Recently, I read an article on the internet, don't ask me where. It was about a mom who decided to strip her daughters' room after observing their deteriorating behavior and increasing expectations on a vacation. She left a sheet and one stuffed animal each.
My first reaction was equally mixed between,"Go mom!" and "A bit over the top?" I went on to read her daughters' reactions at the end of the day, 6 months later and on the next family vacation. In case you were wondering, it worked! Now, she did end up giving some toys back but most she kept for cycling in every few months, or if they weren't educational she gave them away. Her girls' reactions by the end of the day were far from what I expected. They claimed they would just use their imaginations more and there would be less to clean up. Six months later with 5 toys each being cycled in or special toys brought down upon special request, they were using their imaginations more as well as playing independently better. On the next family vacation instead of begging for souvenirs like previous times, they were present in the moment enjoying quality time with their family- WHAT!?
So, as you must have gathered from the title... I started my own experiment!! My daughters will be 5 this month and 3 in May. They have been royally spoiled by their loving relatives and no matter how many toys break, are given away or cycled to bring down in the future, they somehow manage to turn each room into a tornado of toys, crayons and misc articles of clothing. I am pregnant with my third,(a son - yay!) and am having a harder time bending over without heartburn flare-ups. Finding this article just saved me from dumping all their toys in the garbage can.
*Disclaimer I have given away their toys when they have outgrown them, but I always asked which toys they loved most. I encouraged them to share with others. I have threatened to give their toys away to other children when they don't care for their toys properly and yes even once brought out a trash bag to fill after repeated requests to clean their rooms were ignored. Their reaction when I started packing things up were tears, thinking I was giving their toys away. I explained that we were going to try an experiment to help them not have to always pick up an entire room by themselves each night. I had gotten the question from my almost 5-year-old, "Why do we always get the hard jobs?" REALLY!? They calmed down after hearing that I was trying to help them.
I did put some toys away to bring out later when they weren't looking. Anything with small pieces like puzzles or card games got put - WAY UP! - to pull down with mommy's supervision or for special family time. I took all their food and misc kitchen toys and packed them in a big bag which hangs up where they cant reach it (green bag in the picture). I took all their tiny people and pets with their painful accessories (the ones that bring out swearing when you try to check on your kids in the middle of the night!) into another bag hung the same way (clear bag in the picture). Another bag holds their building blocks and yet another bag for all their pretties (necklaces, hair bows, and accessories). The books have a shelf, their dress-up clothes have hooks for dresses and a tub for the rest and lastly, all the stuffed animal (which I keep trying to get rid of but multiply like rabbits!) are way up in a net. Rules are in place that nothing comes down until the last thing is picked up.
It has been about a week and this momma is very happy so far! Not only does this preggers have to bend over much less but my girls have seemed less overwhelmed and already are showing greater appreciation for their toys. They still have far too many toys as far as I am concerned but there is no fixing that with family members who are determined to spoil no matter how much I plead. Plastic kitchen toys get played with for hours instead of seconds and the regular picking up is becoming a habit instead of something they try to weasel out of doing. I wanted to cry at the end of each night when I looked at their playroom, so I can't really fault them for not wanting to pick it up any more than I did. But caving even occasionally and allowing them to go to sleep with cluttered rooms was not only dangerous but self-defeating for the next time I asked them to clean. The restriction may seem cruel, but it will save us a lot of heartache!
I still have hopes of finding more ways to organize the house and give things away to keep life simple. Please share your tips on how you have helped your home be more organized! Or share other methods to show children the value of things, sharing and helping around the home. I look forward to hearing your tips!
My Current Mantra
Walk humbly with God and do the work at your hands....