Last weekend I filled up three bags with broken dolls, missing pieces to the Swan Palace, destroyed board games, and choking hazards from my kid's room. I didn't even bother to hide what I was doing as my kids are still distracted by Christmas and Hanukkah presents. Plus, I carefully chose toys that were broken beyond repair for the trash bag, and toys that haven't seen the light of day in six months or more for the Goodwill bag. Alas, I was foiled as I tried to load up the trunk of the car.
My 4-year-old grabbed a bag and peered inside. "But I want this!" she cried at a beaten up Melissa and Doug wood cut doll that had long since lost her dress-up clothes. I could have indulged the kid, but instead I ran for it and locked up the trunk tight before she could get her paws on the puppet show set she abandoned two years ago.
My daughter is a hoarder.
No, there aren't rats in the walls, but she does have anywhere between three to thirteen books in her bed at any given moment. She collects stickers like it's 1984, and she'll empty her dress-up drawer and toy box in five seconds flat in order to be surrounded by her play things. Her "stuff" makes her happy, and it makes me wonder if we have therapy bills in our future.
Sound like your kid? Fear not, says the LA Times in an article defending this seemingly obsessive behavior as just messy. In fact, around age 2, children start collecting things as a part of their development. Learning about "mine" is expressed through the acquiring of stuff and can continue into the teen years.
Of course, if your child has a serious freak-out when you try to de-clutter, then you could have a problem. As one psychology professor explains it, it's not about how much stuff a child has, but that child's relationship to the stuff. For example:
"With kids who truly do have a hoarding complex, their anthropomorphizing of objects is intense," he said. Example? "One kid we saw spilled Kool-Aid on the sidewalk and was upset because the Kool-Aid was being hurt."
So if you can safely clear out a pathway to your child without a full-blown tantrum, and he's not buried under stacks of magazines, you've got a normal kid. And a messy room that will continue to drive you nuts until he leaves home. Congratulations!
Is your toddler a hoarder?
Image via Rubber Maid Products/Flickr