organization, Parenting

Toys, Toys Everywhere

If you aren’t careful, toys can take over your life. I mean that in the most literal sense possible. It’s never more obvious than after Christmas when you have multiple kids with a lot of people that love them! So. Many. Toys. All over the place and it’s overwhelming to keep up with keeping them picked up and put away. Why?? Well, because they’re new and they don’t have a “home”!

When your kids get new toys, you need to take time with them to figure out where they go. Where do they want to keep them? They need to find a home for each and every toy. It needs to be a place that makes sense to them so that they can easily remember where it is. I know it seems like a tooooooon of work, especially when there’s a bunch of new toys from Christmas or birthdays. But honestly, it’s no more work than having to pick that same toy up every single day! If you have an overabundance of toys, have your kids pick their favorite ones and give them the most prominent “homes”. In our house, this means spots in their bedrooms. Everything else either goes into the playroom or the basement (which honestly is the last stop before being donated!!). If it’s going in the playroom, it goes into a categorized bin (cars & trucks, dolls, puzzles, games, etc.). Usually it gets forgotten about and can be purged later. But every once in awhile, they’ll head in there and play with something that wasn’t originally given prime real estate. Then we know it’s more valued and probably needs to find a new home in their room.

I find that by declaring “homes” for new toys, they tend to actually get played with more because they aren’t ending up in a pile somewhere, shoved in their closet or under the bed (their favorite place to put things when they don’t know where to put them…). If things are out of place or the messiness is starting to take over, which I seriously can’t handle, all I have to do is ask them to put things in their place and they know just what to do. You don’t have to lift a finger! It’s like magic!


When the messiness is NOT fine!

If your house is anything like mine, it can seriously become a cluttered mess in a hurry. With four kids, if each of them even leave a handful of things out in a day, it adds up REALLY quickly! I used to try to act like I was fine with it. I’d say it was no big deal because our house looked lived-in and that’s exactly what it was! But in reality, I was not actually fine with it. I tried to fake a tolerance for it, but inside it was making me crazy. Then I would try to keep up with the mess on my own. My husband would, too. It was impossible! Eventually, I’d be grumpy and upset and it would just bubble over and I’d have myself a little freak-out moment. Tell me I’m not the only one that does this!

So something had to change. When we added baby #3, it all just got worse. Not only did we have toys and items for a 6 year old AND a 3 year old, we had all the baby paraphernalia, too. It was just a lot to manage myself. When it was my hubby and I trying to pick up after every single one of us, it was exhausting and overwhelming. That’s really kind of all we got done in a day…picking up. Not long after we became a family of 5, we moved to a different house. I was determined to create order that ALL of us could follow. Well, except for the baby. But eventually, even he would be able to help keep things tidy. There were a ton of things that I put into place: all clothes go immediately into the hamper, we installed a hook for each kid for book bags and coats, each person had a shoe basket to put their shoes into when they took them off. There were lots of new procedures and I told my older boys that those were just the rules at this new house. They went with it…thank goodness! I refused to pick their things up any more. Just like that, I stopped. If their book bag was on the floor, I called them to come hang it up. They were annoyed, but eventually they just started doing it on it’s own…and my life got a bit easier. This is HUGE! Stop picking things up for them or you will be doing it forever. Nothing changes if nothing changes!

But my biggest weapon in this transformation? My label maker. I know, I know. It’s ridiculous, right? How in the world does a label maker do anything besides make me a Monica-like wife. Well, my friends (See what I did there?), it is a game-changer. I labeled things that people might think are strange. My kitchen drawers, for example. I don’t have labels on the outside for the world to see…I’m not that weird! But inside the drawers on the organizers, there’s a label telling what goes in there. When my boys empty the dishwasher, they don’t have to ask where things go. They also have absolutely no reason NOT to put it in the correct place! My husband always was great about putting things away, but sometimes his opinion of where it went was different than my opinion and we’d find ourselves searching for things. Not any more! Anybody could come cook in my kitchen! (And I’m totally serious if you want to come cook for us…)

These days, any time I find an area of our house that we just can’t seem to keep neat and tidy, I go at it with the label maker. We still get clutter and mess, don’t get me wrong. Now though, if I call attention to it, we all jump in and have it all put away within minutes. Every once in awhile, I find the same things being left out over and over again and I realize it’s because nobody knows where it goes! Labeling forces you to categorize items, take stock of what you have and find everything a home.