To be perfectly honest, I feel a little silly writing a post on organizing. I’m pretty sure “organized” is not exactly the word that pops into people’s heads when they think of me. (Picture my husband nodding his head emphatically while reading this because I guarantee that’s what he is doing.) But as any mother knows, having two little monkeys running around definitely has encouraged me to try just a little harder to keep it all together. I’ve only been in this mothering game for 4 ½ years but I have figured out a few things that work for us. There are no huge revelations in here, just a mama finally “getting it!”
Keep toy collections as simple as possible. For us, this means keeping only simple, classic toys, the kind that spark the imagination and hold a child’s attention. We have wood blocks, foam blocks, duplos (the big legos), lots of puzzles, babies, dress up clothes, and several handmade Grandma toys. (And books. Lots and lots and lots of books.) I know the day is coming when there will be collections of Barbies, Littlest Pet Shop, Polly Pocket, and all the teeny tiny little pieces that accompany them strewn all over the playroom, but for now I am committed to keeping things as simple as I can.
As I am writing this, the My Little Ponies have started to invade, so I know I will have to come up with a strategy to deal with those soon. Pray for me…
Give everything a home. The same home. Every. Single. Time. Learning this one has made the biggest difference in my organizing proficiency. Sadly, I learned this one only about a year ago. Until then I was just putting things wherever they would fit. Then one stupid thing would be out and I would be left thinking “What the heck do I do with this!?!” Now every toy has a place where it belongs, and it goes there, and only there. Yes, this makes Christmas and birthdays into a minor crisis, but I’ll take the sanity it provides me over a few days of confusion any day.
Label, label, label, and use pictures. Here’s a few ideas on how to label all your wee ones’ goodies
Hanging tags – ours have the pictures on one side and the names of the toy on the other. I just took a photo, printed it on regular paper, matted it on some cute scrapbook paper and laminated it with the name on the back. Yes, I own a laminator. No, you cannot be my best friend.
See the tag? She’s so cute I will forgive her for putting the wrong thing in the bucket…
Chalkboards – I just discovered chalkboard contact paper. The same brand of contact paper that saved my college roommate and I from hideous orange built-in dressers is now helping me stay organized. Ignore the fact that it turned the dressers into only slightly less ugly weird green marble look. I used this stuff to cover some coffee containers to house small toys like letter blocks.
I also put it on the front of some clear containers I already had to make them a little easier on the eyes. Something that is important when you use this stuff is to write on them with a chalk MARKER, not just plain chalk. You can wipe the chalk marker off with water, but it doesn’t come off on your hands. Okay…it comes off a little, but not a ton. I got the paper and the marker on Amazon (oh, how I love thee…)
Um, yes, that is her version of “smile”
I also used chalkboard paint on some photo boxes that previously had paper labels. The paper labels were getting crumpled and falling out, so I think this is a better option. I just painted directly on the box since it can be wiped and changed, or even covered up with paper later.
Make organizing easy on your kids. The first three ideas contribute to this. Keeping toys simple, having a designated home and labeling makes putting toys away easier for your kids. If it’s easy, then they are much more likely to actually do it. But it also needs to be said that your expectations of your kids when it comes to organizing must be realistic.
One thing I did this year to make cleaning up crafts a little easier for my girls was to make these little art supply buckets with them, because the Baby Bee had a hard time getting crayons and markers back into the boxes. We just painted some wooden buckets that came with a Christmas gift and I hot glued little chalkboards (shocker, right?) with their names on them to the front. Little Bee’s is easily accessible to her, but the Baby Bee’s is up higher so she can’t turn the playroom into a work of art, Skippyjohn Jones style. If your kiddos are having a hard time keeping their toys the way you would like them too, try rethinking the way they’re organized. Maybe you can make things just a little easier on them, and as a result, on yourself.
Finally, in the immortal words of the Despicable Gru, CHILLAX!!! If you have little people at home, your house is never going to look like a magazine. Let them get out the blocks, and the cars, and the little people dolls. And maybe even the dress up clothes too. What’s better than a princess doctor parking a car in the garage of a block house built for the little people? Someday your house will be clean and organized. And when that day finally comes, you can bet that you will miss these messy, disorganized, crazy, giggle filled ones.
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