When kids arrive, stuff starts to seep into your house. They arrive with car seats, pacifiers, stuffed animals (omg, the stuffed animals!) train sets, collections of the newest toy craze, the list goes on and on. And then birthday parties, Build-A-Bear sales and Holiday gifts add to the piles. Without a strategy to manage this onslaught parents can quickly become overwhelmed.
Here are my 7 top tips to keep the kid stuff in line:
1. Create adequate storage for a reasonable amount of items. Focus on maximizing closet, playroom, and bedroom storage, utilizing bookshelves, closet shelving, toy cubbies, etc. Stay away from large toy boxes/large totes as these become black holes to the Island of Misfit Toys. Hint: Most kids do better with fewer toys and only one type out at a time.
2. Decide a maximum load for your storage. For instance, “the lid must close”, “the books must be standing on end” or “the items on the shelves must be visible” or “we have to be able to close the closet door”. Sorting Like with Like makes this easier to accomplish.
3. You must stay committed. Once the storage hits the max load, the family must stay committed to keeping the volume of toys at that level by removing the old to accommodate the new. i.e.: 1 new toy = 1 old toy of similar volume has to go.
4. Request experiences rather than gifts. I know this is HARD to do and it’s hard to keep well-meaning friends and relatives in line. Therefore, you’ll have to be the CEO of Inventory Control at your home. Keep encouraging well-meaning grandparents toward memories, not stuff. If it does sneak in and you can’t return it for cash, add it into the current process for dealing with toys by using, then purging. Do not let guilt associated with gifts prevent you from managing your inventory.
5. Purge and recycle often. Trash broken toys (no one wants them) and donate gently used items. Always have a donate box or bin easily accessible and ready to go when filled. I have always used Goodwill – my kids were trained to say “here’s something for the Goodwill bag”. I probably made a run or two a month. As a professional organizer, my volume of Goodwill trips has certainly increased, but thank goodness the stuff is no longer mine. 😊 Note: Be careful, I think the idea of setting toys aside elsewhere to bring back into rotation has merit, but this is this could be an easy trap...these outlying toys are often forgotten and can quickly become out of control.
6. Let kids decide. When I work with families, I ask to work separately with children even as young as 3 or 4. They are often willing to purge more easily than Mom and Dad. They usually don’t have an emotional attachment to many items and don’t feel the guilt associated with who purchased the item and how much it cost. They just know they don’t play with it and are often ready to let it go.
7. Discipline yourself to implement a 7-minute bedtime clean up routine. With all hands on deck, usually the day’s toys can be put away w/in that time frame. If toys are sorted Like with Like and toy play is limited to one or two toy types at a time, putting things away is easy. For small children, clean up songs make this a fun exercise. If you don’t have a family clean up song, there are many on YouTube. Here’s the standard Barney clean up song to get you started: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whrNJH8S-Ys
So that’s it. Once you and your family agree to limits, the job becomes easy. It’s just like the garbage, when the can becomes full, you empty it. If you set the same limits on your house – when your house becomes full, you empty it, then your new clutter-free life with kids can begin.