Empowering My Little Pack Rat
I have a little pack rat. He is my five-year-old son and your trash could quickly become his treasure. A discarded bottle cap becomes a miniature pie pan in his hands. An empty plastic jar is soon the perfect coin container. Paper and cardboard remnants transform into handmade books when this young author gets a hold of them. I greatly appreciate his creativity and ability to entertain himself, but the hoard he creates needs to be dealt with from time to time (especially since his bedroom is roughly 8’x9′ with no closet!). My daughter, who was recently sharing his room, chose to move downstairs because of his untidiness. I lovingly teased him recently, calling him Templeton (as in the rat from Charlotte’s Web).
Today was the day we tackled the mess. Though my son has a tendency to collect junk, he needs no convincing that a clean room is an enjoyable room. He does need motivation and encouragement to do the job. Once he started sorting his belongings into piles (trash, recycling, donate, keep), he was on a roll. When he got stuck, I’d offer some questions such as, “Do you love it and play with it a lot?” or “Might another child love this toy more than you do?” and “Would your room be better with or without it?” Ultimately, the decisions were his alone to make.
Through the years, I’ve encouraged my kids to question the role that stuff plays in their lives. Possessions are not good or bad. The emotional grip these possessions can have on us is unhealthy, though. I try not to push them to get rid of things unless they really want to. There is no shame in having stuff, after all, but there is great freedom in knowing that stuff doesn’t provide us with lasting happiness. I am hoping that by challenging my children to make their own decisions about their belongings, they’ll grow into empowered adults who have learned when to hold on and when to let go.