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The Big Change We Made in our House

A few weeks ago, even before our world was completely derailed by COVID-19, my husband and I were feeling immense stress.  When we took some time to figure out where all our stress was coming from, we recognized that the physical things in our home... mostly our girls’ things, were causing unnecessary strain.

As I am sure many of you do, I would spend countless hours throughout the course of a week cleaning up toys.  The frustrating part was that most of the toys were not even being used. The girls were simply pulling everything out and then moving onto another activity without really playing with the toys. 

We have an average size home but we do not have a designated playroom.  So all the toys in the house were typically stored under our coffee table, in a bin downstairs in the basement living room and in the girls’ rooms.  

I honestly didn’t think we had THAT many things...
but one day it hit me...the stress was from the mess.

I knew I needed to do something about it.  Oddly enough, right around the same time, I had read an article that said children won’t engage with toys if there are more than a certain number (I can’t recall the exact number but it was around 7 or 8)  I’m sure this varies for every child and for different ages, but I was seeing this with my own children.

The change...

I came up with a plan that we would gather all the toys in the house...no longer would we have random toys throughout the house, but rather one central location for everything.  We spend the majority of our time on the main floor of our home, so we decided a bin under the coffee table would be the spot. 

One Saturday morning, we had the girls gather EVERYTHING in the living room.  I had four bins (three of which were tupperware with lids and the bin that would live under the table).  My plan was that we would divide the toys into the four bins and everything else would be donated. 

 

Each bin needed:

    A learning toy (like a puzzle or interactive toy)
    Two stuffies (to keep it to a minimum) 
    Some sort of moving toy (like a bus or a truck)
    A building activity (lego or magnets)

    The process...

    This process was actually really enjoyable for us all.  Everyone took part and helped sort the toys into the bins and then anything that was left was put into the donation bin.  I had originally thought that my husband and I should do the purge without the girls’ input, for fear of tears and fighting over what stayed.  But I was so glad we included them in the process. They took ownership over their belongings and made decisions about how much they truly need or want.

    We placed the three tupperware bins into our cold storage room and immediately took the rest of the toys to the Goodwill.  

    The results...

    Before sharing this with all of you, I wanted to let it play out over the next few weeks to see if it changed our lives positively or if it was just really good intentions and no results.

    The biggest change for me though, is the clutter.  I no longer find myself cleaning up after the girls over and over throughout the day. 

    Let me tell you….within one day I knew we were onto something.  The girls woke up the next day and went directly to the box. Harper started playing with a zoo puzzle and Ridley grabbed the bag of magnetic blocks.  They were engaging in the toys in a way I had not seen in a really long time. It felt like a major win.

    The biggest change for me though is the clutter.  I no longer find myself cleaning up after the girls over and over throughout the day.  Since their options are limited, they typically only take the toy or activity out that they intend to actually play with and then when they are done, with a gentle reminder (or two), they clean it UP THEMSELVES!

    After a week, I went downstairs to grab the next bin and swap out the toys.  The excitement about “what’s in the bin this week?” was felt by everyone in the house.  My husband woke up after we had made the trade and asked the girls to show him the new toys and you couldn’t help but smile watching them share their “new” things.

     

    A couple tips...

    • Use bags (our reusable snack bags work perfectly) for any small toys to keep them organized and from getting lost in the bin.
    • Keep all the toys in a central location and allow only a nighttime stuffy in the bedrooms, otherwise toys will migrate back into unknown places (ahem..does your kid have a “junk drawer” like mine did?).
    • Include your children in the process and allow them to make the choices about what stays and what goes...keeping in mind you only have the space of the bin and if it doesn’t fit, you might want to make an adjustment.
    • Keep the bins out of sight and only bring one up a week to do the swap.

    Next steps...

    Our next step moving forward is once we have completed a full rotation of the bins (after 4 weeks), look at the bins again and decide if there are any toys that remain that no one played with or don’t seem to be engaging for the kids.  At this time, remove any toys, maybe rearrange the bins as needed and if there are gaps in the bins, make a list of specific toys for the next birthday or holiday!

    In a time of a lot of uncertainty, I know having less choices and less junk around the house has really contributed positively for every member of our home.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below! As always, thanks for reading!

    Whitney

    2 comments

    • Great idea! I agree that it does cause a lot of stress and I feel like every night we are constantly saying “put your toys away” 500 times!! We went through our bins this week and have a huge pile to give away, too! It feels so good to get ride of the clutter.

      Sarah dreger
    • This is awesome advice! But remember, you could send a few of the toys and stuffed animals to the grand parents home so that the kids may enjoy them once again on a visit or sleep over!

      Georgie

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