The highlight of my day yesterday was putting my kids into the car and driving through the Goodwill drop off area. We rolled down the windows, turned up the radio and laughed like everything was normal in the world. Sadly everything is not normal in the world and it's beginning to feel heavy on my heart. I'm sad for the people who are sick, the people losing their jobs, the stores and small business that may never open again. I'm sad for the children who so quickly said good bye to their teachers and friends not knowing it might be their last time in their classrooms. How is everyone dealing with all this change?
I imagine all moms in America are feeling a sense of unease right now. The mental load just got a lot heavier. Last night California went on a stay at home order. That means we are only supposed to leave our house for essentials. So what are we doing? We are having virtual play dates, writing letters, making art, reading, writing and practicing math. We are also working on getting organized around the house.
Now that the kids are spending a lot of time at home is your house feeling more crowded and unorganized? You are not alone! With all this stuff we are doing at home my house is definitely feeling more cluttered than usual. So I've also made it a goal to use this time to get organized.
My kids are pack rats. They want to keep everything and they would if I let them. If they so much as find a rubber band that they were playing with in the trash there will be shock and confusion on their part as to how it got there. "Mommy, whaaaat is my rubber band doing in the trash can?!" Then they will reach in and pull it out, covered with wet coffee grounds and egg shells. Even boxes are a hot commodity in our house. Every Amazon box would be saved by my 3 year old if I let him. "Mommy I neeeed that box!!" Are your kids the same?
We live in a fairly small house. The kids toys are mostly in the living room, and our art space is in our kitchen. The moment you walk in our door you will know that kids live here. Our living room rug is the place where the kids spend most of their time playing.
Recently I've moved some of the more annoying toys to my kids bedrooms. I've found that they play with them less if they are in there. For example, the basket full of Hot Wheel tracks and cars that my son used to flip over and let cover the living room floor on a daily basis is now in his bedroom. It is not something he is ready to give up, but it was something that was driving the neat freak in me crazy.
Over the years I've gotten a little bit smarter about how we get rid of things. Occasionally I'll give them a brown paper bag and ask them to put any toys they no longer play with into it, then we take it to Goodwill to give to kids who don't have many toys. My 5 year old is pretty good at giving things away, but my 3 year old not so much. Sometimes your kids will surprise you. Last year my daughter told me she was okay with getting rid of all her barbies. I happily obliged her!
I highly recommend going through old toys when your kids are not around. Right now that probably means after they go to bed or early in the morning. You'll need to find a place to stash this stuff, somewhere where they won't see it. My husband and I refer to getting rid of things as "consolidating" in our house. My husband is a lot like my kids, and I have been known to consolidate his things in the past too.
So here is how I do it. I send old toys to purgatory in a room behind our garage, then if nobody asks about them for a while I give them away. Usually it's out of sight, out of mind. I literally keep this room under lock and key. The few times my kids have walked into this room by accident they have walked back out with hands full of stuff. Of course I never give away anything that is super meaningful to my kids without their okay first...but then again refer to the above rubber band, sometimes you have to make the call.
When it comes to toys, ask yourself these 3 important questions:
Do they play with it in an organized and thoughtful way, or does it constantly get dumped out and or left out and forgotten.
Does it stimulate creativity? Meaning do they play with it in more than one way?
Is it a learning tool? Do they actually enjoy this learning tool and/or are you taking the time to use it with them?
If you can answer yes to at least two of the above questions then keep it, if not then it might be time to consolidate.
I treat artwork very much the same. I keep all my daughter's art from school and home and stack it up in a pile in the art corner. Sometimes she will ask for it or go back to it, but usually it is forgotten. The best stuff gets pinned up on our big cork board gallery in our living room.
Every few weeks I go through the stack and consolidate it. If there is anything super meaningful, or anything that I love I will put her name and the date on the back and throw it in a big clear plastic art box. I keep an art box for each of my kids under their beds. I want this art box to last all the way to high school, so I'm very choosy about what I keep. There are apps you can download to keep track of all your kids artwork, if you have a hard time throwing things out you should check into one of these.
Strangely enough I've found that when I pare down the toys my kids start playing more nicely and creatively with each other. Getting rid of stuff always helps lighten the mental load for me too. How about you?