Day 79: What Will You Do With Your Space After You Declutter

7,900 things gone, only 2,100 to go

Ok, so maybe not everyone celebrates the 3/4 mark of their decluttering with a nerf war, but I like to include the kids and they weren’t interested in champagne and chèvre .

Just so you know every one of these kids got up and walked away after they finished playing dead for my photo shoot. Actually, they continued to stage their own deaths long after I put the camera down.

Despite the pretend casualties, this was the safest nerf gun fight we’ve ever had! Look on the floor – nothing to trip on! And the baseboards – no mould! And the window sill – nothing to shatter!

I’m not sure you remember but my play room used to look like this:

(My friend and her son helping me declutter)

You can’t tell from these pictures but I am actually conflicted about the whole gun thing. I am the Mom who disarmed the playmobil policemen before giving them to my little ones. That was until I had a conversation with a friend that went like this:

Me: I am never going to buy my kids guns.

Other Mom: I thought the same thing until my son started playing with a child who isn’t allowed guns. He spends every minute at our house shooting us with sticks, hairbrushes, shoes, the hose – anything he can get his hands on. And if he can’t find anything, he just uses his fingers. It’s really annoying.

Me: I might have to rethink my gun position.

I rethought my position and drew my line in the sand allowing my kids anything that was clearly a toy that no one would ever mistake for a real gun.

Then, I bought my son this.

Yes, it’s the first toy I’ve bought since I started my toy reduction challenge on Day 68. And yes, it bears a resemblance to the “real thing” albeit in plastic.

In my defence, he bought the gun with his birthday money and I chipped in for the bullet chain when he couldn’t cover the tax. Yes, I am a wibbly wobbly jellyfish.

But perhaps I’ve crossed the line? I sometimes feel like a (jelly)fish out of water when it comes to raising boys. So I’m going to throw this out to Cosmic Dad. He thinks about things like this regularly on his blog. And, he was the also the guy who bought my son his first (and loudest) nerf gun. What about it Kevin? How much is too much when it comes to kids and guns? Maybe he’ll visit us in the comments now that I’ve outed him. Anyone else want to share their thoughts on my dilemma?

What I Tossed Today: 40+ dried out pens, a four year old box of recycling, more staplers, screws and bolts, tooth floss, business cards, drawer garbage – all from Squirrel’s office.


19 thoughts on “Day 79: What Will You Do With Your Space After You Declutter

  1. Oy vey, the gun thing. I’ll tend to agree with your “Other mom” friend on this one – my aunt did everything in her power to keep guns away from my cousin while he was growing up (in spite of his clear interest), and what did he do? He joined the Canadian army and went to AFGHANISTAN. Hoo boy. Toy guns in the hands of small children makes me uncomfortable, but I think there’s got to be a bit of a happy medium. Even though the idea of it makes me cringe big time.

    • Toy guns in the hands of small children makes me uncomfortable too! Growing up with a sister, it’s something I’m entirely not used to. But I agree with you that it can become “forbidden fruit”. My son has a friend who isn’t allowed sugar and he’s been known to steal treats from the pantry and hide out in my son’s room eating them. Stealing makes me more uncomfortable than allowing them the occasional treat or nerf war. Rebekah linked (in her comments above) to an Elizabeth Gilbert speech that you might like too. It made me feel a little better about my decision making. I’d be terrified if either of my sons joined the (Canadian) army but I better not tell them that!

  2. I am chuckling to myself. My parents tried SOOOO hard to control my childhood experience, to no avail. They wouldn’t let my brother or I have toy guns… so my brother became totally obsessed with all things military. He spent hours and hours making model fighter planes and battleships, joined ROTC, spent his summers at the Air Force Academy, and now works for the largest defense contractor in the country.

    Similarly, my parents wouldn’t let me have dolls or any other traditionally “girly” toys, and they wouldn’t let me read fairy tales because they didn’t want me waiting for some “prince” to come solve all of my problems… so I spent all of my time over at the neighbor’s house playing with Barbies, and became totally obsessed with all things frilly. I don’t think it would be accurate to call me a “girly girl” but I certainly have a disdain for all things “unisex” since they were foisted upon me from such an early age. I also had a tendency in my youth to make really bad choices in men… manly men were “forbidden fruit” and therefore all the more attractive.

