There are two areas in our house that can get the most “out of control” if we don't stay on top of them- and they are the playroom and the kids bedrooms. Kids (or at least mine) don't have a natural desire to put things away when they are done using them…. they just leave the toy, game, or puzzle on the floor where they were playing with it, and move on to the next thing. The other reason these rooms get out of control- is that kids are constantly growing out of clothes that no longer fit and toys that are no longer interesting to their age-level, and new stuff seems to come in all of the time. Holidays, birthdays, and other occasions are often accompanied by a big flow of new belongings that need to find a proper home. I have a few strategies that I use to tame these “beastly” areas:
A place for everything, and everything in its place……
I talked about this yesterday, that they key to battling clutter as to create a permanent home for all of your belongings. In the playroom I use plastic storage bins with lids (so that they can be stacked) to create “proper homes” for all kinds of categories of toys- I have bins for cars, trains, doll clothes, Barbie clothes, dress up jewelry, dress up clothes, legos, musical instrument (the toy ones), balls, and I also have a big bin here (and in each of the kids rooms) for what I call “Treasures”…. which means all of the little toys and trinkets that come from birthday party favor bags, and kids meals, and also serves as a general catch-all for items that don't belong in any of the other bins. These bins are labeled and they each have a home on a particular shelf or in a specific drawer so that when it comes time at the end of the day for an “all hands on deck playroom clean-up” (which translates to: “I don't care if you weren't the one who made the mess… we're all working together to clean it up”) the kids and I can pull out the bins and get the room restored to order.
Our kids share bedrooms, two to a room. Besides their beds, each child has a bookshelf of their own, with space for both books as well as canvas storage bins to hold things other than books. Over the last two years, each child has received their own desk and chair as a birthday gift. We love the desks for several reasons… at the end of the day when we have made the transition upstairs to start getting ready for bed, an older child who has not completed the day's homework can take it upstairs and work on it at their desks. Steve and I are near enough to lend a hand when needed and to double check that they are getting their homework done. Each of the desks has an attached hutch that creates plenty of storage for things that are special to them- their sports trophies, special collectibles from vacations, their piggy banks and collectible coins. Sometimes they will save a school project that was important to them and display it on top of the hutch. And we have taught the kids to respect each other's desks, and never play with or take something from a sibling's desk without permission. To keep the desks orderly, I created small sized storage bins out of shoeboxes that fit into the cubbies on the hutch. The boxes are labeled, and might contain anything from a rock collection, Pokemon cards, or silly bands.
With two kids sharing a room with two bookshelves, two desks, and two beds (two of the rooms use bunk beds), we wanted to find a way to store clothing without using more furniture in the room. We loved the built-out closets that you see in magazines, but not the custom-closet price tags. So Steve did some research and found easyclosets.com a website that walks you through measuring your closet and then helping you design what you would like online. You can decide how much hanging space you will need, how much shelving, whether or not you would like some drawers, and so on. If you decide to purchase the closet you designed, the prices are less than half of what they are for having one of those companies come to your house and do it for you. Easyclosets then cuts all of the pieces to the designed specification, and ships it to you in less than a week. It will take the better part of a Saturday afternoon for you to install them yourself- but the savings is huge. I figure that we spent about the same amount of money on the closets in each of the kids bedroom as we would have if we had purchased each child their own dresser… but it is so much nicer to not have more bedroom furniture taking up space in their bedroom!
Regularly go through the clothes and toys, shifting things down to the younger children, and donating what we no longer need or use
I feel that staying on top of this is the key to making sure that the constant stream of new things into your home doesn't bury you! I go through the kids clothes a few times a year- before back to school, right after Christmas, and again in late spring before the start of warm weather- weeding out jeans with holes, checking sizes of clothes and passing them down to the next child if they have been outgrown by the current owner. Items that are no longer in great shape or that don't fit anyone anymore are bagged up and delivered to Goodwill.
When it comes to toys, the process is a little more complicated…. because you can bet that as soon as I determine that a toy has been outgrown by every member of the family- some child is going to come looking for it. So when I pack up toys that I think are time to “retire”, I usually store them in our basement for a few months, just to make sure that once it is gone, no one is going to miss it. When it comes time to dispose of the toys, it can be difficult to find a good home for them. Most donation centers do not accept used toys. If it is something in great shape that I can pass along to another Mom with younger children, I try to do that first…. but if I can't find a home for it, then it gets donated to a local organization that has a clean-up day each spring for our town followed by a huge rummage sale. The organization uses the proceeds from that rummage sale to fund field trips and special events at our local schools, so the money goes right back into the community.
Some people use a principle that every time a new toy comes in, an old toy needs to go out. But for me, I can't weed out old toys that often (six birthdays plus holidays)…. and many people partner with their children to clean out the old toys. But I would never get consensus with six kids that it is time to get rid of anything… and the accumulation of belongings would just bury us…. so this is something I tackle without my kids. They are well aware that items “move on”, but they just aren't a part of the decision-mkaing process. I think everyone needs to find an approach that works for them and for their family.