facing reality: time to tackle the toys

I don’t know about you, but everyday is a struggle around here when it comes to the mess. Mess of laundry… dishes… clutter… TOYS. With kids 5, 3.5, and 21 months, toys have to be the worst by far, and, while I am trying desperately to teach my girls to clean up after themselves, it feels more like a daily battle than a healthy process. Most of the time, we end up in yelling, tears, and threats. 

“If you don’t pick up those (600) dolls, they are going… in the trash… to another child who doesn’t have any toys… on top of the refrigerator… in the basement…!!!” 

“You have 15 minutes to clean this room, and whatever is left on the floor is going away for a week!” 

And the list goes on. Crazy enough…we actually follow through with our threats, and they STILL don’t care!  They have “Clean Up Toys” on their chore charts. Guess which space is NEVER filled with a magnet? That one.

It seems simple enough, and I feel as though I have tried everything. I talked with them about it.  I have shown them how to do it and where everything belongs.  I have cleaned with them on a consistent basis.  I have tried to keep things simple and organized in the playroom.  {You can see a post about the playroom here.} 

The only thing I haven’t done, which I would like to do in the near future, is label each bin with pictures, like Abby, of Just a Girl and Her Blog, has done. {See that post here.}  A great and talented friend of mine can easily make them. {You can visit her Facebook page here.} I simply haven’t yet, b/c I can’t seem to commit to locations, contents, and some bins have endured more than others and need replaced. {We have these ones from Ikea.}

Here are a few snap shots of the “Battle Zone” and what it typically looks like through the day:

At first, I thought, “If I could just properly organize it all, it won’t be so bad, and it will stay where it needs to stay.  The girls will learn that everything has a place, and they’ll actually put it there!”

Reality was – I was always cleaning up myself and stashing things that were either too messy or dangerous in the few high places that we have in there.  It wasn’t how I had intended for an organized play/work space to function.

We had a really old bookcase in the basement.  It was left in the garage by the previous owners.  They had used it to house paint cans, oily stuff, etc.  It was a mess.  We cleaned it up as well as we could and moved it into the basement for the storage of shoes and random things.  Hubby wants to finish the basement in the near future, so we talked about trashing it.  I saw a glimmer of hope for it, though, and begged him to let me keep it.  He wasn’t fully on-board, but we sanded and painted it.  He reinforced some of the weaker spots along the bottom (since it’s basically 30-year-old plywood), and he moved it into the playroom for me.  

Here are a few shots of that:

This was never my original plan for this space {you can find that here in this post}, but money, time, and necessity kind of forced my hand.  Eventually, I’m sure that this room will evolve yet again, but for now, this was my only solution.  I picked up a few little bins at the Dollar Store and packed it up while the kids slept.  I was even able to create an “Eden-friendly” zone.  The girls loved it and were so delighted by it the following morning.

They’ve done a decent job of keeping things on the shelf, but it still looks like a tornado ripped through there for the majority of the day, and I am still going in every night to clean up and reorganize.  It’s just not working as well as I had hoped.

So, long story short, I have had it. It seems like I’m not alone either. I have read at least three posts in the past month from other bloggers regarding how toys have bogged them down, and not just them…their kids too! Their common solution: Get rid of it. Period.

My husband and I have talked about that option for years now. We even intended to carry out the:  “For every toy that comes in, one goes out” rule.  Honestly, it never happened consistently.  We simply have too much. The kids have too much. We know it, but yet we haven’t done anything about it. 

Here is why I believe that is happening:

1) Love.  You want your kids to have it all. You love them, and you are grateful for the ability to provide them with things that make them happy, make them smile, and honestly, the high you get when gifting them with something new and longed-for is hard to give up.

2) Guilt.  You know how much something cost. Either you or your friends or your family members dropped a pretty penny on x,y,z, and you see dollar signs when you consider donating it or throwing it away. You avoid it altogether, b/c, in a sense, you feel your hands are tied and you’re just stuck with the item until it breaks or your babes outgrow it. This is why we currently own 4 of those Disney riding/push toys that play delightfully obnoxious music.

3) Sentiment.  Grandpa and Grandma So-n-So bought that. And that. And that. And those too. As a matter of fact, they probably bought 85% of the stuff your children own. It’s hard when you attach a piece of someone you love to an object, isn’t it? “We can’t donate that book…Auntie wrote her a letter in it.” “We can’t throw away that doll. Yes, I know, its arm fell off two years ago, but Grammy brought it over for her 2nd birthday.” You feelin’ me?

4) Laziness / Procrastination. Guilty! It takes time, effort, and some serious willpower to clean out your kids’ toys. Most of the time, I don’t know where to start, I don’t want to complete it halfway, or I’m too tired to explain, rationalize and argue a toy out of the house. “But Mooommmm…I played with that yesterday!!!” (Yesterday being 32 months ago.)

5) Denial. “My kids don’t have that much, really. I mean two bins of baby dolls aren’t excessive. All of the play food fits well in that tub. Yes, a six year old could take a nap in it easily too, but that’s beside the point.”  The truth is: There.Is.Too.Much.

This morning, I read this post, “Fewer Things. More Peace.” by one of my favorite bloggers, Sarah Mae (she was a guest writer for another blog: BecomingMinimalist).  And like I had mentioned previously, it hit me that I have been reading a lot of these kinds of posts lately.  Many of us are feeling overwhelmed by the mess that seems to naturally overtake our homes.  I finally came to the firm decision that it’s time to take action.  I don’t know if we’ll get down to 20 toys, but I am certain that we can trim a great deal if we just set our minds to it and press through.  I may even start setting a timer once a week, taking the girls into the playroom or their bedrooms and saying, “Ok, we’re going to spend just ten minutes looking for five things that we don’t need anymore and that would make another child smile.”  Something like that…

A bonus find… Sarah Mae’s book, 31 Days to Clean – Having a Martha House the Mary Way is just $0.99 today!  I have read the Foreword and Intro and I am already excited to dig deeper into the book.  It just makes so much sense – to create a warm, inviting space, but I just need some practical direction from a fellow mom who’s “been there.”  You can find it by clicking the Amazon link below (aff. link). 

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