    I think that some of it is probably genetic, and some is also societal… and like it or not, we live in a society that prizes certain traits in boys and others in girls… And especially when you’re young, “fitting in” is such a powerful motivator, that you’re never going to overcome it with “politically correct” behavior. I think it’s better to just talk about it all rather than trying so hard to control what you child is exposed to. Of course I don’t have kids, so I’m sure that’s all easier said than done.

    • Thanks Eco Cat Lady! I think some of it has got to be genetic too. My son used to play with several girls and I still remember one of the Moms being excited that her daughter would get a chance to come to our house and play with our trucks and trains. Well, she picked up my purse when she walked in and didn’t put it down until two hours later when she left. Likewise, I bought my youngest son a baby (dressed in blue of course) and he didn’t give it the time of day. It was a sad, sad day decluttering that baby! But I digress.
      I couldn’t agree with you more about talking about everything. And, I guess, judging what your kids are ready to hear. My oldest is very wise and grounded and I can tell him anything. I may have to introduce things a little slower to number two. Thanks for the insight!

  3. Oh the gun issue! We’re starting to deal with that in our house. Our 3 year old is now playing by “shooting” things, so we’ve been trying to teach him how shooting hurts, and we should play games that don’t hurt people. I now find him saying that he didn’t make friends at the park because they were playing shooting. I don’t want him to be left out, but I just can not condone play shooting, I tend to be a strict parent, so can’t foresee how I’ll change my stance on this issue, but you never know!

    • I think wherever you stand on the issue you are doing your kids such a big favour by communicating. Kids always want to know the why of things and “not hurting” is a pretty good reason. My 9 year old wants to know why we don’t own any war-like video games so I started reading him (edited) letters home from real veterans. I may change my mind about the games but, before he can play war, I’d like him to know that war really means.

  4. Hi, I’m a mum of 3 boys – I did the whole ‘no gun toys’ when my first son was young – It didn’t work – he used lego blocks, jigsaw pieces, bits of wooden railway tracks – you name it, he used it.
    I don’t stress over it anymore – I think the more anxious we become over the issue the more the kids want to participate in the ‘gun / war’ games. Kids like to push the boundaries, so if you try to forbid guns the kids will find a way to play guns (kids = good imaginations) .
    My boys (8, 10, 12) regularly play ‘dead / dying’ – slumped at the bottom of the stairs, hanging off the settee, sprawled on the kitchen floor. I just step over them and announce to myself how I shall enjoy an extra 1/2/3 (depending on how many kids are ‘expired’ at the time) extra portions of dessert that night! Works every time! A miracle cure!
    Let’s face it – boys like bangs, pops, stinks, goo, gunge, muck, slop, dissecting, dismantling, slime, oh and Nerf guns!
    On a different note – I’ve discovered I’m a ‘hoarder in denial’. Now the attic is no longer full of empty cardboard boxes I’ve tackled some of the boxes full of stuff. And it’s all mine – including loads of magazines. In Japanese. Casette tapes. Of Korean songs. At this point I must stress I don’t speak / read / write Japanese / Korean / Chinese. And THE MOST HIDEOUS vases and ornaments I’d carted to the UK from Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. I spent half an hour staring in dismay at my ‘treasures’ wondering how I’d managed to select some of the most useless, tasteless, valueless tat I’d ever set eyes on.
    And pack-a-rats old dusty record collection? Worth quite a bit of money! Drat! He’s already crowing about how keeping everything is ‘really a good idea’. Ah well, cunning female plan required to keep de-cluttering!
    Good luck – your play room looks fab. My kids bedrooms still look like your ‘before’ pictures. More decluttering for me – me thinks! And I thought I was doing so well…………..

    • Thanks for this. I’m killing myself laughing. Your hoarding in denial is hysterically funny. And here I thought Squirrel and I had bought up all the “valueless tat”. Sometimes I look at stuff and think: Who bought this? I can only think that aliens abducted me and took me shopping for a poster of kokopelli.
      I agree that kids will use our anxiety against us and take up the thing that we least want them to do. Thanks for the laugh and the perspective.

