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Friday, January 14, 2011

Getting It Together: Bust the Clutter

As you know, my sister and I, are all about getting it together in 2011.  So much so, that we decided to make it our theme this year at Beautiful Nest.

Today, we will be featuring Emily, from Masterpiece Mothering.   When Sparrow and I, first discussed the idea of this event, I knew right away I wanted Emily to share her tips for clutter-free living.  One of the many things you'll discover as you read Emily's blog, is that she has a terrific system when it came to keeping life orgainized.  I hope her ideas give you inspiration as they have for me. ~Belle

{Bust the Clutter: Kid Room Edition}
When I was a child, I spent most of my playtime outdoors. I loved to ride my bike, to roller skate, and to build forts with my sister. The only time I was found in my room was on days when it was pouring rain or was too cold to be outside. The reason for this was not that I liked being outside better than inside; it was because my bedroom was a pit--a mess of toys, dirty laundry, and who knows what else! The ultimate form of punishment was being made to clean my room, because it took me all day. I did not get my bedroom under control until I was in high school, and only then because I had to have a quiet, orderly space in which to do my mountains of homework.
When my daughter was born 8 years ago, I quietly determined that her bedroom would be a haven, a place where she could enjoy her toys, read a book, or get lost in her imagination. By the time my son arrived 4 years later, I had devised a workable solution to helping my children maintain order in their bedrooms. Much of our system has been the result of trial and error. But it has paid off. Both of my children are able, without much effort, to keep their rooms tidy. Yes, even my 4-year-old can cheerfully clean his room without my help. Without further ado, let me share what I have learned.
{Part One: The Purge}
1. Living in excess is unhealthy. Children can understand this, and you can involve them in the purging process. No child is able to enjoy what he has if he has too much. Before you begin the purging process, let your child choose several toys to donate to a worthwhile charity. A home for battered women and children or a children’s hospital is a good option. Your children will surprise you with their generosity. Allow them to give away whatever they choose, even if it is uncomfortable for you. They will benefit far more from being selfless than they will from hanging onto things that mom is attached to. There are, of course, exceptions to this.
2. Keep what is important to your child. You will know, for the most part, which toys are most loved by your child. Put those toys aside in a safe place.
3. Be ruthless with the rest. The truth is—and I know this from years of personal experience—your child will not miss most of the things you get rid of. Having lots of toys does not make a child happy. With items that tend to accumulate, such as Barbie dolls, stuffed animals, and matchbox cars, keep a set amount of each and give away the rest. My son has more fun with his 10 matchbox cars than he ever would with 30. When clean-up time comes, he is not overwhelmed with trying to pick up 10 cars. Asking him to put away 30 cars would likely result in a meltdown.
4. Only repair the important things. If you know you will not be able to repair a toy promptly, throw it away. Take that pressure off yourself. A peaceful mother is more important to a child than the repair of a toy that will likely sit in a drawer for months before you ever get around to fixing it.  
5. Establish a reasonable goal for how much to keep. When we moved from Arkansas to Florida last summer, each child’s toys fit into three Rubbermaid totes.  Keeping the toys limited to three totes per child is a very reasonable goal. For larger families whose children share toys, the number might be even smaller than that. As you sort and purge, keep the three totes with you as a measure for how you are doing.
6. Fix the end result in the front of your mind. As you sort through toys, envision your child happily playing in a peaceful room, and truly enjoying the toys you keep. Then imagine that child easily cleaning up the room without a battle at the end of playtime. Think of how nice it will be to walk through the bedroom or playroom without risking the comfort and well-being of your feet!

