Toys seem to multiply in the dark of night, like rabbits. We wake up in the morning and yesterday's mess seems to have doubled! How can we create an atmosphere that encourages play and creativity while also maintaining some semblance of order so that we don't lose our minds?
The trouble with some of the tips I've found online is that I feel like I need to do a minimalist home makeover or create a dedicated playroom filled with Ikea furniture in order to get a handle on toy storage. That's frustrating. In my years of momming, I've come across a few SMALL things that have helped. Not to a level of perfection. That doesn't exist here. Just to a point where I feel like our home is cozy and inviting and can be tidied up relatively quickly if company is coming. And to the point where I feel like the toys are a PART of our home, but not taking over our WHOLE home. And to the point where I'm not totally mortified if the doorbell rings unexpectedly.
I'm going to share these tips in small, bite-sized chunks, because if you're anything like me, those major overhaul posts overwhelm you and you throw in the towel in frustration. Here goes. Some simple tips and LOTS of encouragement:
Take a look at your main living area. The place where your family hangs out together on evenings and weekends. What is your goal for this space? I would guess that if you're like most moms, you'd like this room to be a cozy and inviting room for your family and friends to enjoy, maybe with some cute decor. Maybe there are some toys in this room, maybe some games and puzzles. But you probably are wishing for a room that isn't SO consumed with toys that you can't relax. That's a recipe for a crabby mom.
So once we've established your hopes and dreams for the room, let's think about just.how.many.toys can be a part of that vision. Do you have cabinets where toys can live? A basket under the coffee table? A bookcase or cubby unit? Figure out how much space you could ideally dedicate to toys and games.
Next, here's the challenge. Temporarily, I'm going to ask you to move all the toys out of this room EXCEPT for what will comfortably fit into the space you've chosen. Choose a "set" of toys that is fun to play together - not a random handful of stuff. It's more fun for kids to play when they have all the pieces to the train set or the accessories to go with the Littlest Pet Shop. Choose just enough toys that will fit in that space.
As for the rest, do what you gotta do. Put them in garbage bags in the basement, in a tote in the garage, in a pile in the playroom if you have one, whatever. For now, I just want you to feel the feeling of having a living room that contains just enough toys to encourage play, but that also makes it easy to tidy up. Just enough toys so that they all fit into their designated home. Enjoy that feeling for awhile. See if you notice that your kids play differently when they have fewer choices. Swap out the train set with Lincoln Logs if your kids get bored. Live like this for a bit. Feel the feeling of your living space being just a little lighter. This doesn't mean the toys will always be neatly put away. They won't be (and they don't have to be, because we're encouraging play and creativity and childhood, right?). But this does mean that there will be fewer toys strewn across the floor, and that when it's time to clean up, it will be simpler and easier, because everything has a designated home.
The stuff that's stashed elsewhere will be there when we get to the next step. For now, just do this one thing, and let me know how it goes!
Blessings from our homestead to yours!
Ang and Matt