Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The reality is I don't live in a Pottery Barn catalog

I took some pictures of my children's room today. I love everything clean and organized.




Everything has a place and all toys must be put away after use. No two toys are ever allowed out at the same time. What a mess that would be!




Emma is required to make her bed each morning. We have been working on duvet folding techniques. She is very advanced.



Oops, I notice in the picture above that a toy was left out. It must have been Mandy. Soon I will have her completely trained as well to keep everything neat and tidy.


The truth is that the pictures are from Pottery Barn Kids, where nothing is ever out of place. Reality speaks in this house and my children's room is the hardest room in the house to keep clean. My own childhood is filled with memories of a messy room. My mom would send my sister and I to clean it up and we would end up playing in the clutter, not bothered one bit. Mom would then come in and yell at us. This story is very familiar to the next generation.

While scooping out the corners and sweeping under the bed, finding all kinds of mayhem and yuck, I realized something profound: my children have TOO MUCH STUFF. There is no possible way for a 4 year old to keep her things tidy. I am overwhelmed and I am a grown up, highly skilled in the art of cleaning-up. A while ago I started instituting a highly controversial cleaning technique. It is called "Put it away or lose it forever." I tell Emma to put away everything she would like to keep. We do have places for everything, similar to PBK, just not that pretty. I helped her with the process a few times saying, "What about this? Don't you want this?" She surprised me by how much she said she didn't want or need (a good clue she had way more stuff than she could truly appreciate). 

When she's had a chance to pick up, I take the broom and sweep everything into a pile. While I am sweeping the house, she has a chance to rescue prized possessions from the broom. Then, all the toys, clothes, and hair accessories get disposed of in one way or another.

I use discretion in my tossing. Items that have value go in the "give away" basket. Little junk toys go straight in the garbage. There are some things that have value to me that I don't want to give or throw away and I have to reevaluate what is important. If it is something like a pair of shoes, I obviously keep them, but I hide them for awhile and remind the owner that she didn't pick it up so she can't go outside next time she wants too. My new technique is working quite well. I've relieved my home of a lot of clutter and Emma is learning the importance of taking care of her things. 

I know that keeping kids' clutter at bay is a struggle for all parents, so there has to be more brilliant ideas than my throw away technique. How do you keep it together, looking like Pottery Barn Kids every day?

15 comments:

Jenni said...

See....you're one of the funniest girls I know. I thought that at the Anti-Valentine's Day Party, and I still think it today. Love ya!

Kari said...

We have two fairly new strategies. First, we split the toys kind of in half and put the boxed half in the attic. (caiden has a door in his room which makes this easy.) then in a week or two we "trade". It is kind of like Christmas and they enjoy playing with the "new toys".

Second, Whatever mommy finds downstairs not put away goes into Mommy's toy bucket. So far the things I have gathered don't seem to be asked for...hmm...maybe they believed that I really would get rid of whatever I found, maybe I will!

Sara said...

Awesome idea! I think I will use it as Abby and Ben grow older...I should probably use it on myself as well! =)

Dan & Hillary and little Russell said...

Our motto is "would I put this in a moving truck?" Surprisingly, little passes the test. Russell really has a few toys, mostly cars. I've filtered the rest of his toys away to the Goodwill and he has never even asked about them. Less IS more! Love your humor;-)

Alyce said...

A few times a year we re-evaluate which toys to keep. We have a play room, and everything goes in plastic bins or drawers. Each bin is for a certain kind of toy (legos, transformers, etc.). It works in theory, but there are times when I can't even see the floor in the playroom. :)

When we decide to re-evaluate (i.e. I'm ready to go crazy from the mess) I have the boys help me clean and they can get rid of anything they don't want anymore. After about an hour of cleaning with me they are very ready to hand the job over to me and go do something else. At that point I get out the garbage bags and chuck broken toys & McDonalds toys as fast as I can. :) Of course we give the good stuff to goodwill.

When we cleaned a couple of weeks ago I got rid of two big garbage bags worth of stuff. It's stunning the amount of sheer junk we accumulate.

Grace said...

I almost believed your first picture! I was very relieved to realize that I can actually look you in the eye when I ever meet you!

Katie Rose said...

ahhhhh! I was SO jealous of you reading and looking at the pictures, and I have to admit great relief washed over me when I realized that It was, in fact, pottery barn! We have been de-cluttering our lives as well, we had a garage sale, made $300 and got rid of an ENTIRE front yard worth of stuff, and it still feels like we have so much to maintain it's ridiculous.

