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?