Sunday, March 11, 2012

Take your home back, take control of the toys!

Are Little People and Legos stressing you out? How about Cars and Caillou? Right before Christmas last year I started thinking about the usual insurgence that happens to us, as parents, when a new round of Christmas gifts comes through and decided to take some preventative measures to avoid being totally overwhelmed. Until this time, we'd hung on to just about every toy received from the time of our oldest's birth. It was just getting to be too much. Here are some things we did to start taking our house back.
  1. Give the toys their own home; not your entire home. Our kids have always had the majority of their toys in our main living area. Now that they're old enough to play in their rooms or in the basement, the living room toy takeover could be eliminated. Toys were moved into their bedrooms and in another designated play area in our house - not the main living area. Doing this did a couple of things - created a peaceful atmosphere where we come together as a family. And, eliminated (most) of the, "he/she has my [name that toy, any toy]" issue.
  2. Limit each kid to one toy box or storage container for smaller toys (dolls, cars, accessories, etc). Get rid of larger toys that the kids no longer (or never did) play with. If they don't use it now, they probably aren't going to start. Pack and store the stuff if you have room (and younger kids) or donate it. 
  3. Get rid of the broken toys (headless, snapped in half, games with missing pieces, water damaged, etc.). Why would you save broken stuff? Why would I? I think every kid has broken things waiting to be fixed. The reality is, if they love it that much, you probably would have found a way to fix it already. Get rid of it. 
  4. Nix the junk. I found the majority of the stuff I was cleaning up on a regular basis was just junk - toys from kids' meals, scribbled on papers, old coloring books, books with tons of missing pages from their toddler know the junk I'm talking about. If you've only seen your kids dump it out of the toy box and never play with it, they probably won't miss it. Why save it? Recycle what you can, pitch the rest. 
  5. Rotate toys. This is one of the disaster prevention steps I still need to implement, but putting a group of toys in a bin (or bins) and storing them somewhere (then rotating them out every couple months or so) will make your kids feel like they have a fresh stash of new toys every so often. You can also plan a toy swap with other moms. A friend of mine hosted one last year and it was nice to get rid of some things our kids no longer played with in exchange for some new stuff (you know they always love their friends' toys more). 
  6. Negotiate with the grandparents. We all know that grandparents love to spoil. At some point, you may need to ask them to cut back or look into different gift-giving ideas. What about a zoo pass? Museum or pool pass? What about a donation to a savings account and one toy for each kid? Some of these things help you eliminate clutter while the grandparents are still doing their grandparenting thing.  
  7. Donate. Before each holiday and birthday, remind your kids of all the kids much less fortunate than them and ask for their help gathering toys to give to other kids. Ours like doing this and actually ask when we're going to do this next. It teaches them sacrifice, lovingkindness and to think about someone other than themselves. It also shows them that life isn't about earthly possessions - it's about our joy in Christ, and that's all. Whenever our kids lose or break a toy, it's a nice time to remind them that their "things" have no bearing on their happiness in life - only Christ does. 
Finally, and probably most importantly, teach your kids to care for their things (assuming they are old enough). Our oldest proved to me, around age 4, that she could clean her room completely without being asked. Therefore, "I can't" is no longer an excuse when she's asked to do so. Younger kids will need help, but if they are able, make them take care of their things. In our house, if you don't take care of it, it disappears. 

Does Christ teach us differently? I don't think so. He wants us to be good stewards of our time, money, gifts and possessions. Proverbs 14:1 also instructs us in this way, "The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." Even the mundane task of toy cleanup leaves us an opportunity to interject scripture - showing kids how even as little ones they can glorify God by taking care of what they have - with a happy heart for Him! It's more work, but more effective to insert the Word when a child doesn't want to clean his or her mess instead of just saying, "because I said so...that's why" I'm guilty a million times over for taking the easy route, but trying harder each day to look for opportunities to fill the mundane with scripture instead of taking the easy way out. After all, I better take care of what God gave me...this home and the hearts of our sweet little mess-makers. 

I'm no childrearing professional or a super organizer, by any means...but this is what I know so far. If you have more toy organization tips, please comment below! 

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