Monday, November 21, 2011

Toy Organization

Christmas is approaching, and with it always comes new toys and things that cause our house to become more cluttered.  I read a good idea online that a friend asked for only books, puzzles, and clothing for her twins' first birthdays.  I thought it was a smart and a great way to give "guidelines" for gift-givers.  I hate to put limits and restrictions on my family and those who want to bless my kids with a gift, but the categories of appreciated gifts seemed to be a good way to go about controlling the clutter.  As kids grow older, they do need different stimulation and things for learning.  However, I'm so tired of the kitschy, trendy materialistic toys that become junk in our house when the kids tire of them within a very short time.  The "junk toys" are the toys that just don't require any imagination from children.  The toys that have stood the test of time in our house are things that can be taken apart and rebuilt easily, (Legos, marble set), the play kitchen and play food (this even goes in spurts of unuse though), dress-up clothes (just starting to become an interest of my 2- and 4-year olds), art supplies, dolls, and household items like pillows, old paper towel rolls, and miscellaneous containers that they like to fill with their trinkets and carry around.  The cardboard box has seriously been a more exciting "toy" than the big fancy thing that came inside of it most of the time!  Even better are "experience" gifts such as tickets to shows, children's museums, or even movies or a day out with family members, and time together like making cookies with their cousins (an idea we plan to try with in-town family, allowing the kids to decorate cookies for each other).
This DVD/VHS collection was reduced by about 1/3

This past summer the clutter almost consumed us.  All my kids' birthdays are in the summer, so we definitely accumulate a lot throughout those months.  It wasn't like an episode of Hoarders, but it was driving me crazy just the same.  And we noticed the kids wouldn't even know where to begin to pick up their toys so I could vacuum.  They would just melt down (especially the 4-year old) and cry and lie on the floor and complain they were tired or had a tummyache... excuses that I really think were from being overwhelmed.  After a couple of big purges, one of which can be seen in the pile in our kitchen below, the kids actually had an easier time of helping pick up their stuff.
The pile for Goodwill- this was one of a few

Much of the stuff we gave away was stuff I had found at garage sales or even Goodwill (like the tool table in the back) and the car tracks, that my kids were seldom or never using.  Some things just weren't the "hit" I'd hoped they'd be, and I had to let those dreams of hours of happy peaceful occupied playing go.  What I got instead was frustration that the nail wasn't going into the fake wood piece well, or my son's chubby 3-year old fingers couldn't get the car track to open right.
We started a bin system (this was hubby's idea, and he has some good ones that he might even guest post about in the future) where each kid has two bins of their own and a shelf on our wall of bookshelves where they live.  He even labeled each kids' shelf.  Then we have other bins for sets of things like letters, or the marble set, Duplo blocks, and Potato Heads.  The "set bins" have lids but the kids' bins do not, so they can just quickly pick up all the miscellaneous stuff, put it on the shelf, and be done without worrying if a lid will fit on top or not.  The sets are supposed to be put away after playing with them, but that is a rare occurrence if it happens without parental involvement.  Legos take a up a huge area of hubby's basement office but the boys like to have a smaller bin or two of current creations and pieces upstairs.  Hubby also cleared a space on a bookshelf for them to "display" their Lego "kee-a-shuns" as the 4-year old calls them.

The kid shelves and books at kid eye level, Lego shelf behind my daughter's head

The toy set shelves on right
I wish these shelves could look like these, but we actually have stuff to store here.

Needless to say things don't stay clean for long.  We do "pickup night" twice a week at which time my goofy husband sings "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Week" to the kids (poor kids will have a negative reflex to Andy Williams the rest of their lives) and he leads the pick up night, usually after dinner and before any dessert (if there is one).  Then he will usually vacuum while I put kids to bed or take a very needed break from the long day.  He's a keeper, that's for sure.  His involvement came out of my own request for help, after many weeks (months?) of frustration and insanity in not having a good system and not having the time, energy, or know-how to get them to actually clean it.  At their young ages (2,4, and 6), they definitely need help doing it and staying focused, but I was trying to have them clean while I made dinner and just couldn't do both tasks.
So this has been working for a few months now, but I've noticed lately that things have been getting harder and harder to clean up, and I think the trinkets have been somehow accumulating again from all the Halloween festivities (school parties and such) and birthday parties, and just small things we get as rewards at times (like for filling up a sticker chart for putting on socks, shoes and coat all by oneself for a week).  Potty training is the next task happening around here so naturally we'll have a toy as a reward (I try to avoid the junk food but I'm sure a jellybean will be a reward here and there).  Also, with Christmas near, it's time for another round of decluttering.
Too bad it's a round of decluttering old toys instead of a round of slushy fruit drinks in sunny warm Florida (where I was last weekend with a friend).  Back to reality!
Happy purging and cleaning~

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