Bryan was in Vegas last week for a business trip and while he was gone I did my best to try and get the house clean. The main level of the house looked pretty good when he got home around 1AM on Saturday. Early Saturday morning I woke up pretty early and decided that I'd go and take care of the laundry and a few other things before anyone else was awake. I was feeling pretty good about the main level of the house being nice and clean so I wasn't at all prepared for what was waiting for me down in the basement. The playroom which my children assured me was clean and straightened for their dad's return home was not clean. No, it looked like a bomb had hit that room. At first I was just going to try putting some of the toys away, but the more I tried to straighten things, the angrier I was becoming. This room, this total monstrosity littered with hundreds of choking hazards is where my two year old had spent hours playing with her sisters the night before. The older girls know they can't have this room like this with a toddler in the house and yet here it was in all it's horrible scattered glory.
All over the place I was finding things that shouldn't be. Legos were all over the floor. A loose screw that had been knocked out of a rocking moose was just left on the floor. Nerf darts were everywhere. Polly Pocket and her dimiutive accessories were all over the place and made me realize that like her friend Barbie, she and her friends had just earned the status of personna non grata. Glass bowls that aren't even supposed to be in the basement were precariously perched in the most unlikely places. Let's not forget the cache of dirty socks and candy wrappers that were also stashed all over the place. I wanted to scream, but since everyone was sleeping and Bryan was jet lagged I didn't. I went and grabbed a trash bag instead.
Like Barbie before her, Polly and all her friends were rounded up and stuffed into a zip lock bag destined to be donated. I don't like to trash perfectly good toys just because my girls won't put them away.
Barbie was banished years ago, but I spared a few select dolls. Since the great Barbie round up during Advent of 2011 I have had a take no prisoners policy with Barbie accessories and dolls that are left out where they do not belong. They get picked up and tossed either in the trash or the donation pile. At this point we have two Barbie cars, an Ariel doll, two or three outfits and a giant Little Tikes doll house. I'm at the point now where I want to dismantle the doll house and put it in the attic or just sell it.
But back to the mountains of scattered toys. I've come to realize that a big part of our problem is attachment. I keep toys around because someone gave it as a gift and I know they spent a nice bit of money on it, or I keep them for sentimental reasons. So while my kids are attached to some of these toys, I'm also attached to some of them.
I went through the toys on Saturday and decided that some things needed to be given away and other things need to be sold. In all the years that we've been married, I've never once done a yard sale. I've given away just about everything that we didn't want any more. But now with a new baby on the way I started thinking that perhaps some of the toys and baby gear that we don't need or want should be sold to help fund the things that we do need or want.
The basement essentially made me realize that keeping things for the sake of keeping them isn't working and only contributes to a horrible cycle of me freaking out about the messes the kids make. If we don't have so many toys that they can't all be put away neatly then we won't have these cataclysmic messes.
So I started to look around and see how I might organize things better. One thing that jumped out at me was the number of block containers that we have. We had four bins of Duplo blocks, two huge containers of Mega Blocks, a stack of wood unit block sets, and more Lego containers than any family of ten ought to have (bearing in mind that we're a family of five with one on the way). Madness. Pure madness. And then I realized that the manufacturer supplied containers, while they're very nice aren't practical when it comes to organizing and storing this products efficiently if you're like us and have thousands upon thousands of blocks in the house. So I decided it was time to detach myself from original manufacture packaging. It was time to face it, no one is ever going to say "Ooh, you have the Costco sized box of primary colored Mega Blocks from 2002! Wow, that's worth a mint!" Same goes for the 2003 container of Duplo blocks or even, the GASP, hard to find Mickey Mouse Duplo blocks that Katie just got for Christmas. I decided to start out with a big clear (so I can see if the kids are stashing toys that don't belong) 66 qt container and see two sets of Mega Blocks would fit. They did! So that gave me the confidence to get another container the same size to consolidate all of the Duplo blocks into one bin, and two smaller ones to hold some of the girls Legos. It really has made a big difference and I believe it is a big step in helping the girls get a handle on being able to put their toys away neatly.
I also thought about a post I recently saw on Like Mother, Like Daughter about a closet re-do that Auntie Leila did. She brought up a lot of valid points with regards to stacking items and setting things up so you're not setting things up for failure. So I took a look at the games in our under the stairs closet and the laundry room. I decided to remove some games and toys that haven't been touched in years and likely won't be touched. Games that I despise, like Pretty Pretty Princess, went into the donate pile. And even games that I really like, such as Monopoly weren't safe. I asked myself if I really "needed" five different versions of Monopoly. After talking with Bryan I decided that I didn't and I chose two versions to keep. I did the same with Candy Land.
I think with better organization and an increase in detachment things will bet better and my sanity will stay in tact. At least I hope it will.