After the kids birthday party I let them have free reign over the downstairs area of our house with their new toys for a week. At the end of that week I was pulling my hair out and wondering how in the world I was going to get it all organized and back on track. So after some careful thought and discussion with my husband we decided it was time to crack down on the "one thing out at a time" rule and "pick up after your done with it" rule.
Up until this point I had been very lax on the clean up the toys rule. Having three very young kids made it pretty low on my priority list each day. It was faster and easier for me to just do it. I didn't want to fight them on it or take the time to teach them how when it was time for a nap or time to head out the door, so I just let it slide. Yes, I'm terrible, but it was how I survived the day and it worked for me for the first 3 years. That all changed after I did my major toy, book and game reorganization.
First thing I did was sort out all the toys that they have out grown or just didn't play with that often. This had been tough up to this point because I was holding onto all the baby toys for my youngest, but he's old enough now that I could purge them all. All those toys are now off to homes that can use them. This is going to become a new practice of mine at least once a year.
Second I took stock of everything we had left and made a rough list of where I wanted them to "live". I also determined approximately how many totes I'd need to make my dream a reality. My goal was to get all their toys up into the tops of their closets so they would no longer be able to pull down whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. I figure as they get older and are used to the new rules I'll be able to put them back down at their level. For now, no way.
Then it was off to Fred Meyer to take advantage of a tote organization sale they were having. $1 for each of the small totes and $2.50 for the medium ones. I was so excited! I overbought, afraid of running out in the middle of a cleaning streak, and knew I could return the unused ones when I was all done.
The third step was to go from room to room, pulling toys down, putting them into their tote and moving them to the room that was to be their new home. The only time to do a project like this is when the kids are awake, so it made the project a little more tricky with them wanting to play with anything I got down to organize. But I also used it as an opportunity to teach them why I was doing it and how we were going to be changing our toy playing time.
The final thing I did was label all the totes. I color coordinated the labels by room. Addison pink, Ethan Blue, Austin Green, Family Room Closet Orange and Garage Play Area Purple. This way not even my husband could get confused over where things belong. :)
The whole process took an entire week of my "spare time" during the day. But man was it worth it. I felt like a new Mom after it was all done and I'm happy to report that the kids have responded very well to the new rules. We have a cleaner, less chaotic and more structured house now and my kids definitely thrive in that type of environment. I find that they play longer and better with something when it's singled out and only available if they've chosen it as their toy to play with. They've caught on to the "clean up when you're done" idea and although they still need coaching, are doing so great! Goes to show that it was truly my lack of effort that was setting us back this past year or so. Now we're all set!
Here are the final results. And I'm proud to say that if I went and looked in these closets right now they would look exactly as these pictures are. :) YEAH for organization!
Addison's closet and shelving unit. I put labels with little pictures on the drawers of the shelf unit so that she'd know what went in each drawer.
Ethan's closet. I forgot to take a picture of Austin's closet, but it looks very similar to the rest of the pictures. :)
Garage play area. SO nice to get all the toys up off the main floor of this space.
And finally the downstairs hall closet. This took the most work because it has all the kids craft stuff in it. It was overrun and totally chaotic prior to this, so it feels wonderful to have a place for every type of craft supply and to have it all labeled and put away. I'm a lot more motivated to get a craft out for the kids now, and that's a great thing.