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Kids’ Toys – Throw Them All Away?

This is a re-write/edited version of a previous post.

I was watching a conversation happen on someone else’s social media account that was started with a seemingly simple question: “How can I best organize my kids’ toys?” I rarely respond to these because these aren’t the best spaces to have such opposite-of-simple questions. I’ve written recently about why I prefer working side-by-side with my clients and here is another reason: every family is different.

My answer to the toy question can only come after you answer more questions about the size of your home, the priorities of your parenting, and the personalities of your children, just to name a few.

What do I want to tell most people who ask this question? What one mass answer would I give? Throw away all the toys.

Okay, not really. But it would certainly benefit your family if your children had less toys. And depending on how many your house currently has, a lot less toys. They might even be telling you that in not as many words.

Do your kids melt-down a lot at your home? Do they constantly say that they are bored? Are there boxes of toys that haven’t seen the light of day in months or years? This could be your children saying, “there is too much stuff in here!”

I’m not the expert on why that happens but I can give you a chunk of questions to help you decide which of the toys in the mountain can leave.

Children’s toys can multiply so quickly. Between birthdays, holidays, and the generosity of family and friends, a room in your home can go from a mild mannered play room to an all out toy store… just not as organized. Below are 10 questions to ask to help you decide what toys to keep and what toys to box up or get out of the house altogether.

I’ve found that asking the same question in a different way can make all of the difference.

Questions to help you think of what to keep out and around your home

  1. What toys do your kids go to first thing? (a book, a doll, a car, etc.)
  2. What do they spend extended amounts of time playing with? (manga-tiles, coloring, reading)
  3. What would they cry real, lasting tears about losing? (a lovey vs. 1 of 30 matchbox cars)
  4. What toys do you see as a grower of imagination and learning and growth as a functioning member of society? (legos, musical instruments, craft/science supplies)
  5. What toys meet your family’s mission statement? (if you don’t have family mission statement, take some time to come up with one)

Questions to help you think of what to get out of your home (or box up for soonish or sentimental)

  1. Are there duplicate toys that serve the same purpose? (I’m talking about 2 xylophones here, not 2 stuffed animals.)
  2. What toys have the kids outgrown? (teething rings, bouncy seats)
  3. What toys do they not play with? (they just aren’t into horses)
  4. What toys are too complicated for their age? (100 piece puzzle for a 3 year old)
  5. What toys drive you crazy? (the singing remote, anyone?)

Remember, this is your house (that you share with your family) so think about what you want to keep up with and what you enjoy and what serves the greater purpose of your family and growth of your children.

Did You Get Your Money’s Worth?

I was working with a client recently (I could start every article this way as most of my inspiration comes from people like you and me)…

I was working with a client recently who got me thinking more deeply about how we view money, belongings, and what things are worth.

We were going through a pile of clothing. The clothes had been in bags stored away for at least a year. The owner of said clothes has more than enough clothing in her closet and dresser to keep her clothed with plenty to spare without the clothes that we just pulled from these storage bags. As we went through the clothes she kept wanting to keep piece after piece. Now, I do want to say that I fully recognize that letting go of your belongings is difficult and clothes are near the top of the list. This is why I prefer to work side-by-side with my clients to walk them through, hear their thoughts, and encourage them to reach their goals in decluttering.

As we were decluttering we were talking about our weekend’s activities. This client and one of her children went to see a movie. The movie was on their family’s must-see list because it was a part of a series that they enjoyed. It likely wasn’t on anyone else’s must-see list, however. I’m sure the movie itself was fine but I haven’t heard anyone else talking about it and they themselves didn’t rave over it. For this family, it was money well spent to have that time together.

brunch

Stick with me, I’m going to pull these two seemingly unrelated stories together.

If they only saw the movie and didn’t purchase any concessions they spent at least $20, and that’s if they went a matinee. That is money that they spent for an experience. It was spent and the only thing they brought home from that $20 is a fun memory, no tangible items.

We might expect to pay $20 for a movie and feel like we got our money’s worth (well, at least the going rate). That same $20 spent on a shirt? We think the shirt needs to last our entire lifetime. So let’s change how we think about things.

movie theater

Since it might be a stretch to compare movie prices (entertainment) to a shirt (clothing) let’s change to comparing other items that are meant to entertain. Let’s think DVDs, CDs, books, games (all kinds), and sports equipment to name a few.

So now when you are going through your belongings you can ask yourself, “Did I get my money’s worth?” And if you have used the item even one time the answer is probably “yes” if we use the movie ticket way of thinking.

You might still decide to keep the item because it is beautiful to you or it is functional but at least you have now thought through it a little more clearly.

And for another day, think in this same way when deciding to purchase something or not.

Before You Scoff at that After Photo

I post a lot of before and after photos on Little Red Stool Organizing’s social media accounts. Every once in a while someone will scoff and say something like, “that’s never going to look that nice again” or “wow, that’s an after? it sure looks like a before.”

For those looking at an after photo like this one, thinking, “there is no way that will stay that way,” here are a few things for you to think about.

  1. If you want to keep up with things like all the pieces to a toy (puzzle, etc) then it will take discipline.
  2. It takes you teaching your children for them to keep up with their things.
  3. If you can’t keep up with things well (no shame in it) you weren’t taught (no shame to your parents/caregivers) so it would benefit you to learn and to teach.
  4. Creative play can come from not having everything in one place (YES!) but it also can come from not having a lot of toys and being able to actually put things back and take them out.
  5. Keeping things tidy comes with age and learning, start them young just like anything else it takes times and consistency.

