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About gratefulness, toys and the process of letting go.

When less is more, what else do you need?

Last year, I wrote about gratitude as our children’s best gift for Christmas.
This year, because I believe in the importance of this topic, I would like to deepen my thoughts about gratefulness, toys and the process of letting go.

It turns out, my oldest is not really the emphatic type, which is probably a characteristic of many kids of his age. I really need to explain emphaty to him very plainly, with images and stories because otherwise, he does not really pick it up.

Hoping this is just a phase, and probably a downside of living here in Switzerland (he’ll have his reality dose soon while we’ll be back in Verona, which is still a rich city and yet a normal one, with many poor people on the streets), I nonetheless thought about how I could be more efficient explaining gratefulness to the kids and guess what? the letter to Santa came to the rescue.

P asked for 4 gifts and B well, she’s still into the Frozen spiral and tried to get all the set: makeup, dress, shoes, jewels, stickers. A talking unicorn slipped into her list too.

I found it weird P asked for so much stuff as he never does. Then I realised they recently started to watch some cartoon on Disney Channel, where they broadcast a ridiculous time of commercials. Ta-dah. Mistery solved.
I read and discovered that Corporations spend billions (around 17) marketing for kids: they hire the best scientists in order to better locate the “want” button of their brains.

Scared already? Wait, because, on a more practical analysis, that means we are in competition with these huge numbers and powers while trying to
educate our kids to be grateful for what they have AND
teach them how to let go of things.

playing in ZH
Fun with the simple things, two legs and a fountain 🙂

Letting go may seem another topic but it isn’t really, or at least it is very closely related to gratefulness. And letting go is also something we can learn to practise together with our children.

Have you noticed that when kids have too many toys, they are much less able to concentrate?

I give you an example: 2 different playdates, our place.

In the first playdate, the kids played with ALL the toys accumulated during the years. Costumes included. They started to fight after probably 15 minutes and the rest of the time didn’t go well. They whined about who should have what and they were jumping from a toy to the other.

During the second playdate, I chose 2 toys for them to use. They complained for a few minutes (they wanted at least TV, which was very funny) and then I witnessed to a creativity bloom: they invented new games virtually out of nothing. They played more friendly, the cooperated more efficiently, for longer and without fight.

What do they say? 
Necessity is the mother of invention.

Tedium is the father?

playing jucker
Some silly time together with friends at Jucker Farm.

I believe it is necessary for children, and us too, to develop a sense of  attachment with the things we possess and move away a bit from that superficiality that often accompanies our relationship with the things we own.

I’ve recently started to understand the meaning of letting go, and how complicated it is to be able to put it into practice. Whether it’s all about things or emotions, it is hard to evolve back to a point where having less is having more. 

We, in a way, grow up believing the opposite, right? It’s all around us. Everything is marketable nowadays.
But if you think about it, having less makes us appreciate more what we have: so why not to select the best for us, what really gives us happiness, and start to let go of the truly superfluous things of our life so to fully enjoy a more mindful life?

Does that mean I shouldn’t buy the new shoes this Christmas? Of course, it doesn’t. A more mindful life doesn’t mean living like a monk. Or that my kids should play with a single wooden toy till they’re 15.

The truth lies in the middle, as always: we just try to move away from the extremisms here.

What we should practise is a more conscious buying, that helps us identifying our true needs better so not to waste things AND energies.

Because I like to learn this with my kids, and sometimes there is no other choice at home ahah, I imagined a few initial steps to do together:

