This post is not just a rant! It is part of a series about helping your child reach their potential while teaching them life skills AND maintaining your sanity as a parent.
DISCLAIMER: While reading this post you may get the impression that my monsters are spoiled. It’s okay. They are and it’s my fault.
I used to be one of those people who looked down on parents who let their kids leave toys all over the house. I used to think to myself, “My kids will never do that. Everything will be put away where it belongs. My house won’t be like that.” Oh boy was I wrong! There is no safe space in my house. None. Zero. Zilch.
I tried creating a special toy room. My oldest monsters had their own storage containers and everything was categorized by type of toy. It lasted a week, if that. They dumped out every single container. I couldn’t even open the door. You couldn’t even see the floor because it was covered with so many toys. The toys started to make their way to the rest of the house and for some reason, they always ended up on the steps. Who does that?! There are toys on the end table, the dining room table, kitchen island, the leaning bookshelves, t.v. stand, between the couch cushions, in the basket for the remote controls, in the pantry… ALL OVER THE HOUSE.
The toy room was cleaned out eventually and their toys were transitioned back to their rooms. I had this silly notion that I’d be able to keep a better eye on the organization of their toys if it was in their rooms. Wrong again! I don’t even know how long the cleanliness lasted this time. I’m sure it wasn’t long.
Here’s the thing, my oldest monsters KNOW how to put their toys away. They have done so at daycare ever since they were itty bitty. They CHOOSE not to put them away at home and I am not their maid. I know… If they didn’t have so much crap it wouldn’t be an issue. Remember that disclaimer? I’ve created this mess and now we are working on cleaning it up. We have to. Their messy rooms are driving me bat shit crazy and I can only take it for so long. I usually do a deep clean, a.k.a. throw away crap and donate things they don’t play with, every 3 months. But in the mean time, I cannot stand going in their rooms. I really don’t like going in my sons room. Why? Lego’s.
There are so many of them that it’s like trying to tip toe around a field of Lego land mines. Do you know how much it hurts when you step on a Lego? Imagine trying to walk across them. I’d rather do a fire walk than walk anywhere near Lego’s. But you know what? He knows where everything is. I’ve tried to clean his room and organize it so we can walk in there without puncturing our feet. The problem is that he freaks out when people touch his things. He has a routine and a specific place for this things. Disruptions throw him off track and into a meltdown. If you recall from Share the Love: 5 Ways to Show Your Child Love, he has ADHD and is on the Autism Spectrum. Routine is very important to him and that includes having his own safe space. So how do we meet his needs while ensuring he learns responsibility and how to take care of himself? Trust me, it’s a balancing act and sometimes I’m thrown off kilter. Here are some things we do and a few things we are working towards.
- Storage containers. I LOVE storage containers! The prettier they are the better. My monsters have the TROFAST storage set from IKEA. This set works well for us because the bins can be various sizes, they fit a lot of toys, and the top can be used to showcase their favorite items (like Lego’s that are completely put together or books). We also have the long containers that fit under their beds.
- Rotating toys. Part of the reason for the huge mess in their rooms is the quantity of crap. There’s no way they can play with every toy all the time and kids are always asking for the newest next best thing. One way to help with this is to rotate the toys. Some of the toys are placed in the tubs that go under the bed and some are in smaller containers that go in their closets (top shelf so they can’t get to them easily). We switch out the toys every few months and they act like they’ve found their long-lost friend. It’s new toys all over again!
- Take them to the grandparents. There’s nothing wrong with sharing the wealth! I mean, they probably contributed a good amount to the pile of toys anyway. Right? Take a few toys over to their house so the kids have something to keep them occupied while they are there.
- Donate. Donate. Donate. In case you couldn’t tell, my monsters have way too many toys. This is my fault. I would buy them something every time we went out. Not as a bribe to behave in the store but because I could and I wanted to. Needless to say, it has back fired tremendously. Why throw away a toy when it could go to someone else? Plus, teaching children to give to others is not a bad thing. There are numerous organizations you can donate to. A quick search for “donations” should return numerous local and national charities you can donate to. Another option would be to give to a homeless shelter or shelter for battered women and children. There are a lot of options. Choose one that speaks to you. I prefer to give local and shop local. We have also donated toys to daycare centers, churches, and local military bases. The same goes with clothes.
- Stop dealing in toys. This is a recent change for our house (last 6 months or so). Instead of buying toys all year-long, they get one toy for their birthday and one for Christmas. Other gifts include things they need (clothes, shoes, etc) or books.
- Opt for the experience. Toys come and go, give them something they will remember. We stopped having birthday parties. *Gasp* I found that kids don’t attend birthday parties like they did years ago. [Maybe it’s just me.] I hate seeing my monsters disappointed and hurt because no one shows up. I also don’t like spending money on a birthday party that no one attends. Instead, they get to choose an experience. We have gone to amusement parks, water parks, the movies, roller skating, bowling, and museums. The experience we choose depends on the weather and my budget.
What do you do to reduce the toy clutter? [Besides cleaning it all yourself.]