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Teach Your Children Well - toys and stuff

Dear Jo the Clutterbuster:

At last, the holiday hoopla is over. Decorations are down and stored; furniture back to normal. But now, I am overwhelmed by the “gift detritus.” Every room in the house is overflowing with kid related stuff – old stuff, new stuff, packaging. There just doesn’t seem to be enough space for everything. Can you help us manage this chaos?


Toys Are Us

Dear Toys:

Two major reasons for kids clutter chaos are:

  • too much stuff
  • too little appropriate storage

If you did not have a “Giving Week” before the holidays (See Insights: Holiday Hints – Part 1), you have another opportunity to conduct one now. To better organize your children’s toys and stuff, you will first need to reduce how much they have to manage.

Teach Giving

Arrange for several blocks of time in which you and your offspring will sort through their toys, books, and other possessions. (Clothing will be tackled in the next part of this article.) Label several boxes: Broken, Donate, Memorabilia and place them in the room wherever you are working. Young persons tend to spread out throughout the home so you will need to have more than one “Giving Day.” Encourage them to donate or discard those items they no longer love, need, play with, use, are broken, etc.

Toys that are hard to let go of but may not be played with may be memorabilia (at least for now.) Set them aside for storing. Refer to upcoming Insights: Managing Memorabilia for ways to manage them.

When you have completed this first step, review the contents of the Donate box. Check that everything is in good working order, clean and useful. Discard the broken or not useable items.

Locate a shelter, day care, or non-profit that may need the items. Take your children with you when you make the donation. They could also hold a yard sale and donate the earnings. Each of these experiences teach “giving.”

Conquering Kids clutter is an ongoing process. Once you have taught “Giving”, you will be ready to teach “Organizing.”

Teach Organizing

When a baby is young, it is easy to provide a place for their things – one shelf, one small bed, one small dresser. You are responsible for putting their things away and discarding no longer useable items. However, children not only outgrow their clothing, their beds and their dressers, they also outgrow their storage systems.

For very young children, it is important to create user-friendly storage systems that make it easy to locate a toy and to put that toy away. Deep toy chests or chests of drawers make finding toys, especially small ones, very frustrating.

Pre schools and day care centers are often models of organization.

There is a designated shelf and or crate for each category of toys i.e. books, dolls, toys, games, creative materials. Hooks hold back packs, aprons, coats. Each storage space is labeled with both a picture and written word. Often small toys are stored in clear plastic shoe boxes. Everything is visible. And, don’t forget, there are specific times for pick up and put away.

When children enter the world of electronics, games, puzzles, books, trophies, creative constructions, sports gear, you need to review their storage systems with them. Ask what changes they would make in the space. It is their room and their stuff and they are responsible for its maintenance. Therefore, include their ideas in the re-design. You may need to purchase additional (larger) furniture and different kinds of storage units to meet their needs.

Older children often possess items they wish to display as well as use. Shelves for display can be installed around the circumference of the room to house trophy’s collections, plaques, “collections.”

A cupboard or armoire with adjustable shelves can house the electronics, puzzles, games, etc. The cables, cords, chargers should be labeled. Labeling makes it easier to determine which items are still in use or which should be discarded when the product is discarded.

Sports gear can be hung on hooks or stored in baskets or plastic bins and labeled. Out of season gear should be moved to the garage or basement. For extra smelly gear, you may want to have a staging area in the garage or basement for airing out the gear and its storage.

For school projects, your student may need a desk/work surface with at least one file drawer for homework and important papers. Provide shelves for notebooks and pictures. That same surface may also provide a space for creative projects. Stock the desk with materials for homework, writing, printing (if they have a computer) or creating. Be sure there is a large trash can nearby.

Teach Managing

To help manage “kid cutter” throughout the house, identify “toy free” space (s) in your home. You can establish a daily or weekly pick up time. Everyone gets a laundry basket to collect up their possessions. They are then returned to their “proper home.”

To help manage possessions, establish quarterly “Giving Days” or leave a box for ‘broken or incomplete’ toys and a box for ‘toys to donate’ in their bedroom closet. They can place things they no longer want or use on an on-going basis.

For games, cameras, and other electronics, place the doo-dads and instructions and warranties in a clear ziplock bag and label. If they keep electronic items in their room, they are responsible for managing the “stuff” that goes with them.

To reduce the amount of items coming into the house, talk with family members about alternatives to birthday and holiday gifts. (See Insights: Have the No Gifts Talk)

Teaching your family to give, organize and manage their possessions will prepare them for life on their own..