Easy- we buy it for them. So take a clue from me and stop. According to my mother, Miss O has more toys at this point and time than all of my brothers and sisters and I had combined. I had a perfectly happy childhood, and obviously survived without 12 Cabbage Patch Kids. But holy, moly- now it seems like everything is small and CHEAP and therefore justifiable! That's what gets ya! Remember when I had a CTJ with myself about buying Olivia stuff at the check-out. Do you know what she would always get?? Littlest Pet Shops- real, actual, factual toys! At the check-out! Not gum or a sucker- TOYS. Multiple that by every time I go to Target and you get this eventually: oh, wait... and this!
It can pile up fast. So you must be diligent and do a clean sweep once or twice a month. In my toy clean sweep, I:
- Throw away all Kids Meal toys. In 7 years of doing this I have never had anyone come back crying asking where their Wendy's zip-line light up top went. THEY WILL NEVER MISS 'EM!
- Check to make sure nothing is broken. If GI Joe is missing an arm and you can't find it, or after your plastic surgery attempt, you can't fix him- he's gotta go.
- Check for sets. If you can't find the other purple sparkly dress-up pump, then the lone shoe needs to go.
- Notice if it has been touched. If you repeated notice that the Etch-A-Sketch hasn't moved from its place on the shelf and is collecting dust, it needs to move on.
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOMEIf I had a tattoo, this is what it would say in fancy Old English letters, across my stomach, TuPac style: "A place for everything, and everything in its place." You will never be able to keep a tidy, organized house, and pick it up at a moment's notice if everything, and I mean every paperclip, every bobby-pin, every Barbie shoe doesn't have a home. And it doesn't have to be a fancy place by any means: An old empty diaper wipe box is a mansion for crayons.
The first thing you have to do to tackle the toy insanity is take inventory. Pure and simple. You need to know what you are dealing with. You need to go room by room and throw away anything that is broken first. Then decide what you want to keep and what can be saved for younger siblings and what should be donated.
For The Items You Want To Keep:
1. Think like a toy store and sort those toys into logical, simple categories. (Barbies, GI Joes, blocks, puzzles, etc..)
2. Look at how and where the toys are played with. For example, Morgan likes to play out behind the couch, so it made sense to keep all of her toys go in a large basket under one of the side tables in the living room. We only play with Play-Doh in the kitchen, so it needed to be stored in a container that is easy for the kids to move from the closet to the kitchen table and back on their own. (Its all down there in the yellow bucket.)
3. Decide how and where you want to store each category. There are plastic bins and drawers, canvas buckets (my favorite), I even store Morgan's board books in a big metal beverage tub that sits on the floor in their room. Anything can be used, as long as it has enough space for what you have and you keep it sorted. Olivia keeps all of her toys in her room, and the younger kids' toys are kept in the closet in their hallway that I converted into Toy Central. Look around your house and see if there is any space you may have over looked- or could be converted to help you store things more efficiently.
Seriously. You just need a system that accommodates what you own and it needs to be simple enough that you and your kids can remember where each thing goes. And EVERYTHING must have a HOME! This whole process could take you a weekend, or it could take you weeks, depending on the amount of stuff you have and the time frame to do it in. And as you get into it, if you feel totally overwhelmed, take a minute and really think about cutting down the amount of toys you have out at any given time. If you are saving toys for younger siblings, then store them in boxes or bins and put them out of sight, so they aren't wondering around your house from room to room. Think about volume: Does Suzie really need 20 stuffed animals? Does Freddy really need 3 race car tracks? I had to be honest with myself and realize that there isn't enough room in this house for the amount of toys we had. I had to come to grips with the fact that this house is NOT getting bigger, so the amount of stuff we owned had to get smaller. It was hard. But it had to be done. And in the end, it has helped me de-stress, therefore making a calmer home for my kids in return. It is also much easier for your kids when it comes time for them to clean up (because remember- you are only supervising from now on). What would you rather pick up: 10 Barbies and Kens with all of their clothes and shoes and accessories, or 3?
4. Be the Toy Realtor and buy them new homes! You should have your list of what you need when you go to the store, but keep your eyes open: You might even find other ways to store things that you hadn't thought of. (I actually kept all of Olivia's stuffed animals in a large flexible laundry basket for years!) But be efficient. Make sure you leave the store with everything that you need. Its all or nothing.Your goal is to never have to help clean up again.
Please note: DO NOT CLEAN OUT THE TOYS WITH YOUR CHILD SITTING RIGHT THERE. Its a nightmare. I'll save you the misery. Wait until they are at school or at Gradma's and then crank up some tunes and get to sortin'!
Oh! And Don't Forget These:
Outdoor game equipment like bats and gloves, soccer balls and even bubble-blowing stuff and side-walk chalk, can all stored in a huge plastic bin with a lid in the back yard or garage. Just made sure everything is returned to the bucket at the end of play time so the elements don't take their toll on the toys.
Books! Our books are all kept on one big shelf in the hall closet. Olivia's chapter books are kept in her room in her closet to keep them out of little one's hands. Morgan's board books are all kept in the tub in her room. These three categories keep things simple, and again, easy for the kids to know what goes where. Designate a place for library books to go (on a kitchen counter, on top of your desk), so that they don't go missing mixed in with the ones you own.
DVDs and Video Games. OMG. We have easily over 100 movies, and when I couldn't take not being able to find any of them in the right boxes I
TOMORROW: Clothes and Laundry