As always, what is expressed here is my personal opinion. I hope to simply keep it real and relate to some parents in similar situations. Maybe ideas I share can help?
This… is a heavy topic. What?? You don’t think so?
I feel like so much of being a parent is “try, fail, adjust”. This goes for EVERY ASPECT of parenting, and housekeeping too. We do what we know best to do unless we realize our current routine is NOT working, or we find a better way to do it.
In my home, organization is like this. Let me give you a few barriers to having the perfectly organized home (maybe you can relate?!):
1. Budget – I don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on different shelves, drawer systems, containers, labels, stickers, cabinets, etc etc etc.
2. Time – Neither do I have time to make a lot of these things DIY.
3. Changing Stages – Every parent understands how much changes in the first year of a baby’s life, and even in the first 3 years. You are in a constant state of rotating. Rotating OUT the toys and clothes they’ve outgrown and rotating IN clothes that fit and toys that are more age/developmentally appropriate. Now when you have multiple children at different stages, this is a little stickier because what’s appropriate for your eldest is not always appropriate for your youngest. But that doesn’t mean you should hold your eldest back.
4. Decision-making – because of all the aforementioned items, I hesitate to make a decision (which involves spending time and money) if I am not positively sure it will work for us. I don’t want to waste my time and money on something that might not work, or on something that will only work for 6 months.
Then I have this debate always going on: Teach them -VS- Avoid it.
You know what I’m talking about.
Example: You may have a clean playroom, but that’s only because the toys are all mismatched, and the kids can never find the matching figures or the corresponding pieces because they’re scattered between 5 different bins or drawers. This is the ‘avoid it’ method. While easier at the end of the day – it’s probably easier for the kids to help you clean up, and for you to clean up yourself – it is frustrating and somewhat sad when your kid wants to play with her favorite toy but can’t find the pieces. Then you waste 30 minutes trying to find what she wanted to play with, and by that time, play time is over and you need to move on to do an errand, eat a meal, or take naps.
This, to me, is ineffective and unacceptable.
The ‘teach them’ method takes MUCH more time and energy (choose an organizational system, implement organizational system, teach OS to kids, and then re-teach it – EVERY. DAY.) but I can’t bring myself to lower my standards on this one. I want to teach them how to do this on their own, and I want them to learn and remember it. I don’t want to have to help them every single time. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that at this stage, their play and clean up does have to be 100% monitored if I want it to remain tidy. **All moms know we use our full faculties when caring for our kids. Hearing is one of them, and if they are playing nicely so I can cook, clean, use the potty, or – heaven forbid! – sit down for a minute, I am okay leaving them SIGHT unsupervised for a short time in an area that I know is child-proofed.** I don’t mind helping tidy up once in awhile, but cleaning up after themselves is a life-skill which is my job to teach. So I refuse to do it for them every day, especially when I ask them, “Where does this toy go?” and they consistently give me the right answer.
Like everything, it’s a matter of finding balance. I have tried the “let it be messy” method. People will say, “Kids will be kids.” or “you have 3 kids” or “you can’t expect them to pick up after themselves at this age”. Hm, I thought. So I tried that way. But I just felt like I was making excuses for myself. Another reason it became unacceptable (other than the embarrassing feeling whenever someone came over which necessitated apologies and excuses to THOSE people – bah!) is because it is DANGEROUS. Most especially at night when my 2 year old would wake up in the dark to go to the bathroom. But also during the day when I’m carrying a 16mos old on one hip, a basket full of laundry on the other, and, welp, that pretty much blocks my view of the floor and the explosion of small plastic toys all over it. Plus, how is this any better than the ‘avoid it’ method, where toys are scattered yet put away? Kids still can’t find or play with the toys the way they were meant to be played with, which only ensues in them making a bigger mess. (Additionally, vacuuming takes much longer when you have to clean up an entire sea of toys first.) Sigh.
So I have to put this out there: fellow moms – and dads! – what is your method? Because honestly, I see pictures like this in magazines, on pinterest boards, on facebook, etc. all the time:
Here’s what’s awesome about this last picture:
It’s beautiful. Everything is uber neat. It is labelled, it is color coordinated, there are probably things in those drawers that are used all the time, but hidden from view so your house doesn’t always look like a tornado went through it. It’s cute. It’s balanced. And yes, it looks like a magazine photo shoot.
