Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My 10 Best Tricks to Cut the Clutter from #WallTracks

I had no idea when I brought my brand new baby home from the hospital that little bundle of joy would be a "stuff" magnet. After the pacifiers, blankets, booties and army of creams & lotions came the toys...

We have dolls, cars, blocks, things that shoot, things that make noise in every color shape and size! On more than one occasion I have found myself the victim of a stray, and amazingly pokey, toy underfoot. My only recourse with toddlers has been fun and colorful organization. Okay, I don't claim that it is perfect, but we do a pretty good job of taming the toy hurricane in our house.

Shelves just don't make sense to toddlers, so we kept it simple! We have a variety of large plastic buckets, lidded bins and decorated oatmeal canisters. Yes, this is kid friendly and frugal.

1. You cant miss a big bucket! Up in the kids' playroom we got a set of garden tubs. They have thick rope handles and come in bright colors. These are in place of a toy box. The kids can easily throw assorted toys in the bins as we run around and sing "Pick up, pick up!" I think keeping it simple lets both of my children, almost 4 and 2 years old, be responsible for some of the clutter. Precision and sorting is not necessary. It is more of a grab and toss in action, and it works for us!

2. Keep them lidded. For smaller more specialized toys, like Legos, cars, trains and Zhu Zhu Pet toys, we use bins with locking lids. Because of my kiddos ages, keeping these toys separated from the general toy population is a little harder, but the lids help keep them from being scattered to the four corners of the house. The bonus is clear bins allow the kids to easily see what is inside, and they stack easily.

3. Get creative. Then for a DIY way to organize smaller items, I took oatmeal containers and wrapped a piece of construction paper around the outside. This allows the kids to find the container by color, or a picture can be drawn on the outside. We have these for our alphabet magnets and other items that are small, loose and need to be contained.

4. Bright and fun shelving. Another item I look forward to adding to our organization arsenal is a shelving unit with removable tubs. Again, brightly colored and easy for my kids to use I plan on adding one to our playroom around the holidays.

5. Spring clean... and Winter clean? Spring cleaning is a great time to declutter and assess what the kids can donate or do without. But, what about twice a year? Christmas and birthdays around here brings a new stack of "stuff". Before of after the new things arrive, pair down the playroom. After Christmas is a great time also because some of the new arrivals will be tossed aside and have lost the kids' interest.

6. Rotate! My kids have so much stuff, but we don't always want to just get rid of it. Some sets are rotated so the kids can play with "new" items regularly. I keep the rotated items in lidded bins, non opaque but marked and stored in the attic or back room.

7. Don't forget the classic toybox. This one was hard for me. The thought of smooshed fingers and slamming of the lid kept me from buying a toybox for a long time. I finally found several that do not slam, and are very kid friendly. It looks good in our living room and is a quick place to stash the toys.

8. Don't overlook boxes. If you have diapers or even shop at a wholesale club, you probably have excess boxes. I know, this is pretty simple, but covered in craft wrap or wrapping paper and decorated, these can make a very simple and inexpensive storage container. Either fold in the top flaps or cut them off entirely. The kids will love personalizing their own storage container.

9. Keep messy toys out of reach. One of my biggest realizations was that I needed a safe place for some of my kids' favorite, yet very messy toys. We designated the top closet shelf for things like Play-Doh, Moon Dough, markers and crayons. This helps me keep my sanity and the kids can just ask when they want to play with them.

10. My biggest tip is to get the kids involved with organizing and cleaning up early! Yes, I have little ones, but with our Pick Up chant they spring into action and can help me get toys off the floor. I want them to be responsible for their own clutter in the house and so far it works pretty well. The do need to be reminded, but picking up before nap and bedtime is starting to be habit.

Okay, with little kiddos taming the toy mess can be a full-time job. Yes, they are going to make messes and I will still find things to trip over, but at least I can make clean-up time easy and kid friendly with my assortment of bins, tubs and recycled containers. So, how do you deal with the "stuff" your kids amass? Any fun tips to share?

*Disclaimer - I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Hot Wheels® blogging program, for a gift card worth $40. For more information on how you can participate, click here.
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