{Part Two: Getting Organized}
1. Rotate toys, especially for younger children. Remember those three totes you filled? Those totes are perfect for storing your toy rotation. Divide the toys you have kept into three groups. Two groups will be stored away. The third group will be put out for your child to play with. Some of the mainstays will always stay out—things such as favorite action figures, dolls, and art supplies. I mark toy rotation dates on my calendar and rotate about once every 3 months. Each time I rotate is like Christmas for the kids. They don’t have a chance to get tired of their toys. Don’t forget that you can rotate books, too. By the time my daughter was in 2nd grade, she was responsible enough to care for all her toys at once. At that point, I stopped rotating for her. You will need to evaluate your own children in order to decide when to stop rotating toys for them.
2. Have a place for everything. Invest in a storage cube. Target and Ikea both carry these fabulous organization devices for less than $100. For young children, draw a picture of a certain type of toy and tape it to the front of each storage box so they can easily remember where each type of toy belongs. Clear, plastic bins are also great for storage of items such as Legos, Brio trains, and action figures. Many families have a large toy box. Use that for storing dress-up clothes or stuffed animals. Before you start to feel overwhelmed at the volume of organizational aids, remember that at any given time, your child should not have much more to put away than the contents of one, large tote. A storage cube and a few plastic tubs should be all that you need.
3. What about all those clothes? Be ruthless with the clothes like you are with the toys. If your child doesn’t wear it, don’t keep it. On the day that you rotate toys, do a quick once-over of your child’s wardrobe. Remove any clothes that are too small or are not being regularly used. You can store seasonal clothing in rubber totes just as you do with the toys. Label the tote with the type of clothing, such as “Julie’s Summer Clothes. Open April 2011.” I use a half sheet of paper to make my label and I tape it on the tote with packing tape.

{Part Three: Staying organized}
1. Apply the Even Exchange Rule. When a child receives a new toy, an old toy must go. Have the child choose a toy to give to charity before the new toy enters the bedroom or playroom. While this may seem harsh as first, remember that the results far outweigh the temporary discomfort of giving away a toy. Being generous cultivates a heart of thankfulness. Refusing to live the excessive lifestyle of our culture will develop a child who is content. What parent doesn’t want to stamp out selfishness in their child?
2. Say no to commercials. If your child watches television, you have probably been bombarded with countless whines of “I want…” or “I need…” in response to what is being advertised. If you do not already have a DVR, get one. It is worth the extra $5 per month. Record your child’s favorite programs, and then when they watch, make it a rule to fast-forward the commercials. 
3. Train your child to clean up his or her personal space. After playtime, show them where each item belongs, and help them put everything away. A few days of this is all it will take to train them. Sing as you work and make clean-up a cheerful time. Talk about the toys and express thankfulness for each as you put it away. I would suggest that you do not use a system of reward for cleaning the room. Having toys is a privilege. Cleaning up their mess is the responsibility that comes along with the privilege of having toys. 
4. About once each week, go through the child’s room yourself. Remove any broken toys. Return stragglers to their proper places. Dust and vacuum the room. By doing this, you are setting your child up for success by removing potentially frustrating obstacles. I never have to spend more than about 15 minutes each week in each child’s room. This includes putting away laundry. 
5. You can do it! If you are tempted to be discouraged when you look into your child’s room, close your eyes and visualize a peaceful child who can easily maintain his or her space. Imagine the enjoyment that child will received from the organized room. It is worth it!

If reading this post inspired you, be sure to stop by Emily's blog, for further inspiration, and if you'd like share the news about this event with your readers.  Hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

{Thanks Emily, for sharing with us today, "how-to" Bust the Clutter!  We're so glad you were able to be apart of this event.} 


Life In The Thrifty Lane said...

Thanks for sharing, very inspiring. I use too the Even Exchange Rule! I'm glad you stopped by today. Have a great weekend too!

Tara said...

Great ideas, Emily!

Lindsay-ann said...

I really need to get organized in 2011 so I really enjoyed this post and picked up some great ideas from Emily. I just need some time to myself to get on with it if you know what I mean. I am in the 'purging' stage right now!
Hope you both had a good Christmas and I wish you a very happy and clutter free new year.

Anonymous said...

I appreciated this post! These were very helpful tips. I especially like the purging aspect of getting organized. Think that's where we need to start.

Happy Saturday! xo ~Michelle

Elise said...

We are downsizing and I am so excited to read these posts!! One idea I had was to get hard back vintage suitcases to store toys, craft supplies, etc. and slide them right under the bed.

Erin said...

Terrific post! I purge the kids' rooms 2x a year(sometimes more), but agree this step is key! Great tips!!!

Linda (Nina's Nest) said...

I think everyone is prging right now, and you have some great ideas! Linda

Tiff said...

What excellent advice! My children are getting older and I really want to downsize the amount to toys in our new house. Reading this post has given me lots of ideas to establish some bedroom ground rules for them to take charge of their own space. Thanks! X