Dear Care and Feeding: My Hoarder Mom Keeps Filling Our House with More Plastic Toys. Enough is Enough.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I have a 2-year-old daughter who is my mother’s first granddaughter and is completely doted on by her. My mom is genuinely a wonderful grandmother, and since my daughter’s birth our relationship has been the best it’s ever been. But whenever she comes over to babysit (which we are truly appreciative of!), she always brings several new toys for my daughter and random household items for me, which drives me crazy.

My mother has always been a compulsive shopper. As a child, I was reluctant to have friends over because our house had so much stuff in it. I don’t think it ever crossed the line into hoarding, but it wasn’t a great situation. Now it bothers me from an environmental perspective, and also because I’m worried about my daughter being spoiled by the constant stream of toys. I really, really wish my mother would just put the hundreds of dollars she spends every month into a college fund for my daughter, or even just save it for herself, but I’ve suggested this and she won’t. We’ve also had many talks about dialing it back, and she will for a while and then start up again.

I guess my question is whether I should keep hammering this, or just take the free childcare and shut up about the literal things that come with it. My dad thinks I should get over it and throw the stuff away or take it to the thrift store, but I don’t want to be a storage facility until I have time to deal with the pileup of crap she brings over. I truly am grateful for her help. But I’m unsure of how firm to be with this boundary since, besides this one issue, we’ve been getting along so well, and my daughter adores her grandma.

—Too Much Stuff

Dear TMS,

The single most annoying thing about other people is that we can’t make them change, no matter how much we want to or how hard we try. Luckily, however, we can change our own behavior simply by deciding to and then making the effort to follow through. (And sometimes, as a bonus, doing things differently even eventually helps us to feel differently.)

There are three pieces of this problem to solve. The first is how to deal with your mother, which you can do by accepting that she is not going to stop spending her money on these items. Your relationship with her is otherwise “the best it’s ever been”—take a moment to appreciate how great that is—and she and your daughter are crazy about each other.
Concentrate on those two things and not on the one that’s infuriating you. When she brings over yet another batch of unwanted gifts, say, “Thanks, Mom,” and let that be the end of it.

The second is how to deal with your own feelings about this. I hope it will help at least a little to recognize that at least some, and possibly most, of your unhappiness about this has to do with your own childhood, living in what felt like a storage facility. The miseries of our childhoods, whatever they happen to have been, cannot be undone. But sometimes we can put them to rest if we understand the way they are affecting us in the present and remember that we have control over our own lives. Your mother cannot fill your house with stuff unless you allow her to. You may not be able to stop her from giving, but you don’t have to keep what she gives.

If you live in a part of the U.S. served by Second Chance Toys, they will make sure plastic toys stay out of landfills and are put in the hands of children who will appreciate them. Children’s hospitals are always in need of new, unopened toys. Family shelters, domestic violence shelters, and other homeless shelters will be grateful for donations of both toys and household items. If all else fails—as your father has pointed out—there’s always Goodwill. (Please don’t take Dad’s alternative advice to throw this stuff away!)

Once you’ve identified where to bring your donations, schedule a regular drop-off time. Instead of being resentful about that ever-growing pile of stuff while you wait until you can find time to deal with it, make these donation drop-offs a regular part of your life.

This brings me directly to my third piece of advice: Include your daughter in this process. The one exception to the rule that we can’t change other people is in the rearing of our own children. As parents, we have the power and responsibility to shape how our children behave—and also how they feel about the world around them and what they think. If you begin to teach your daughter now about sharing one’s abundance with those who have less, it’s going to become a part of who she is. If donating toys to children who need them is as much a part of her life as trips to the public library or the playground, she may grow up to be the sort of person who makes a difference in the world. And who knows? She might even teach your mother a thing or two. Just as you may gently be able to, if Mom asks about the whereabouts of last week’s bounty. “We have so much already, Mom. I thought I’d help out some people who could really use it.” But please say this with kindness. My guess is that your mother, like most of us, is doing the best she can.

from Human Interest 

Dear Care and Feeding: My Hoarder Mom Keeps Filling Our House with More Plastic Toys. Enough is Enough. Dear Care and Feeding: My Hoarder Mom Keeps Filling Our House with More Plastic Toys. Enough is Enough. Reviewed by streakoggi on November 03, 2019 Rating: 5

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