Friday, March 21, 2014

"Mommy Clean"

My kids receive hand-me-downs, surprise treats and gifts from many people that care about them.  Whether it's a new doll for their birthday, a bicycle for Christmas or a box of too small clothes from a cousin, my kids do not want for much of anything.  Throw in my OCD tendency towards keeping things (no I'm not a hoarder!!) and not wanting to be wasteful or fill the landfill up needlessly, and it all adds up to a lot of stuff.  Having a lot of stuff not only takes up space but it also takes up time.  Time picking things up and putting them away.  Time cleaning things or trying to clean around them. 

Every year, at least once, hubby and I go through boxes and closets, toy bins and dressers trying to choose things taking up time and space in our lives.  Before moving to Iowa, we held three yard sales and sadly after filling the U-haul truck, I still had to leave behind 15 boxes of books and several other items.  One thing I did not really get through before the move though was the kids' toys.  In the more than 8 years of our kids' birthdays, Christmases, Easters and assorted other events those toys can really pile up. 

Luckily we devised a plan early on to keep the toys out of the kids' room(s).  I thought their bedroom should only contain clothing, books and a few special dolls or stuffed animals.  The bulk of the toys would stay in a designated play room or area.  When our oldest was a baby, she had one toy box in the living room.  After having two kids, we kept them in a shared bedroom so that we could use the other room as a play room.  Even after the third kid entered the scene, we kept them all in one bedroom, with a play area in our sunroom. 

This plan has worked well. Young kids do not have the same need for privacy as adults and they love having ample space to play.  Keeping everyone's toys together in a designated area helped minimize the complaints of "mine" and eased the sharing of toys with siblings.  It also helped keep the bedroom as a quiet place for sleeping and reading.  When baby brother was napping, the girls could still play with their toys in the other room.  Here on the farm the girls share a bedroom and the boys share a bedroom, but the toys still have a separate designated area on the porch.  I admit I do not pay particular attention to this play area and sometimes the kids take all bins and dump the toys on the floor.  As long as they get everything picked up when I ask, I no longer worry about sorting into the labeled drawers unless we are doing a purge or having company.  :)

But the girls' bedroom seems to have taken on a whole new identity this winter.  Maybe because it's been too cold to even play on the porch and everyone has been cooped up too long, but toys seem to be creeping inside and hiding in every crevice of their bedroom.  Dirty clothes cannot seem to find their way three feet towards the door into the hamper and the kids must be holding daily fashion shows judging by the clean clothes piling up.  Last week I dove head first into their room and hung up all their dresses, folded t-shirts, pants and jammies.  Matched socks (my least favorite job!) and swept every sort of knick knack, trinket and bauble out from under the furniture.  I arranged books on shelves by size and framed photos to put on their dressers.  Then enter Spring Break... I tried to walk into their room yesterday, only to find myself unable to move with stepping on something or other.  I let it be known that if the clothes were no picked up, beds made and toys put away before lunch today, there would be consequences!  Each girl limited to 5 outfits of my choosing!  If you have elementary aged girls, they are probably as opinionated and picky about their outfits as mine, so this is motivating.  Except today, it wasn't.  From the kitchen I heard laughter and playing.  I gave a 1 hour warning, which soon turned into a half hour warning.

What I have gleaned from facebook friends and fellow parents, this struggle is common.  All the stuff piling up, the battle to control the toys and clothes.  I used my trusty label maker (did I mention I'm a bit OCD?) to label each dresser drawer and each toy bin, but that will only go so far.  I know my children clean best with specific guidelines, such as "pick up all the books" rather than the general "clean your room."  So after today's battle, I am instigating some new rules and methods to our bedroom cleaning routine.  I created a checklist to be posted on the door.  The girls can see what is expected for their room to be "mommy clean" - up to mommy's standard of clean and not just everything hidden under the bed and in the closet. 

click on photo to download pdf of the checklist

 Anything left on the floor overnight will be confiscated and sent to toy jail.  I found this cute printable on the Little Mama blog (and another version at Organized Mom).  The printable includes chores that kids can do as ransom to free their toys.  So over the next couple months we will be testing the checklist and toy jail methods.  We will also be getting rid of some more toys and clothes to free up time and space.  I will keep you posted on our progress, but in the meantime, keep us in your prayers!!  And if you have any brilliant ideas to help tackle the clutter, please let me know.

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