Help! How Do You Keep Holiday Gifts in Check?

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This is for sure a first-world problem, and not a new one, at that. But I’m really feeling it this year, and it doesn’t exactly fill me with holiday joy.

I have made a really concerted effort – as best I can – to keep my girls in check when it comes to material things. Our toy collection is far from overflowing.

For holidays and birthdays, we keep things really low-key at our house. The girls usually get one big, shared present (like their train set), and then they each have one gift to open. We follow a similar pattern for their birthday, and we always specific “no gifts, please” on the invitation to their birthday parties.

I consider toys and art supplies to be developmental necessities, and I’m pretty particular about what we have. If I think the girls would benefit from a new set of pattern blocks, for example, I buy it for them. I don’t necessarily wait for a holiday or birthday to come along.

I think it helps that we watch very little TV, so the girls are rarely exposed to commercials. We talk about the advertisements we see in magazines. The girls know those are working to make us think we need things; it’s up to us to use our brains and decide if we do, in fact, need something.

I am really happy with the balance we have…but that’s tough to maintain when it comes to family at the holidays.

We have a very small family, and they all live at least 250 miles away. My dad always asks me what the girls would like (or what I’d like them to have, as he {correctly} joked this year). My aunt asks, too…but then she feels she has to do more. “I can’t just give them house shoes!” she protested.

What’s frustrating is that my girls will be OVER THE MOON with some fuzzy kitty cat house shoes. They had some a couple of years ago, and they played in them all the time.

I witnessed last year my girls getting really overwhelmed during one family holiday exchange. Instead of giving them a gift bag of art supplies, each book / box of crayons / package of clay was individually wrapped. My B, then just shy of four years old, melted into my arms in a puddle of tears. That was so incredibly out of character for her…but she just couldn’t handle all the craziness, I guess.

I feel almost guilty that I’m complaining about people wanting to buy things for my children. I know my family finds a lot of joy in doing that. But I feel like I need to protect our boundaries…and protect my girls from being too overwhelmed.

Am I being too particular? Ungrateful, even? How do you manage the influx of STUFF at holidays and birthdays?

MandyE is mom to soon-to-be five-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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MandyE is the mother of 4 ½-year old fraternal twin girls, Baby A and Baby B. (And yes, their names actually start with the letters A and B!) She worked in the marketing field for nine years before her girls were born, but these days she’s relishing the opportunity to be a SAHM, which she plans to continue until the girls start kindergarten. MandyE has been blogging at Twin Trials and Triumphs since her girls were a year old. Between her blog and her local Mothers of Multiples group, she considers the multiples community a huge part of her support system.

5 thoughts on “Help! How Do You Keep Holiday Gifts in Check?”

  1. I don’t think you’re being ungrateful. My approach to holiday gifts is to avoid the sit-down-and-open-everything approach. Instead, we open a few at a time and let the girls play with their new things or read their new books until they’re ready to open more. Sometimes it can take days, and that’s okay.

  2. One thing we do to keep down the amount of stuff, is that we don’t buy our boys presents for holidays. This will probably change as they get older, but right now, the aunts/uncles and grandparents are buying them so much that we just don’t need to get them anything. Also, when relatives ask what the boys want, I only give them 2-3 ideas. Some of them are so generous that they will buy everything on the list that I send :) It’s a great problem to have overly generous family, but yes, the deluge of stuff can be difficult to control. Our house is smallish (1150 square feet) so I don’t feel guilty about passing on toys and clothes as soon as we are done using them (or immediately if it doesn’t fit with our values or style – i.e. we were given shirts for the boys that had an ultimate fighting logo on it and we just put those right in the goodwill pile!)

  3. I have kind of given up in this area :( Being the only grandchildren for my husbands parents has led to complete craziness with gift buying for our boys- and I now just step back and adjust before and after the big days. About a month before Christmas and birthdays the boys and I go through their playroom and donate tons of toys to various charities around town. We then do the same the month after they receive gifts. It’s hard…. I wish they would exercise some sort of self control- but I remind myself that there are much worse things than having family members who want nothing more than to see your children happy! I am working hard to make the boys realize that money/presents don’t equal love- and judging from statements they make, I think they do understand that core point- and as long as that seems to shine through, I am just going with it :)

  4. I struggle with this too. We’re particular in the kind of toys we want the boys to have, as well as keeping clutter to a minimum so they can actually have space to enjoy their things. I rotate toys frequently so they only have a few out at a time. I also buy new toys when I think they need them, which makes birthday/Christmas more challenging for family! We usually ask for clothes/shoes. Yet I have accepted that I can’t control other people’s choices, and sometimes it’s good for the boys to experience and witness such abundant generosity. Like Sadia, we let them take their time. I think they spent two days opening their birthday gifts and half that time was playing with the gift bags. :o) We do continually “edit” their toy collection by passing on outgrown items and getting rid of stuff that doesn’t fit our values – i.e., noisy electronics. I wonder how this will evolve as they get older and potentially more attached to stuff.

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