Here’s what’s NOT so awesome about this picture:
1. There are PAINTS(!!!!!!!!!!) within arms reach of a child. Maybe this would work in your home. Mine, not so much. If I so much as step away to go to the bathroom, these paints would be all over the WHITE cube shelf, on the floor, on the wall, on my KIDS, and they’d probably find a way to get it all over those cute looking little balls to the right of the cube, and subsequently throw them all over the rest of the rooms of the house, tracking paint wherever they go. All this in the time it takes to go to the bathroom? I know you are thinking. Yes. You would be surprised. Kids are FAST creatures. Do you think those lids are kid-proof? Oh. You must not have children. Because when kids want something, they will mess with it until they figure it out.
2. This organizational masterpiece seems to be having an identity crisis. I’m not sure if it’s for kids or for adult crafts. Notice what looks like yarn rolled up inside that nice, clean, very breakable mason jar. Hm. But there is a teddy bear and a kid-size chalk board on it too. On the TOP, where the kids who use them can’t actually REACH them, but it is there nonetheless. There seem to be some scrapbook/photo album type devices here, but there also seems to be a Dr. Seuss book. Ok, ok, some Dr. Seuss books are beloved by adults.
3. I can’t read what those labels say, so I can’t speak to what’s in those drawers. But, oh yeah, the kids won’t be able to read them anyway (well maybe my eldest). So… Even the labels are not helpful for the kids.
4. Also? those little pom pom thingies would be all over my floor in a heart beat.
Maybe this was not meant for kids things after all. Maybe it was just meant for a craft room. With a door that you keep locked so the kids can’t get in and destroy all your beautiful things. Or maybe for older children with no younger siblings – because if you have more than one child you know the younger ones always want to do what the older ones are doing.
**For the record, I just dislike the second one because 1 – our toys wouldn’t nearly fit in that space and 2 – the toys are so high up on the shelf that the kids can’t reach them. 3 – that is a safety hazard. Do NOT tempt children by putting their toys on top of the TV or high up on climb-able shelving units. Mistake. Can you tell practicality is my #1 priority?**
Ok, so my goal was not to try to criticize, but we spent the afternoon cleaning up and organizing the toys in the basement, and that always gets me thinking about what we need to stay neater. Switch into positive problem solving mode now commencing!
Now that my youngest is a little older and my middle one is communicating better, I feel like I am almost out of the “JUST SURVIVE THE DAY AND TRY TO KEEP EVERYONE CLEAN, FED, HAPPY, AND SAFE” mode. (um, actually… clean is not really a requirement now that I think about it.) So I’ve picked up a few little projects here and there. (One of them is an awesome display for my jewelry, which I realized will no longer fit in a traditional jewelry box. I will post when it’s done!)
With the holidays coming, and our first time hosting our family’s Pie Night (Oh yes, it is amazing. Should I post pictures?!?!), I’ve had to put a deadline on organizing our playroom and toys in the basement. Which is a good thing. The hubs always jokes that I only clean up when I’m expecting company. Well, in actuality I pick up all day long, but if I know someone is coming over, it forces my deep cleaning to the top of the priority list for a bit. And truthfully I am a little tougher on the kids on those days (“Put that away right now! I just cleaned that up!” Sorry kids.) so it doesn’t get re-messed after I’ve cleaned up the previous messes.
What’s that phrase about having a clear head because your surroundings are clean? No seriously, I can’t remember it. Regardless I really believe that’s true. I am a stickler about this in my kitchen. I hate when it’s messy because I can’t even BEGIN to think about the next meal when it’s a gross mess everywhere I look. But we spent today downstairs cleaning up, and I feel SO. MUCH. BETTER. Like I won’t have second thoughts when the kids want to play downstairs anymore, or trying to ignore the hidden messy corners of the room because everything is actually CLEAN. (Did I mention we have an older house? If I’m not cleaning constantly, bugs get in. Um, lots of them. Yuck.) It doesn’t look like a MAGAZINE cover, but it’ll do for now. There’s room for growth, and that’s the best part!!
The bottom line is this:
1. It has to be safe
2. It has to be tidy
3. It has to be manageable for the kids
4. It has to be acceptable to Mom
Notice, ‘magazine ready’ was not on my list.
So what works for you might not work for me. I’ve seen people organize puzzles in plastic baggies. I knew immediately this would not work for us. I need something much more durable to outlast my chillens. But as long as you have a system that works for your family, you’re succeeding.
And maybe I’m just setting myself up for another let down, but I’m hoping that this time the organization is organized enough at their level that they will be able to keep it up – with some help from Mom, of course.