I’m such a procrastinator. This post is three weeks late and the only reason it’s going up today is because I’m having my quarterly meeting with the Frugal Living NW contributors tonight and I don’t want Emily to think I’m a total slacker.
And honestly, dealing with toys and miscellaneous kid clutter is so difficult for me. I really want a home that contains only items that are beautiful and useful. I don’t like clutter, but for some strange reason, it’s still here. I clean out a room only to find it’s exploded two days later. Seriously, where did all this stuff come from?
Emily’s wonderfully inspiring post on managing toy clutter got me thinking about my own home and how I deal with my kids stuff.
About four years ago, my dear friends Rebecca and Melinda came over to help me organize and declutter our toys. I had watched enough Clean Sweep episodes (old TLC show on purging) to know that you start decluttering by gathering all like items in one place so you know what you really have and then can confidently start trashing stuff. So I gathered every toy and kid item and brought them into our rather large dining room.
It was horrible. The dining room was practically filled. My friends stood there in shock. We had so. much. junk stuff. And I’m not a retail toy purchaser. Really, I’m not. I rarely buy new stuff for my kids. But I did garage sale and apparently I was really good at it. Just like my clothing consignment sale preparation, this day was a wake-up call. I liked to accumulate things for my children, not because I thought they needed any of it, but because each item represented a good deal and a good deal should be kept. Forever.
Anyone else struggle with the “but it’s a good deal” disorder?
Since there is no treatment plan available, or at least not when I Googled it, I needed to come up with one myself. The cure? Be ruthless and get rid of stuff. It required a lot of self-talk:
“My children do not need this much stuff. Laura Ingalls had a homemade rag doll and a inflated pig’s bladder to bat around with her sister, and she wrote a successful series of children’s books (yes, we are reading Little House in the Big Woods). I don’t want to spend my adult life managing all this plastic. MUST PURGE!”
Do you struggle with this too? Do the toys and random parenting paraphelia feel like a noose around your neck, sucking every ounce of motivation out of you? Do you have secret fantasies of just torching the place so you can start over (with the children at a safe distance, of course)?
If so, join me in just taking care of it (without committing a felony).
Here’s my plan: I’m taking five days and assigning a task to each day. Just one. No more than about 30-60 minutes of work for each day, otherwise no one task will get accomplished. Even with distractions (food, poop, discipline, more food, whining, discipline, more food), the task can be completed in one morning or afternoon.
Think though the types of “stuff” you have in your home and fit them into five categories. Here are my five categories:
- DVDs, VHS, all media “stuff” (including game systems) and costumes — okay, this is really two categories, but they are small and can be dealt with in one day
- arts & crafts items
- kids room items — mostly books and personal items (stuff that belongs to one person, not the family as a whole)
- family room items — this is where the majority of our toys live
- outdoor items (toys, bikes, trikes, wagons)
Some of my categories are groups of items, some are locations. Obviously, my categories will not work for you. I could easily add boy toys, girl stuff, and educational items as categories, but these will be grouped with the ones listed above.
Assign a day that you will purge the living daylights out of that category. The goal is to finish within ten days from now (June 25). Look at your calendar and figure out what days you will be home and make a date, in pen, to deal with those items. Here is my schedule, based on when I will be available:
- June 16 — DVDs, VHS, all media “stuff” (including game systems) and costumes
- June 20 — arts & crafts items
- June 21 — kids room items — mostly books and personal items (stuff that belongs to one person, not the family as a whole)
- June 22 — family room items — this is where the majority of our toys live
- June 23 — outdoor items (toys, bikes, trikes, wagons)
My ultimate goal is to have only the toys that my kids use frequently and will allow me (and the kids) to actually enjoy our summer as opposed to spending all our time picking up the house.
Next, figure out where all the purged items will go. I decided a long time ago that holding a garage sale just wasn’t worth the work involved for me, not because I don’t like making money, but because I rarely get around to actually hosting one. Instead, I just stored all the junk in my basement, creating another mess and headache. I’ve just resigned to not making money off my stupidity and giving it away — call it another example of Dave Ramsey’s “stupid tax.”
I must confess, I do have this inner spiritual battle every time I am giving something away, wondering if the recipient actually needs it, if that group or person is truly God’s intended recipient, or if I should sell the items and give the money to a starving child in a third-world nation.
Told you, I have a disorder.
After I’ve gotten over myself, I just drive the stuff to the closest Goodwill drop-off and I am here to testify that I feel so good afterward. I don’t even wonder if the Lord is using my stuff to bless the world (told you, I’m full of myself sometimes). It feels so good to not be thinking about it anymore.
Make sure you have a large garbage bag and a large (very large) box available to sort the items. You are allowed to sell stuff on Craiglist or ebay, but you absolutely must deal with it in a timely manner or else I will come to your house and force you to donate it. And if it alleviates any pressure, I am not going to sell anything. It’s all going to the dump, Goodwill or the closest Pregnancy Resource Center.
Lastly, decide if your children will do this with you. If you have the energy, you can make this into a fantastic lesson on the value of things and the type of life your family wants to live. Model how to make decisions about the usefulness of an item. Or, if you’re just too overwhelmed, send them all to Grandma’s or lock them outside and do it yourself. Then you don’t need to hear the tearful protests when you start recycling the homework, doodles and Sunday School handouts. I’m sure my kids will be in front of the TV.
So, who’s with me? Who is going to devote five days to ridding your home of unneeded toy items to allow your family to have a relaxing summer? I am planning to post my updates each day next week (Monday – Friday) and I will open comments to all of you to share your decluttering results!
If you will be joining me in this challenge, leave a comment with your upcoming decluttering schedule — dates along with categories!
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