During my mother’s last visit, she asked if I knew how many Barbie dolls my daughter had.
“I don’t know, maybe ten?”
“Thirty-five. She has thirty-five Barbies,” she said in a tone I didn’t much appreciate. Before I could dispute her findings, she added: “I counted.”
Here’s the Problem
I did not buy my 5-year-old 35 Barbies. Most were gifts. Others were rescues from yard sales in an attempt to placate her while I hunted down vintage Pyrex. I figured we would reach our Barbie limit when they no longer fit in the storage box under Ava’s bed. Apparently that time had come and gone because when I went to check my mom’s math, I couldn’t dislodge the box. I pulled and pried until it finally broke loose—to the detriment of Mariposa’s left wing and the head of some token brunette.
Sitting there amongst an army of plastic bodies and tiny shoes, I took a good, hard look at Ava’s bedroom. It was a labyrinth of Littlest Petshops, a maze of Mattel. The worst offenders were the super-sized toys: a Disney Princess Castle, Barbie’s Vet Center, and a life-sized, mechanical pony—the Humvee of all toys. I barely noticed Ava when she walked in the room; she looked like tumbleweed in the Grand Canyon, tiny and insignificant.
“We need to get rid of some of these toys,” I explained. “At least the junky ones you don’t play with.”
“But I play with all of them!”
She’s not wrong. The beloved 6-inch strand of rainbow yarn decorates a new stuffed animal each week. Even the turkey crafted from a toilet paper roll repeatedly serves as the head judge for beauty pageants. The problem is that Ava considers everything to be precious. Her abacuses in three varying sizes. Her glitter-glue shell necklace from preschool. A strand of red beads she found in the Walmart parking lot. And to make matters worse, she forgets nothing.
“Mommy, where’s my feather?”
“You know, my favorite pink feather that I found on the floor at the grocery store by the apples while I was eating the cookie with the orange and black sprinkles?”
“Oh, that feather.”
The Solution (and a slight misstep)
A friend of mine whose home looks more West Elm than Elmo’s World shares her secret to clean living. While her boys are at school, she throws a bunch of toys into a box and puts it in the attic. If after one month her sons haven’t asked about any of the toys, she donates them.
I tried this last summer, but instead of donating, I attempted to sell Ava’s toys in our yard sale. Big mistake. Seeing her old toys again was like being reunited with a long-lost friend. Sweet memories flooded over her. Emotion overcame her. I didn’t think it was possible, but distance had made her heart grow fonder and she ended up loving those castaways even more. Nice job, Mom.
But it’s a new year. I’m older and wiser. I’m going to bite the rubber bullet and try my friend’s goodwill approach. I may not earn back a cent of my investment in the toy economy, but I will take some delight in knowing that her toys will find another child to love them and even more comfort in knowing they will clutter another woman’s home. After all, misery loves company.