The War Against Stuff

Column Day. This week I describe how family life involves a never-ending struggle against the steady accumulation of more stuff.

This is fresh on my mind as the boxes pile up around our house in preparation of moving day. This will be our third house in 8.5 years of marriage. A colleague and I were agreeing today that it’s good to move, or at least think about moving, every five years, because it puts you in the mindset to purge.

If you have to stop and think at all about “Would I really bother to pack this and take it to another place?” then the answer is you can probably live without it.

Having kids of course also leads to having more stuff. With six people in the house, we own an outrageous number of footwear and coats. Sandals, sneakers, rubber boots, winter boots, winter coats, spring coats, raincoats, etc. As they grow you mix and match and try to figure out what will fit on whom this week.

Then there are the toys. Oh, the toys.

Here’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to toys: the more expensive it is and the longer it takes to assemble, the less a kid will generally play with it.

There are a few exceptions like Lego, where the building and re-building is more than half the fun. But the more intricate things are usually the first ones to get abandoned.

Here are the toys with the most longevity and sustained play value in our house:

1. Lego, far and away the clear favourite. Everyone loves it.

2. Toy cars. O and G both were/are total car guys.

3. The couch cushions. They are landing pads, shields, battering rams, you name it.

4. A Geotrax train set. Another one of those things that can be built and rebuilt in endless configurations.

5. An $8 plastic dump truck. Every kid has loved racing this truck back and forth from the kitchen to the living room. It falls apart constantly, but for some reason it’s a huge hit.

There are other things they’ll play with in cycles — marbleworks, Playmobil, and a few others — but those five seem to be the most enduring favourites. I think the common threads are that they’re simple, versatile, and they move. These seem to be the elements that make a hit. Complex isn’t necessarily better.

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One response to “The War Against Stuff

  1. Can’t thank you enough for your column every week. We love it, makes us feel normal.

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