If you think, “um, I would never keep up with that,” then you probably aren’t super interested in organizing anyway. I LOVE that there are so many different kinds of people in this world! We need each other. We structured people need you spontaneous people. Thank you for being you!

There are the near-magazine photos, sure. But there is another type of photo that you might also scoff at. The ones that might still look like before photos.

For those looking at an after photo like this one, thinking, “that looks like kind of like a before picture,” here are a few things for you to think about.

  1. Sometimes it takes going through things a few different times to really know what you want and like.
  2. Some homes have limited space to store things. This could be the only “closet” that this home has.
  3. While some people want to spend money on all matching bins, some people either can’t or don’t want to spend money in that way when they can use what they have on hand.
  4. If you have a lot of hobbies or a hobby with a lot of supplies, it is difficult to let go of any of it. And perhaps none of it needs to leave the home.
  5. Progress is progress. This area has been gone through and each item was decided on to stay. It would only be a before photo if this hadn’t been decided on in any way.

It is fun to be able to work with individuals. People who have different opinions, passions, and talents. People whose experiences have them on their own roads. And each person is loved and honored with grace as we work through their spaces and their confidence.

A More Peaceful Dinner

It’s time to make dinner.

Your blood sugar is dropping and you see evidence of the same in the kiddos and spouse around you. You open your pantry and stand staring at the agglomeration of food.

Blankly.

Then you quickly jump in the car and head to the nearest restaurant.

This might not be you every night but chances are if you have a cluttered and unorganized pantry, you find yourself in this situation a few times a week. How do you get out of this routine and into a calm-as-possible meal at home? I’m going to walk you through a simple plan to help get you there. (If this is new to you, it will seem a little unorthodox. It’s okay, let it be different and try it out. The feeling of freedom and peace that comes will be worth it.)

Go ahead and clear off a clean workspace near your pantry. Set a trash can up nearby as well. Throw on your favorite music, put a smile on your face, and pull everything out of your pantry to your workspace.

Everything.

You will be tempted to look at each item individually when you pull it out. Resist. You’ll look at each item soon enough. Just get it out of the pantry.

When everything except the actual shelving system is out of the pantry you are ready for the first fun part – decluttering. (For the sake of the space restraint, I have to leave out some nuanced details. Have fun with it and don’t over think it. Let it work for you, not own you.)

Looking at each item that used to be in your pantry, ask yourself the following questions (keeping yourself and each person that lives in your house in mind):

  1. Is this food expired?
    1. Yes – toss it
    2. No – see next question
  2. Do we like this food? Do we eat this food? Is this food good for us?
    1. Yes – great! Set it aside to go back in the pantry when you’re all done decluttering.
    2. No – toss it or donate it (note: food pantries don’t take expired foods)
  3. Does this non-food item belong in the pantry?
    1. If no, is this something that is serving my family well?
    2. This question will yield many answers and only you can decide if this non-food item best serves your family in the pantry.

Now that you have a beautiful full trash can and donation box full of things that are leaving your house, you can work on putting your yummy-to-your-tummy and healthy-to-your-belly foods back into the pantry.

But wait, there’s more!

You get to decide where those items belong. That’s some power right there!

Take a few minutes to think through the flow of your household and your pantry. Do you have children or pets that like to make the bottom shelves their own personal playground? Are there non-food items that need to be out of reach of little hands or just aren’t used often enough to take up valuable reachable pantry real estate? Here are some generally universal tips for a well-laid out pantry.

  1. Highest up – not often used lighter weight items
  2. Adult eye-level – more often used items, potentially items that are breakable or need to be out of reach of little hand
  3. Child eye-level – more often used items, kid-friendly or not easily broken
  4. Lowest down – not often used heavier items

Re-assemble that pantry giving every item it’s temporary home. Step back and take in the beauty of your creation and remember that it is a living organism. Your pantry is made to have things coming in and out by multiple people, multiple times a day. Keep up with your pantry by doing a little tidying each time you bring groceries home. That little investment will go a long way.

Let’s revisit the dinner scenario with a decluttered and organized pantry.

It’s time to make dinner.

You go to the pantry and easily grab the ingredients you need for the meal you planned. Your children play quietly on their own or stand with you chopping the fresh veggies while your home fills with the aroma of a fresh-cooked meal.

Okay, we all know that an organized and clutter-free pantry can’t retrain your family but it is a start. And who wouldn’t rather save time, money, and sanity a few more nights a week!
 

Progress is Progress

“I’m sorry, I’m not doing very well with this today.”

This is a phrase that I hear from clients who have a beautiful goal of decluttering their homes. In their minds they see a magazine-worthy version of their spaces and they want to get there quickly. Sometimes, though, they feel like they aren’t doing enough to get to that goal. Sometimes they are tired or in a funk or in a space in their homes that hold things that they like and things that are useful for their family.

With everything in me I try to express grace and instill the sense of accomplishment. I do this because I really have a lot of grace to give and they really are accomplishing things.

Decluttering a home has a lot to do with actual things leaving the house but decluttering a home also has a lot to do with the intention and attitude of the owner of those belongings.

The same clients who feel like they aren’t doing a good job in that moment also have found themselves decluttering on their own, bringing less into their homes, and enjoying their homes more and more.

Progress is progress. Sometimes it is seen in the physical house and sometimes it is seen in the growth of the person. Keep going, you can do it!