When my husband and I bought our first house we took meticulous care of all of our belongings. We spent our weekends pursuing antique shops and high end home goods stores looking for ornate knick knacks, statement furniture pieces, and other home décor that ultimately made our house look like something straight off of HGTV or the glossy pages of a magazine. The floor to ceiling books shelves were lined with crystal figurines, precious family heirlooms, and sentimental treasures from our travels. Our house was organized, stylish and always company-ready.
Fast forward seven years and two children later and our house looks like a toy store exploded…
Our once spotless great room is now filled with a three foot tall princess castle, several huge dinosaurs, a ride-a-long airplane, a play kitchen, dozens and dozens of trucks or more toy ponies than any child should possible own. Those books shelves that we spent weeks and weeks styling and decorating now house actual books – children’s books. They also hold a huge stuffed animal collection, Lego sets, board games, several toy instruments, enough crowns to outfit an army of princesses, and hundreds and hundreds of puzzles – most of which are missing pieces that are probably under my couch. Our buffet bar that used to hold decorative wine glasses and antique beer steins has been taken over for a permanent Barbie tea party. My designer couches and coffee table are now flanked by a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and Minnie Mouse chair, along with several bean bag chairs. The piece of furniture formerly known as my reading chair has been permanently commandeered for a jungle gym, complete with juice and mud stains. Yep the toys have taken over.
When my daughter was born, my husband and I made a conscious effort to keep our house looking as “grown up” as possible. We bought a small organizer and some bins and discretely tucked all my daughter’s toys away neatly in the corner of our living room. But as my daughter got older, the toys got bigger. Then my son arrived. It’s mind boggling how many toys children can accumulate over the years… And since we spend the majority of time in this one room of our house, that’s where all the toys ultimately end up.
So how do we fight back when the toys take over?
Purge, Purge, Purge. I’m certainly guilty of not doing this as often as I should, but the easiest way to clean up the clutter is to dispose of the toys your kids no longer play with. Whether donating the toys or selling them online or at a yard sale, cleaning out the toys goes a long way to reclaiming your house.
The Playroom. Oh how I wish our home had a playroom – or any designated space to house all my kids’ toys. A room where I could simply shut the door and not see the ridiculous mess my children were able to create in three minutes. My next house will have room for a playroom, even if my children are grown adults.
Child Chores. While it doesn’t do much help with the sheer amount of stuff we have, I have found that making my children clean up all the toys they’ve drug out does cut back on the number of toys I find lying around at the end of the day. Obviously this approach is more effective with my four year old than with my two year old – who is often the opposite of helpful when it comes to picking up toys…
Rethinking Gifts. Obviously my children love getting toys, especially for holidays like Christmas. But there are lots of other gifts I can give them that are probably more meaningful and won’t clutter up my floor. Teaching my children to value things other than material possessions is very important to me.
Acceptance – It took a little while but my husband and I finally just accepted that we’re not going to get our “grown up” house back until we have grown up children. If it isn’t the toys, it will be sports gear and school projects – although the ballet shoes and soccer shin guards have already arrived. The reality is that four people live in this house and with four people comes a lot of stuff. And one day I’m probably going to miss tripping over the fire truck toys or how the sound puzzles mysteriously make noises when no one is playing with them.
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