  5. Thinking back to when I was ‘B’ or ‘C’s age I had all sorts of toy guns. Cops & Robbers, Cowboys & Indians… running around the neighbourhood shootin’ it up. We were having fun and nobody ever got injured and look at us today…. we turned out fine.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I wouldn’t be bothered by it the least bit. You gotta let kids be kids, teach ’em right from wrong and let them be free.

    I don’t think you and Squirrel have anything to worry about.

  6. Parenting is full of moral quandaries. No, all daily life is full of moral quandaries.

    I’m not a die-hard Elizabeth Gilbert fan, but did you ever see her speech at an O Magazine conference? She describes sitting in an airport pondering whether or not it would be acceptable to buy Nerf guns for her Quaker sister’s children, and gets so lost in thought that she misses her flight to the O Magazine conference, despite sitting 10 feet from the gate from which her plane was leaving…

    I liked it. Doesn’t answer any ethical issues, but it made me feel less alone.

    • Wow. She sure tells one heck of a story. I was mesmerized. That was a really big speech. It made my little question “to nerf or not to nerf” seem pretty small. Perspective is a good thing.
      Speaking of not answering ethical issues. Have you ever seen The Great Office War? I’m not even sure if I can recommend it because I didn’t even think it was funny until my son showed it to me for a third time. Now I laugh every time I see the packing peanuts “blood” and the guy walking through the office not knowing what’s going on. Adults should definitely play more.

  7. Hi C,

    I’ve been lurking, but not commenting… so I just want to put my thoughts out there. I am happy for my son (now seven) to play with nerf guns and water pistols (especially water pistols – so much fun!) but, like you, I try to veer away from anything that looks like the real thing. It’s never been an issue – I don’t remember him ever asking for a gun and he’s never been into shooting play as anything more than a passing phase.

    Having said all that, here’s my take on the kids who take lego, sticks, or anything at their disposal and make them into guns: it’s fantastic. Spend your money on lego and let them make guns because next week they’ll be making dragons and the week after that they’ll be designing playgrounds or making lego cupcakes – because lego is a toy that facilitiates creativity and nurtures imaginary play. And a gun? Well, it’s always going to be a gun.

    And while I do agree that genetics will always play a role in what kids are interested in playing with, I always try to remember that a gene pool gives rise to billions of personalities (nearly seven billion so far) not just the two that people tend to focus on.

    Great blog!


    • “I always try to remember that a gene pool gives rise to billions of personalities (nearly seven billion so far) not just the two that people tend to focus on.”
      Well, said!
      I took my youngest to a playgroup last year that only had open ended toys. He loved them. It made me wish I could go back in time and erase all my Pokemon, Club Penguin, Bakugan purchases. Too bad Visa doesn’t insure for do-overs. Both my sons played endlessly with these cardboard bricks (ImagiBricks). And you’re right, a gun is always going to be a gun.
      Thanks for commenting!

  8. Hey Chris:

    Thanksgiving is over and I’ve had a moment or two to review some stuff on guns and gun play. Toy weapons go back millennia. They have been found in Egyptian tombs and medieval castles. They are a way for children to feel powerful (just as being a superhero is) and in control while they try and deal with what they experience and see in the grown up world.

    They key to it being “ok” is that the play should be imaginative and not imitative. The difference is the scenario. Using light sabers in a battle for an imaginary planet (or couch, imaginary or real) where the boys are working out the rules as they go is a healthy psychological process. In fact, it might be worthwhile for some adults to protect their favourite seat with the force and a purple light saber (go Windu).

    In comparison, re-enacting Obiwan’s final dual with Darth Vader move for move does not provide any meaningful play (unless they want to become pro westlers – but that’s another issue). They are not working out good vs. evil or understanding power, they are simply acting.

    It’s less about the toy and more about the play. I would say it’s healthier to give them a toy gun and send them outside to create their own worlds to defend. Teach them about safe play (no headshots); engage in the play yourself (a sneaky way to monitor and have input in a manner they learn best); and let them discover the classics after they have worked on the idea of good and evil through play (around the age of 30).

    • Thanks Kev! I knew I could count on you to be thorough. We had a new babysitter the other night and, how lucky are we, she turned out to be a music therapist. She told me that the nerf gun fight broke out when she was here and that she tried to steer it toward something more purposeful. I think she was saying the exact same thing that you are saying here. Sometimes I have to hear things twice to really hear them. Thanks so much for the input!

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