Overwhelmed. That is how I feel on the 26th of December. Don’t get me wrong; I love the holiday season – and I love the joy on my children’s faces when they open their gifts that they have waited all year to receive. Like many families, we celebrate the holidays five or six times during the month of December, which means our kids get A LOT of toys and gifts. Finding places to store these new toys is a challenge as the toys we already own fill up the house. So this year I’ve decided to be proactive in an attempt to eliminate the overwhelming feeling of too much stuff in the house. So I am cleaning house before the holidays arrive and I have enlisted Valerie Sowa, Professional Organizer and owner of Winnow & Spruce Organizing, to help me understand how to complete this task efficiently and effectively.
Step 1. Preparation is key
• Resist the temptation to do all the work yourself. It can be a little traumatic for children to suddenly discover their toys have disappeared. Support your child and teach them decision-making skills regarding which toys to keep and which to give up. They are learning an important life skill: You can’t keep everything forever.
• Explain the purpose. Show your child that their playroom can only hold so many toys. Explain the holidays are coming, which means there is no room for new toys.
• Set goals: Everything off the floor, everything has a home, only keep what we enjoy playing with.
• Schedule a short block of time. Set a timer for your child – 15-30 minutes – depending on their age. When it dings, take a break.
• Sell old toys at a thrift sale or online.
• Donate to a charity. It can be easier for children to part with toys when they understand that they are sharing them with children that could really use them.
• Offer to friends and family.
• Gather the following prior to starting: All the toys from different rooms in the house, trash bags, and a laundry basket.
Step 2. Decide what to keep
• Quickly sort the toys into categories: construction toys, imaginary play, games, puzzles, books, etc. Ask your child to choose what they love playing with from each category. Set these toys aside.
Step 3. Decide what to TOSS
• Anything that is missing parts/pieces.
• Any broken toys.
• Anything that is stained/torn.
Step 4. Decide what to donate
• Ask your child to fill up the laundry basket with toys to donate.
• Resist sharing your opinion when your child chooses a toy that you have strong memories for or that bring up guilty feelings. Let them make their own decisions.
• Remember these are their toys, not yours.
Step 5. Storing toys to keep
• Hopefully at this point the toy pile will be much smaller. Use these creative storage ideas to put them all away.
• Pack seasonal toys in labeled totes and rotate by month or season.
• Place 3-5 toys on low shelves so your child will learn that everything has a home.
• Ditch the toy box.
• Place bins and totes on shelves. Fill with toy categories such as dolls, Legos, play sets, etc. Label bins with pictures/words for quick clean up.
• Hang costumes/accessories on hooks. Install a mirror.
• Place stuffed animals in a small hammock or basket.
• Display books face out on shelves and rotate by season/holiday.
• Create a display for construction toys on a special shelf. When playing with Legos, spread a bed sheet on the floor. Challenge your child to keep all the Legos on the sheet. When finished, roll up the sheet, dump the Legos into a bin, and say goodbye to Legos underfoot!
• For your child’s electronics, add a cozy chair with a little table to hold a charging station. Make it convenient for them to take good care of these items.
• Creative children love a small table and chairs to sit and create. Devote an area art/craft supplies within reach. Paint a chalkboard on the wall to encourage writing.
When I started this organizational journey, I went in expecting only to eliminate the overwhelming feeling of clutter. I have gained much more. I now feel prepared and at peace with the upcoming holiday. Most importantly, I have impacted the life of my daughter. She is so proud of her abilities to clean up at the end of each day because I have instilled this value in her and have helped her to make the clean up manageable.