Revisiting one of the first cleaning/decluttering/organizing posts on the blog. 🙂
Kids’ Room Cleaning Challenge
Legos. Barbie’s shoes. Matchbox cars. Hair bows. Blocks. Trucks. Books. Stuffed animals. If you’ve had your child call to you in the night, gone running into his or her room, and stepped on any or all of the above, you know that kids’ rooms can be messy. For whatever reason – and we probably don’t even know ourselves- we give our kids toy after toy after toy. And we let others do the same. We even invite them to our children’s birthday parties so that even more toys come into the house. Inevitably, some or most – or even all of them – end up in the floor. Usually there is a perfectly good toy box just sitting there empty. (My kids used to put themselves in the toy box, but not necessarily their toys.) Or maybe you have the perfect organizing system for those toys, yet they are still in the floor, under the bed, in the living room, under the kitchen sink…kids’ toys wind up in some strange places.
Let’s face it. Our kids are kids. And while you can (and should) train them to clean up after themselves and put their toys away, most of them just have too stinking many things and not enough understanding (because they are too young) of the phrase, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” The main problem is probably not the kids. It’s us. Sigh. We are the ones who let the “Toys R Us” store come into our homes. And seriously, there are not enough hours in the day for them to play with them all. If yours are like mine, they had their favorites. The ones they actually played with. I worked and organized and cleaned on a regular basis, only to have all the other crap thrown on the floor in search of the toy they actually wanted. Eventually, I realized that some of it (a LOT of it) had to go. Away.I actually had a huge yard sale and let other people take those toys to their houses. Hey, let them step on Barbie shoes and those bazillion stuffed toys. (By the way, a Ziploc bag filled with “Happy Meal” toys is a fast seller. Fast!)
So you need to decide how much is enough. Just enough. Depending on the age of your children, you may or may not want to give them a say in this. If they are very young, clean it out and keep only the things they really play with. Put a strict policy into place regarding the number of toys allowed in from now on. Stick to it. A policy is no good if you don’t follow it. If you find things languishing in the bottom of the toy box that haven’t seen the light of day in months and months, they need to go. (NOTE: Once it’s gone, your child will immediately need that toy. Need. Immediately. Do not give in. They forgot about it for months. They’ll forget about it again. Do NOT go out and buy a replacement. Really. Do not.)
So here is what you need to get your kids’ rooms organized. You probably have them in some form or another on hand. Be creative. Try to use stuff you have before you go out and buy something. Reuse and repurpose when possible.
baskets of various shapes and sizes
toy box or bins for storing toys
small (not tall) book shelf
wall shelves and/or hooks (high enough that they can’t be reached)
a hook on the back of the door or closet door for PJ’s to be hung up
boxes or bags labeled “donate,” “toss,” and “keep” (Put them in another room. This will be your “staging” area.)
It is important to note now that cleaning out a child’s room is often a covert operation. The things that are leaving the house often need to be removed quickly, quietly, and under the cover of darkness.
The first and most difficult task will be sorting through the toys and getting rid of things that you KNOW your child or children never, ever play with. It is often best to remove these toys from the room and the house when the kid isn’t present. If little Susie sees a pink stuffed rabbit that is covered with the dust and lint from the bottom of the toy box…it willsuddenly be her most “favoritest” one ever, she loves it beyond words and must sleep with it every night. She will tug at your heartstrings, shed some crocodile tears, and manipulate you right into keeping the pink bunny. She’ll sleep with it for a night or two and then bunny will end up under the bed, behind the couch…somewhere it won’t be missed until the next time you try and throw it out. If your kids are older, you can work with them to eliminate toys they no longer play with or have outgrown. Taking them to a children’s shelter or donating them to charity helps them feel better about it. A little. The goal is to not have more toys than you have storage. Duh. Once they’ve been sorted and you have gathered the ones that need to go, GET THEM OUT OF YOUR HOUSE. Immediately. Quickly. Faster than a speeding bullet. “Out of sight, out of mind.” Do not put them where they can be seen, or someone will LOVE, LOVE, LOVE something in those bags. (Note: While sorting, keep in mind that it doesn’t always matter who gave the toy to your child. If you let that matter, either you or the child will be emotionally attached to every single toy in the room. That being said, both of my kids have a special stuffed animal given by a grandma that we have kept. My son’s sits in his closet; my daughter’s still sits on her bed.)
Obviously, the toy sorting will probably take a while. A long while if your toy stash is huge. So get a laundry basket and fill it with toys. Take the basket into the room where the donate/keep/toss bags or boxes are located. Spend your 15 minutes going through that basket. Repeat daily until all toys have been sorted into those three categories. (Remove or hide the “donate” box every day so the munchkins can’t see it or get into it. Anything in the “trash” category should be, well, tossed into the trash daily. Do not return the “keep” ones to the room until the other tasks have been completed. Set up a temporary play area for the kiddos in the meantime. Otherwise, you may sort the same toys over and over and over. Several people have suggested keeping the “donate” stuff for a specified period of time….6 weeks, 6 months, whatever. If no one has asked for or looked for a toy that’s in there within the specified time, off to Goodwill or Salvation Army or wherever you have decided to donate them. Pronto!
