Before I had children I prided myself on having a pretty tidy home. I’m not a neat freak by any stretch of the imagination, but I managed to keep our place pretty well picked-up and didn’t stress out too much if an unexpected guest popped by.
All that changed when my little dude and dudette arrived, and thanks to overly generous family members (ahem, Mom and Dad) and my own shopping problem, my living room looks like a Toys R Us pop-up shop.
Folks, there is a giant train table in my living room where a chair used to be. That chair is now wrapped in plastic in my garage.
The toy situation got a little bit better for a few brief months when my son’s baby toys were hiding in storage awaiting his sister’s arrival. Once she was old enough to play, I smartly pulled out a limited number of old toys …and yet the “extras” are camped out (ironically) in a Container Store shopping bag in a corner of the living room.
I run around like a crazy lady the night before our housekeeper comes so she will actually have surfaces to clean. I fear the occasional visitor because we don’t have enough places to hide ALL THIS STUFF. I desperately crave a clutter-free adult space at the end of the day after the kids are in bed. Something has to change. I can’t live like this much longer:
There is always a “but.”
In the past three+ years of parenting I have realized a few key points that affect how our space is used and how the stuff in it can or should be stored. Note that we don’t have a family room, basement, or attic to use for playing or storing things.
- We like playing in the living room with our kids so they can be near us if we have to cook or do something else (we don’t have a family room, basement, or attic).
- I like keeping the toys in their bedrooms to a minimum so as to avoid distractions at bedtime.
- I have a really hard time getting rid of toys and books that my kids have played with. I’m extremely sentimental like that, and although we’re probably done having kids I’m not mentally ready to depart with all the baby stuff just yet.
- My son remembers everything. About six months ago I hid a few toys in our garage that it seemed he wasn’t playing with. This week he asked about them. Mr. JC and I played dumb.
- My girl is just a year old and open bins/baskets are easy for her to see and grab what she wants (but, they make all the toys visible).
I’ve complained about our toy problem for long enough; now it’s time to do something about it. Here are the steps I’m going to chip away at with some help from the Mr.,who is the most laid-back man on the planet and is not nearly as bothered by all this as I am:
- Clean out and organize the media cabinet by selling/donating DVDs and video games that we no longer use to make room for kids’ games. Seriously, what parent of young children has time or energy for Guitar Hero? I’m thinking these clear DVD storage boxes from The Container Store would be a good option – one box for grown-up movies and one for the kids.
- Throw out or recycle toys and books that are broken beyond repair.
- Sort through baby toys that my youngest has outgrown or never shown interest in and store them until I’m ready to let them go (she now generally prefers her brother’s trains and Legos to her rattles).
- Get some kind of storage for the “toy corner” (ugh, they’re all toy corners right now). I’m thinking the IKEA Trofast but am open to other ideas.
- Move the existing toy storage bins to my son’s room with a limited amount of toys and create a toy rotation of some kind in which he can pick the toys that he wants to have downstairs.
Now here’s where you come in:
If you have kids (and especially if you have a similar lack of dedicated play space) how do you manage the toys and keep your too-smart-for-his-own-good toddler happy? What other products or approaches can you recommend?