  1. Explain your children how marketing is able to fool us. Teach them the beauty of not-so-commercial toys. Even better: let them choose “experience gifts”, like an experience instead of a material plaything.
    When you have a minute, have a look here at CCFC, a website dedicated to educating the public about the commercialism’s impact on kids.
  2. Work within a budget so that you can have a limit around buying. This works also well with the idea of having toys only on special occasions. Where is the fun of looking forward to something and how great it is (re)teaching us to build patience? Does not a long wait give us much happiness and appreciation?
  3. Try to apply some rule, by asking yourself what it is that you really need. For the children, it could be ‘One toy in-One toy out’. And, again, it doesn’t have only to be a toy. Ask also yourself what do you really need and what could you maybe donate. 
  4. Instead of throwing their toys away, try to use some imagination next time. Sincerely speaking, I use two methods here:
    – the Toy’s Story method, by asking them if there is a toy left alone for too long who would probably be happier in another home. The usual answer is NO but sometimes, it works and most of all, you help them build some compassion;
    – the throwaway method, because sometimes I just have to and there is no other way. There are plenty of schools, families, organisations who are absolutely happy to take on some toys.
  5. Lead by example by serving as a model for your children. (re)Learn with them that engage in retails therapy is not the path to happiness. We cannot expect to treasure a thousand things in life but we will hold dear what we truly appreciate.

Iris Apfel would laugh at me now but I’m convinced that less is more: more time, more money, more happiness, more gratitude. More space in your apartment too!
One day, I’ll show you my plan to organise our flat: I’m in desperate need of inspirations.

See you next Tuesday, in the meantime I wish you a very happy pre-Christmas time.

xo, Chiara

About the author
Hi, I’m Chiara, Italian mom living in Zürich and loving it. I like to write about coffee, how it is and how to pair it with, where to drink it and, the most important factor of all, with whom to enjoy it.


  1. “About gratefulness, toys and the process of letting go..”

    Ciao Chiara
    Ti leggo sempre con grande piacere, sorseggiando il mio caffè piano piano…
    Questo tuo articolo mi ha fatto riflettere molto. Sempre più persone, dopo aver raggiunto una certa età e qualche obiettivo, si rendono conto che l’accumulo di oggetti non è direttamente proporzionale all’aumento della felicità. Questa coscienza arriva generalmente soltanto dopo che l’indicibile ammasso di oggetti sia già avvenuto.
    Il mio auspicio? Spero vivamente che nell’accompagnare e nell’educare i nostri ragazzi, riusciremo a renderli sempre più attenti e forti, affinché loro possano direttamente accumulare felicità, gratitudine, compassione e generosità, senza dover prima passare dall’accumulo materiale.
    Grazie per questi tuoi spunti di riflessione, sono pane per lo spirito! Un affettuoso saluto, Mary

    1. Uno dei commenti più significativi del blog lasciato nel vuoto per settimane. Mary cara, devi scusarmi. Sto preparando una serie di post che spero ti piaceranno e che, ti prometto, non lascero’ nell’etere senza risposta come questo! Un abbraccio, Chiara

  2. Anche io in svizzera come te e italiana/svizzera, poco distante da zurigo.
    Belle riflessioni sul binomio giochi/bambini, anche i miei accumulano grazie a nonni, zii, amici. Per fortuna quando dico che voglio regalare qualche giocattolo perché non ci giocano più mi aiutano, si mettono in modalità “regaliamo a chi servono”. Abbiamo anche messo delle regole per natale, compleanni e altro. Natale possono fare lista di 5 regali, poi ne ricevono di solito non piu’ di 3..tra nonni, zii e genitori. Al compleanno ovvio ne ricevono a seconda degli amici invitati e io invito le mamme a non esagerare, essendo gemelli suggerisco anche di regalare un gioco per due. Nonostante questo la loro camera è piena, anche non comprando riceviamo da amici vecchi giochi con cui devo dire che giocano di piu’ che coi nuovi..proprio per dimostrare che tutti i commercial che vedono puntano solo alla soddisfazione temporanea, loro preferiscono farsi una partita a carte con la nonna o col papà.
    un saluto,

    1. Ciao Anna, grazie di esserti fermata a scrivere un tuo pensiero! Mi piace il suggerimento del massimo di regali da poter chiedere e complimenti per avere gia dei bambini cosi altruisti. Hai fatto bene ad insegnare loro da subito l’importanza di donare a chi ha meno di noi. Un caro saluto a te, Chiara

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