I’ll include books as part of toys. (Y’all know by now that both Teresa and I are book addicts. We should probably attend meetings in a church basement somewhere.) I read to both my kids from the day they came home from the hospital. They always had a lot of books. A basket of well-loved books by the bedside is great. You know you tend to read the same ones over and over and over…sometimes in the same night! If you can get a small bookshelf to hold the children’s books, that is great! Small in that it doesn’t provide a tall climbing opportunity for the little ones. I had a climber. I speak from experience.
NOTE: I kept books that the kids loved, loved, loved. I fully intend to read them to my grandchildren someday. Most are stored away but a few now sit on the bookshelf in my living room. 🙂
Second on the list is the clothes. Again, this is an area where we tend to “overbuy” or let others do it for us. If the child has outgrown clothes and you have a younger one that will wear them at some point, put them in a box and label it: who the clothes will pass to and the size. Store the box away in the attic, an extra closet..somewhere it won’t be in the way until it’s needed. If you don’t have another child that will wear the clothes, try passing them on to someone who needs them…a friend, a church clothes closet, a children’s shelter, etc.
Note: If you have a couple of special outfits that you really, really want to save, put them in a box that will safely store them or display them on by hanging them on a hook (instant decor!). I have a shelf in my bedroom with hooks on it. On it hang my “coming home from the hospital” dress as well as those of both of my kids, and their first church outfit. I kept a couple of dresses that my daughter loved when she was younger that I’ll hopefully pass on to a granddaughter one day.
Then hang up what needs to be hung up. Fold and put away what needs to be put away in a dresser. Little shoes store well in cute baskets on closet floors, as do socks and tights. Hair bows are cute in a basket on the dresser. Don’t keep more clothes than the child will wear or that you want to wash. Remember: you’ll be doing the laundry. A small laundry hamper in the closet, bedroom or kids’ bathroom is also a must in my book. Teach them early that dirty clothes go IN the hamper not NEAR the hamper.
Up next, the art work.
If your child has a lot of art projects, you have a few options.
1. Take pictures of them and let the child have a photo album of his or her work.
2. Frame a few pictures. Makes great artwork – for their room and any other – and costs very little.
3. Designate a certain amount of shelf space (in their room or in your living room or kitchen) for clay or other non-paper projects. Let them sit there for a certain amount of time (be specific about the time) then either take a picture and add it to the album, store it with your “sentimentals,” or dispose of it. Replace with the next “set” of art objects.
4. Use the coasters, trivets, etc. They serve a purpose and it makes your kids happy, so why not use them?
5. Sort through it and keep the “good” stuff. I have a box labeled “sentimentals” that has the Valentine’s and Mother’s Day cards and such in it. I like to look through it sometimes and smile and cry. It’s a mother’s prerogative, right?
Once all the sorting has been done, it’s time to pull the room together.
Here are things I kept in bins or baskets. If you have room under the bed, there are plastic storage bins that fit so nicely under there.
art supplies: crayons, coloring books, paper, etc. (anything that doesn’t require supervision to use) It’s probably best not to store markers or paint in the kids’ room. Just saying.
a few (very, very few) stuffed animals
Barbie & her stuff (Limit her stuff or she will take over! If it doesn’t fit in the box, it must go.)
Dress-up clothes (You might want to keep the play makeup somewhere else.)
Storing things like Legos and Barbie & her stuff in bins or baskets keeps all of the like things “corralled” in one place. You definitely don’t want Legos and Barbie stuff in the toy box. It will fall to the bottom requiring all the stuff on top to be thrown hither and yon in search of Barbie’s pink shoe or the red Lego man. Experience talking again here.
Put the books on the shelf where little hands can reach them. Larger dolls can sit on a shelf as well. Baskets with toys and books are attractive and functional, so put them where they can be seen. Put the toys to be kept that are not intended for bins or baskets in the toy box. Make the bed. Allow 1-2 stuffed animals to sit on the bed. Hang the artwork. Put photos in frames and put on the wall or on wall shelves. If there’s room, a child-size table is a great addition to a kids’ room so that they can do art and put puzzles together and not do it in your living room or at your kitchen table.
Once the room is tidy and neat, spend 15 minutes after dinner or before bedtime – with your child if they are old enough – every day putting things back in their place. Lay out the next day’s outfit. When it’s bedtime, let them choose a book from the basket or shelf and snuggle up and read to them. Kiss them goodnight and look around and breathe a sigh of contentment because the clutter is gone.
And don’t forget to put that book back where it belongs before you leave the room!
P.S. The rooms of teenagers are a completely different story. Sometimes it’s best to just close the door and back away carefully.