Several weeks ago I was having one of those miracle kind of Saturday mornings. The time was 9:30 am and I was still warm in cozy, undisturbed in my bed. My twin baby girls were sleeping like angels and my 5 year son hadn’t busted in the door at 6:00am like every other morning. The house was quiet. Maybe it was a little too quiet. So I rolled out of bed to head to the kitchen for my morning iced coffee and to start making the normal BIG Saturday morning breakfast for the whole tribe.
As I passed by the closed door to my sons room, I could see his bedroom light peeking through the cracks letting me know he was awake. I opened the door just slightly to check in on him when I noticed that the door was resisting me a little. So I pushed a little harder and a little harder. Finally the door broke free of it’s blockade and the momentum flung me into a room so full of stuff that I could barely see the carpet. (This is the real life picture below).
During my glorious morning of sleeping in, my son had literally destroyed his room. It was JUST. TOO. MUCH for me! I knew it was too much for him!
I don’t know about you, but I daily fight a battle in my adult life with chronic disorganization. Slowly but surely, over the last 5 years, I’ve been winning that battle in my OWN spaces. But this- this was the last frontier and the straw that broke the plastic dinosaurs back.
I was done.
- Done with fighting my 5 year old to clean up after himself.
- Done with trying to find the perfect organization solution for all the toys we’re
hoardingstoring in his room.
- Done with picking up after him myself because it’s just faster.
The Sad Truth…
And you know what the sad truth is? I did this to myself!
As a mom, I am the gate keeper of my home. I allow these things to come in without ever sending anything out!
And you know what else?! I’m not gonna lie, 30% of them are MY impulse buys from Target. (What is it about Target where you get this happy feeling in the land of red and white and you just want to shower your kids with all the amazing toys they want?)
The rest are toys from Santa, grandparents, aunts, toy treasure chests, festivals, fairs, freebies, cereal boxes, parties and so on!
But this was it. Lucky for me my son had a full day of parties to attend and so kicked my husband and son out of the house for 4 hours. When that car pulled out of the driveway I stormed into his room with a trash bag in each hand. One for trash, one for donations!
I attacked that room and if it wasn’t a toy he played with regularly, it got donated. If it was broken, it went to the trash. I mean I got rid of some serious stuff including big toys like his Monster’s Inc factory and figures as well as his Jake & The Neverland Pirate ships and figures.
What’s more, later I stopped to take a potty break and I spotted it. From my peripheral vision I noticed the bucket of bathtub toys sitting there in the corner. One more thing to wash, clean or disinfect that he doesn’t even play with anymore! GONE!
If he had been home when I was doing this, there would have been tears and major meltdowns.
What about you?
Do you ever get that point in life where it seems like your whole house is in total chaos? You clean something and then one of your people come along and undo all your hard work? Or you struggle, bribe and fight to get your kids to clean up their rooms or bathrooms? It’s exhausting sometimes!
But here’s the real question: Is the problem that our kids have too much stuff or is that they have access to to much stuff?
When the car rolled back in the driveway I braced myself for the impending toy loss melt down.
But do you know what happened? He went into his pristine clean room and asked for his super hero box and he played quietly and contently with that for about an hour. Then we boxed those up, put them on the shelf and got the Lego’s out.
It’s been over a month and he hasn’t even noticed that all the Jake ships are gone or that his Monster Inc factory is missing. Even though I let him watch Monster’s Inc the next day (I was sweating after I put it on the TV because I figured he’d go looking for the set and was kicking myself for not thinking ahead). But he just played with the toys he likes and didn’t say a word. That confirmed what I already believed. My son had way more toys than he needed.
For the past few years I’ve been fighting tooth and nail to figure out a system to help my son help himself with his stuff organization and two of the keys I finally figured out after many experiments.
1.He needs less stuff.
2. Put the stuff too high for him to reach so that he has to ask for help when he wants to play with it.
3. Limit the flow…
- As we go into the holiday season, you may be thinking about all the “blessings” your child is about to receive from friends and family. If you have time before the busy season begins, go ahead and make room for the new items your child will get by giving old items a new home.
