My room has been a mess since I was little. It got worse in highschool. Much worse, my parents can testify to that. Then I moved a bunch of times, had a few children and tried to stay on top of things, but habits are hard to break! Things were disorganized to say the least.
Then I married Len and his mess got piled up alongside mine. His industrial toys made ours look small and tame, but the more kids we had and the more stuff they accumulated, the more disorganized it all got. Then we moved and downsized tremendously - but not enough. The new house was still a mess.
I do read all of those great simple living blogs and how-to-organize tips and I do feel guilty about not following their inspiring lead, but our clutter was just overwhelming. There was nowhere and everywhere to start, all at the same time. Plus bums to wipe, food to cook, never ending dishes to wash, words to decode for the three year old, places to go, and laundry. Don't forget the laundry! But finally I started.
I started with the CDs and DVDs. I tossed all the jewel cases and put them in sleeves. Big space saver. (No I don't have an ipod or any other digital music thingies... but don't tease because at least we did purge Len's LPs when we moved.)
Next was the clothes. Spring has sprung in abundance here in zone 8 and the kids were looking for shorts again. The clothes situation had to be taken care of next whether I liked it or not. Pack up winter, unpack summer. I purged a lot of things from the smaller girls that no one else will wear. The next baby might be missing out on a few goodies, but 4 years is too long to save clothes that might be in season at the right time. Good-bye! I also took a hard look at my own closet full of things for a non-pregnant mommy. Useless at this point. I got rid of some more too.
Then the books. Oh, we love our books. I have several that are left over from when I was a kid. They should probably be replaced as the bindings are disintegrating, but what if the new edition has a different font or something? It would never be the same :-) I did box up quite a few non-heirloom books to donate though. Most of them were grown-up books as the children's stories will still get a lot more use.
These living room bins are wooden blocks, puzzles, balls, and toddler toys.
Then all the blessed toys. Birthdays, Christmas, new interests, the stuff just starts reproducing on its own I think. Most of what the kids have is really nice and they do play with it. The problem is that it all gets mixed up together and nobody is quite sure how to pick up or where anything goes. I did get rid of a few things nobody cares about, but literally only a few. Just last week (about 3 weeks into my cleaning spree) I read a post about this woman's playroom for her three boys. It was magazine quality. All the labels were fancy and laminated and all her toys fit into the categories and into the bins. There was no misc. bin. There was no pile of random stuff bin. None of the games were too wide for the game shelf. Sigh. I would never live up. My games aren't all in uniform size boxes. But the wheels in my head were turning.
I had to do something. I already had several matching toy bins, and our local grocery store carries the same brand that I already had. I sorted out some rough categories of things and figured out how many bins could fit where. Then I started sorting. The girls did help some, but they got bored much sooner than the work was done. I decided that as long as they were keeping Daniel entertained that was help enough.
It took about three days of on and off sorting to get through it all (ok most of it. There is still a basket of "stuff" in the corner of Daniel's room, but at least I know it all belongs in that room. I can toss in into the right bins in about 10 minutes if I'm alone.) There are some strict categories like "perler beads" or "legos", and some looser ones like "baby toys" and my favorite, "critters and people." There are bins in three rooms - Sadie and Abby's bedroom, Daniel's bedroom, and the living room. Maya didn't claim anything as her own except for a few American Girl things and her desk with some colored pencils, and she already had that stuff under control. She's more than happy to play with the pattern blocks and the legos and everything else, but she stakes no claim to any of it.
This was before I tied the labels on, but they are marked now. I used pin style plastic name badges with the pins removed and a string in their place. If I need to change what's in the bin I can just write a new name tag and slip it into the plastic pocket.
Up top are the things that I don't want Daniel to reach or Abby to have without permission - Perler beads and pattern blocks. The lower bins are Abby's Polly Pockets, toy money, and the critters and people bin.
So maybe we'll start new habits now. Maybe we'll enjoy seeing the carpet for a while. Maybe we'll appreciate our things more now that we know where to find them when we want them. Maybe we'll even keep it this way!
Now, back to that laundry pile...