus of providing an opportunity and an excuse for making special memories with that child. The activity can either be spent with a grandparent, or provide your own family with a special activity to do together. I have listed some ideas for experience gifts below:
Ice cream, cupcake, cookie or yogurt shop
Children’s Museum or other Museum
Educational classes such as music, art or dance lessons
Martial arts classes
Family get-away to a favorite destination
Play or music concert
Family Fun Centers
Ice Skating, bowling, miniature golf
For Girls – manicures or pedicures
Special activity night with grandparent to bake, do crafts or go fishing
Gift Certificate Ideas for Useful Gifts
Gift certificates to stores can also be given with the intent to purchase more practical items such as the following:
Athletic Stores where sports gear or clothing can be purchased
Music Store if your child plays an instrument
Favorite Clothing Store where school clothes will be purchased
Department or Super Store to purchase school supplies and/or backpacks
With a little creativity, Grandparents can make personalized gift baskets filled with fun consumable items. The possibilities for these are endless, and can be personalized according to the child's hobbies and interests. Here are few examples:
Snack Basket full of an assortment of favorite snacks
Movie Night Basket with a favorite movie, a variety of popcorn, drinks and candy
Baking Basket full of all the things needed to bake and decorate a batch of cupcakes
Give Giftster a Try
If your parents or in-laws are even just a little tech savvy, I recommend giving this helpful service a try; Giftster.com is a private, web and mobile based gift registry connecting family and close friends. It is a group gift wish list and is completely free. It allows family and friends to list their gift preferences so that others can make purchases using the list. This is a great gift buying resource for the whole family and is easy to use. Giftster will ensure that everyone receives gifts that they really want and appreciate.
HOW MANY SETS OF DISHES DO YOU OWN?
Do you have multiple sets of unused dishes claiming too much storage space in your home? If so, you are not alone, it appears to be a commonality in many of our homes. This is the #1 most frequent form of clutter that I find in kitchens and dining rooms.
They may be meticulously packed away in protective china covers or occupying the top shelves of our kitchen cabinets. We may find them crammed into a dining room hutch or tucked away in a storage bin somewhere. Wherever the dishes reside, they are dusty, unused and hogging up precious storage space. So I ask you, why such madness? Why do we all keep these crazy sets of unused dishes in our homes when 98 percent of the time we use just one set?
The stories behind the dishes are often the same. They are Grandma’s antique dishes, or perhaps another loved one has gifted them to us. Sometimes these dishes are the ones asked for on a wedding registry, flawless and untouched because they are considered to be the “good dishes”...you know… just for company, but then we don’t actually use them when company comes because it’s just easier to use paper plates. I have found that there are 3 main reasons why many of us possess multiple sets of dishes:
Maybe your inherited dishes are very pretty or maybe they’re not… either way, they came from your Grandma, whom you adored, so how could you possibly get rid of them? Furthermore, how can you use them every day when Grandma only used them for special occasions? What if they get chipped or broken? Sometimes there is more than one set of antique dishes in a home. One set from Grandma and mercy…another set from Mom. They may even be passed down from a great grandmother, making them an even grander family heirloom and that much harder to let go of.
2. BYGONE TRADITIONS
The second reason for extra sets of dishes is that formal dinner parties are part of our parents and grandparents legacies. Everyone had “the good china” accompanied by fancy silverware and they actually used them for most special occasions. But this is a tradition of the past that is hanging on merely by our left over dishes. These days most of us are much less elaborate when we entertain and keeping things simple to save time is more important today than it was in the past. Even during the holidays, our family tends to use paper plates, we may buy the more elegant and expensive ones for the occasion, but we still stick with paper. After all, who wants to spend all afternoon washing fancy dishes on Thanksgiving Day instead of relaxing and visiting with family? Not me.
3. THEY MIGHT BE VALUABLE
The third reason we keep these dishes around is in anticipation that they may be worth a lot of money. We figure that since these inherited dishes are antiques, they must be valuable. The problem though is that taking the time to find someone to assess the value of them, then taking more time to sell them becomes a barrier to getting rid of them. So the dishes stay, and the years pass by and they serve no purpose in your home except to occupy space.
SO WHAT TO DO?
If you love Grandma’s dishes, why not go ahead and use them every day and get rid of the ugly, mixed matched, worn out dishes your using now? Just because Grandma only used them only for formal entertaining doesn’t mean you have to. And, not using them at all because a piece may get broken does not really make sense. That’s like buying an outfit and not wearing it because it may ware out someday. If you want to ensure that you preserve Grandma’s treasured dishes, take one place setting and put it in a keepsake box so that you will always have it. Then use the rest of the set and enjoy them, because life is short!
USE THEM OR LOSE THEM
On the other hand, if you really don't like the dishes you have inherited, why keep them out of guilt? Your loved one would not want to put this burden on you. Is it not better to honor the dishes by letting them go to someone who will cherish and care for them just as your loved one did? They are not serving anyone collecting dust in storage. Again, you can keep one place setting to have as a permanent keepsake. Your loved one will surely approve.
PASS THEM ON
If you happen to be keeping the dishes only to hand down to your child, talk with that child and be sure that he or she wants them. Many young people these days are less interested in antiques. If they really do want them, pass them on now, you should not be required to store your child’s dishes for 10 years.
BE REALISTIC ABOUT ENTERTAINING
Just because our mother and grandmother kept a “good” set of china complete with formal silverware does not mean we need to do the same. Embrace today’s lifestyle and ditch all the extra china and fancy silverware. When you entertain, do yourself a favor and let go of the fantasy of impressing others with elaborate and elegant dinner parties. Instead, consider keeping meals as simple as possible, so that you can enjoy entertaining often with more ease and less stress.
VALUABLE? – MAYBE, BUT PROBABLY NOT
I don’t like to be the bearer of bad news, but most antique dishes are worth much less than most people would expect, even if they are beautiful and ancient. Do you really want to store presumably valuable dishes for 10 or 20 years just to eventually discover that that they are worthless? That said, some antique dishes can be valuable, so if in doubt, commit yourself to taking them to a few local antique dealers and having them assessed. Make it a priority and do it now rather than putting the task off. Then you can decide if you want to sell to the antique dealer, or take them home and sell them online. Just be sure that the money you make selling them on your own is worth the time you put into it. Oftentimes, all said and done, it’s not.
Laura is the Owner of Clean & Clutter Free, professional organizing services.