Remember the time before kids, when you could walk across the floor, in semi-darkness, and not risk standing on a piece of sharp plastic? You bring a cute little bundle home, and before you know it, your house becomes a magnet to every type of plastic and dangerous tiny bits and pieces that surely constitute a choking hazard.
Not only that, but because we need to keep an eye on them, younger kids play around us, causing the multi-coloured tide of dolls, crayons, dinosaurs and lego to gradually wash up on our desert island - formally known as 'our space'. Well, we can deal with that can't we? Just stick a toy box in the corner, and tidy away at bed-time. Oh, how naïve we are, if we think that ever-growing pile of toys is going to stay put in just a single box.
Within months we have a tsunami on our hands. Toys. Everywhere. Help. I'm drowning.
Something that many parents don't appreciate is that children actually find mess stressful. If they see chaos all around them, they can become overwhelmed and anxious, leading to a sensory overload - best avoided as far as I remember. No-one is born messy, but once this becomes their normal, children see nothing wrong with spreading their stuff all over the place. Trying to encourage a child to tidy the chaos up, usually at the end of the day, when they are at their most tired and grumpy is not a positive experience to say the least.
But look at their classrooms or pre-school rooms. How do just 1 teacher and 1 teaching assistant manage to get 10, 20, 30 kids to tidy up after themselves? Well, it comes down to learned behaviour. If there's order and a structure which makes it easy for the kids, they will put things away. It also helps that they can't get everything out in the first place.
If, like my clients this week, you find yourself drowning in a sea of chaos, toys, glitter and unwanted gifts here's what to do:
1. DECLUTTER AND CATEGORISE
. Bring every single toy in the house into one room. This includes all the broken bits or odds and ends which need to be reunited with the rest of the toy or game.
. Prepare by setting out empty boxes. Stick a post-it note on each box with the name of the category (such as dolls, soft toys, farm etc).
. Make sure that there is a box labelled Bits and Pieces. This is where you throw any bits that need to be reunited with their original toy/game. If, by the end of the process, you can't find anything to match the odds and ends to, they will have to go.
. Think about starting a Memory Box for treasured memories.
. Be very firm as you look at every single piece in turn. Ask yourself - Do the kids love it or do
they need it? If the answer to either of these questions is 'no', out it goes. If the answer to either question is 'yes', then add it to the box containing the relevant category.
. You can have a 'maybe' box, but try not to let too many things end up there. You're going to have to make a decision eventually.
. Work fast. There's a lot to get through and working at speed is known to aid decision making.
This is the fun bit. Now that everything has been decluttered and categorised, decide how you want to organise it. These are my tips:
. Buy some cubes such as these from Amazon.
My clients chose a mix of colours. Use 1 cube per category.
. Label each box with it's category (use an image of the category on a label for younger children).
. Put the boxes out of reach, either on shelves or in a cupboard. All your child has to do then is ask for a box to be handed down to them. When they have finished playing with the toys from that box, encourage them to help put the toys away. Once this is done, they can have another box down. If you decided to hand two boxes down at a time, that's fine because they can easily manage to put the toys back in the relevant category.
PLEASE BE VERY CAREFUL TO MAKE SURE THAT ANYTHING HEAVY IS KEPT WELL OUT OF REACH
They will quickly pick this system up. Believe it or not, they will soon learn to clear up after themselves and to value their toys. Out of sight out of mind applies here - when they get a new box down and see something they haven't played with for a while, it will be exciting all over again.
AND THE RESULT?
Well, my clients sitting room went from this to this in just one day! This gives them a lovely clear space to sit in after the little ones have gone to bed.
The boxes are now safely stored on shelves, where previously there was only clutter:
Don't forget to recycle toys and games whenever possible:
- Charity shops
- Play groups
- Friends (only the good stuff - don't land them with all of your unwanted clutter!)
- Council tip
And if you live in the Brighton area, call the wonderful Mo. She will come round with her car and for a very reasonable fee, will remove your cast-offs and take them wherever you want. She's amazing!! Phone 07452 991 782 or email firstname.lastname@example.org