- In fact, I headed this off with my family this year by asking them to limit their gifts to no more than 5 (of any size) to my son.
4) Make it easy for him to put away himself with labels and designated spots.
Here’s a system you can use to help your own child bring order to a room of chaos.
1.Get your kids OUT OF THE HOUSE.
2. Figure out which toys are played with most.
3. If you have children under the age of 3, consider dividing all the favorite toys into “daily” or “weekly” containers where your child gets a new container of toys each day or week to play with and you rotate them. This way it’s like they are getting new toys on a regular basis.
4. If you have children older than age of 4 don’t let them have a giant toy box! Instead try buying Hefty 6.5 Quart plastic lidded containers like the ones I have. Theme each one out by attaching a color page, sticker or magazine cut out of who’s in the box. Minimize the toys down to what they actually enjoy playing with most and on a regular basis.
In our house we have:
- One Super Hero Imaginex Toys Box
- One Transformers Box
- One Ninja Turtle Box
- One Box for puzzles (Each puzzle sorted into sandwich size baggies)
- 2.5 Lego Boxes (Most are from Cressel’s childhood).
- One box of Cressel’s old Micro Machines/ Hot Wheels.
5. Here is the key to making this toy system work- Put these containers in a spot that is too high for your child to reach (even with a chair- I’m talking they would need a grappling hook and rope to get this stuff) and offer a new box to play with each day, every few days or once a week. It’s really up to you, your system and how content your child is with the box. My son has a high shelf in his closet and no chair he owns can reach that high up.
Okay, now before anybody freaks out about why I don’t just teach my kid to clean up after himself and do some kind of Montessori Method of room organization it’s because I struggle with ADD symptoms and I’m easily overwhelmed with too much stuff in my environment. This solves my problem FAST. And frankly it controls the environment where he knows that the only way he can access more stuff is to clean up. So it actually works for me and I like this system!
6. Don’t Try to Organize Lego’s- I got the bright idea once that I was going to divide up all my son’s Lego’s by color into divided containers. What a waste of time! I don’t know what I was thinking! There was no way that my, non-OCD kid was going to keep his color coded after day 1. So this time I just got smart because he has so many from his dad’s childhood.
- I bought divided containers made for Adjustable Ornament Case Storage bin from Target that are $7.99.
- These slide right under his bed and because they are shallow, they make it easy for him to find the size and shape Lego’s he is looking for while he builds.
7. GET THE TRASHED TOYS AND DONATIONS OUT OF THE HOUSE BEFORE YOUR KIDS SEE THEM! They will freak out if they SEE them. They will dig the toys back out of the bags when you aren’t looking. Don’t do the cleanse twice.
8. Organize clothing in labeled drawers like these plastic drawer towers with dry erase markers!
9. Put all their shoes in an easy to toss bin so they can put them away easy and find the matches easy when it’s time to get dressed.
This simple act of bringing order to the toys your child owns and limiting their access to those toys can make a huge difference.
10. Consider printing this fabulously Free Cleaning Checklist for Kid’s Room from House Wife How To’s to get your kids room clean each week! I love love love her checklists by the way!
The BIG WIN:
My son also doesn’t get overwhelmed anymore when it’s time to clean his room because all he has to clean up is one small box instead of a floor full of toys.
I hope that you have found this post a simple solution to your own toy organization needs. I you are overwhelmed with the number of toys your children have, you can make a huge difference. Here at Thrifty Little Mom I’m dedicated to helping other overwhelmed moms take back control of their chronically disorganized spaces. It’s hard but with the right strategies we can do this! I’d love for you to join me in a 21 day Declutter your past challenge!! You can sign up to join for free in the opt-in in form on this page! One week at a time, we’ll transform the storage spaces of your home together!
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Kim Anderson is the organized chaos loving author behind the Thrifty Little Mom Blog. She helps other people who thrive in organized chaos to stress less, remember more and feel in control of their time, money, and home. Kim is the author of: Live, Save, Spend, Repeat: The Life You Want with the Money You Have. She’s been featured on Time.com, Money.com, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Day, and more!