Ah, February Break. If you're like me and aren't jetting off to a tropical destination for school break (okay let's face it I would settle for 40+ degrees after yesterday) then you've probably cobbled together a hodge podge of activities while also keeping your fingers crossed the kids won't go crazy with cabin fever before next Monday rolls around.
For us, the playroom always is the hardest hit during the winter. It's post-Christmas and just after the two boys have celebrated birthdays (seriously how did we get so many Nerf guns?!) so the toy collection is at it's most full, and I get the itch to just start
throwing everything in the garbage carefully sorting and donating the toys that have fallen by the wayside.
Now, I've done this before. Remember the Great Toy Purge? This is like that, only with a carefully laid out plan that will make sure you don't get started in a wild tear of organization only to end up with a pile of toys on your kitchen floor and nowhere to put them. Click through to get started on the 7 Day Toy Cure.
People are always asking me how we keep things organized with four kids under one roof, and my answer is simple "Have less stuff". Unless you want bins upon bins of toys taking over your living space, set limits and stick to them. It doesn't matter how many cute Pottery Barn organizational baskets you have if there are 250+ Thomas the Tank Engine toys that are always underfoot, and we ALL know the feeling of putting away toys that haven't actually been played with, but more or less have been emptied out by small children just for the sake of emptying out a basket (they are so good at that).
And remember, kids actually learn how to focus better with less stuff. Kids learn how to use their basic surroundings to invent games and use imagination in their playing, and let's not forget about the importance of books, music, coloring, painting, etc. in place of "toys". And although it isn't always possible when the temperature dips below 0 degrees, my favorite cure for boredom is an open door to the backyard. Bored? Go play outside!
Now, let's get started on the 7 Day Toy Cure. I stumbled upon this idea at Apartment Therapy, and you can find a way more detailed step by step on their site here.
DAY 1 CREATE AN OUTBOX: This is great because it serves two purposes. First, you get to see what your space would look like with less clutter, and that can be inspiring (and intoxicating, resist the urge to purge all the closets in your house at once after this step). Second, the Toy Outbox serves as a halfway house for the toys, they aren't gone (yet) and it gives you (and your child) the chance to see if this toy is really necessary. Check back every day or so to see if your child is really missing the toys in the outbox. Chances are they aren't even noticing they are gone. Ask yourself: Is it played with often? Is it age appropriate (too young or too old)? Is it broken, dirty or have missing pieces? Another good point, don't forget the tub toys! These really need to be replaced or cleaned WAY more often than regular toys (because mold, ew), here is a great how to on cleaning these toys and when to toss (or how to save them a little longer).
DAY 2: TOUCH AND EVALUATE EACH TOY: I love this step, because let's face it, it's not always easy to let go of toys (I mean for us parents). All sorts of things can run through your head to make it difficult to give something away or toss it, my biggest trigger is the nostalgia of when the kids were younger. My advice? If its something really really sentimental, like a lovey or a blankie, just put it in storage for now. Otherwise, move it to the outbox and just leave it there for right now. The piece over on Apartment Therapy gives some great examples of the separation anxiety type thoughts parents might have when clearing out the clutter. One more thing about this step: remember the questions you are asking yourself now the next time you are in the toy aisle about to purchase something new...
DAY 3: ARTS & CRAFTS SUPPLIES: This one is easy, haul out the supplies and go through them, taking out and tossing anything that is broken, dried out or just no longer usable. Make a list if you need to pick up some new supplies.
DAY 4: BOOKS & MEDIA: Books can creep up on you and before you know it the shelves are bursting even though you're reading Wacky Wednesday most nights. This one is pretty easy too, weed out any duplicates, anything that is no longer age appropriate, anything that is ripped, torn or scribbled on. The aim is to leave 10% of your bookshelf area clear. If you have books that are still in good condition, donate them to the library or give them to families with younger kids.
DAY 5: CLEAN & REPAIR: Go back to your Toy Outbox and see if anything can be/should be salvaged by cleaning or repairing them yourself. Is it missing too many pieces to even be properly played with? Can you replace those pieces? Maybe a beloved book just needs a little tape, and most likely those stuffed animals could use a trip in the washing machine. This is also a good opportunity to give everything that you are keeping a good wipe down and refresh. Move stuff around, clean behind it, you'll be surprised if you don't find more stuff to put in that Toy Outbox.
DAY 6: EMPTY THE TOY OUTBOX: Here it is, the day of reckoning. Now that these items have been in the outbox almost all week you can really decide if they need to go. Does your child even miss these things now that they've been taken out of rotation? Do YOU miss these things? If you really can't part with stuff, consider holding on to some things to be rotated in and out of the toy area. We do this all the time in an effort to keep things fresh for them, cycle stuff in and out so they aren't overwhelmed with toy choices. It's always funny how excited they get when a "new" old toy is brought back out. It gives a longer life to a toy that otherwise was just sitting unused in a corner. For all the other stuff, hand it down to younger kids you know, donate it, or if it is truly junk, just recycle/trash it and let it go.
DAY 7: REFLECTION & INSPIRATION: This step is important because you've done the work, now you need to implement that into your future buying choices. Before you get that toy that they really MUST have, consider this process. Will they really play with this? Will all those pieces go everywhere and be a huge pain to always clean up? Will they quickly outgrow this? Do you even have the room for it right now? Do they already have something really similar to this at your house already? And keep in mind, that while doing a big toy purge/toy cure every once in a while is great, consider adopting this process in a smaller way into your every day life with this type of mindful editing and consideration. Before I buy anything nowadays I ask myself, where will this go? Is this really worth whatever I will spend on it? 9 times out of 10, I put it down and don't regret not buying it. With loving grandparents and relatives we are pretty stocked up on toys as it is regardless, and the BEST PART? Less toys means less cleanup, for you and for them.
For the complete Apartment Therapy Guide, click here, and good luck! xoxo