Kellie said...

Currently the house looks like a tornado hit it but that's because it's almost lunch time which is a designated pick up time. We're struggling with getting the kids to pick up their stuff right now too. In the past when Grace refused to help pick up her toys she lost the privilege to play with ANY toy for an entire day. We stashed every toy in the house into the office which was a lot of work but she did help pick up for a long time afterwards! Maybe it's time to do that again.

As for toy organization, we got a huge boost in that dept. when we got the toy bins. LOVE those things! The biggest issue we have at the moment is puzzles. We have places to stack them but we inevitably wind up with 20 puzzles and their misc. pieces strewn about the house because both children love to do puzzles. Drives me nuts.

Anonymous said...

I try to keep all toys out the of kids bedroom except for books. The bedroom is for resting, reading, and dressing in. I have the kids play where I can monitor them and how much they get out. I still have to go through their clothes every couple of months and take out the things that they have outgrown or don't wear; but that is easier than going through toys at the same time. It is a relief whenever I get rid of stuff and clothes. I feel much better with less. Keep up the good work on amazing us with your organization! Jenni Birch

Melanie said...

To keep our life perfect, we're planning to order our children from Pottery Barn Kids. They're expensive, but they're worth it!

Cathy said...

I was hoping to see Emma and Mandy's room so that we could all nod our heads and say, ..."yup, now THAT looks real!"

Season said...

I figured out how to comment! Anyway, this is one thing I've figured out. Everything else in our live is chaos right now but...the toys are in order. I did remove them from their room. It IS overwhelming to them. My wonderful husband put up floor to ceiling shelves in this nook in the hallway that was useless space. I bought lots of matching tubs at Walmart for $3 a piece. (not all at once) They are stacked there and labeled. (legos, baby dolls, blocks, etc.) Everyone has to ask to take them out and it is one at a time. It gets picked up before they do anything else and no missing pieces. Puzzles and games are in a cabinet with a lock on it unfortunately because little people were making them one time use things. I've also learned that less is definitely more. And I too would like to see pictures of the real deal so we can all feel better.

Michal said...

my mantra lately, which my kids hate is, "if it's too much to pick up, then you must have too much!" we recently moved all three boys into the same bedroom so that we could use another bedroom as a playroom. this room has basically been taken over by legos and lightsabers, but boy do they resist the idea of clean up!

we have had some tears as i've gathered up things that they just weren't willing to clean up. sometimes i put them away for a while, sometimes i give them away or throw them away. mostly they get busy cleaning when they hear my threats now because they know i mean it.

and my house doesn't look like pbk either. i wish!:)

Andee said...

I use Season's method--this came about when my eldest informed me he was "bored" of his toys. They all got taken away for a week. I boxed them up and labeled them and now they get one box at a time--for at least a day. I have better things to do than switch out toy boxes all day :) The Geo Trax have been out for weeks, but got put away yesterday for the animals. It was like Christmas as they rediscovered the barn with sound effects and Noah's Ark with the removable lid.
I console myself about the "not looking like Pottery Barn" thing by remembering half their toys are too big to fit in the uniformly sized, fabric lined baskets.

Kelly said...

The M.O.T.H. method is to have 7 medium size plastic tubs and have each day of the week labeled on it. On that day of the week they can only play with those toys in that bin. (i.e. legos tub, action figure tub, car/truck/tractor tub) All the other bins stay stacked in the corner the rest of the day. We did this for a while and actually did work very well for the boys... I was the one that got bored :) So I down-sized enough for all the toys to fit in the small toy box and one of those cheap, particle board wardrobes. The wardrobe has shelves and bins to keep all toys in there proper homes, including all their games (working on getting all their books in there too) We are so working on the don't fit don't keep mantality.(it just about kills John) They do pretty good at putting things in the right places (after about 3 months of training) and like above, one bin out at a time (but the toy box is free game, that is where all the misc. stuff goes) I would love to have the toys not in their bedroom, but there isn't another option currently. The Moore boys used a small, under the stairs storage closet with shelving and tubs that I thought was so smart. If I were you I would make Emma and Mandy share the big room and only have their beds and clothes in there and make Mandy's current room a toy mania room. Just in case not all 3 of your saintly children are not sleeping at the same time the toys are availible for the awake child.