October 7, 2012

Taking back the basement

The basement is where we keep most of our toys. And if you had ever been in our basement before last spring, you know it looked like we have at least 12 children. It was ridiculous.

Back in April, I was at my breaking point. There were toys everywhere and I couldn't keep up with it. I expected the boys to take care of their things and put them back where they belong, but they're 4 and 2 and were practically drowning in all of the stuff. I've organized and rearranged more times than I can count. We needed a different solution.

And then I found an article on pinterest that changed my life. I didn't pin it and when I went back to find it, I couldn't. If you know which one I'm talking about, PLEASE link to it here because this particular blog had some other great ideas for living simply with children.

This particular post basically said that usually kids have way too many choices and that inhibits their play. After reading that, I watched my boys and both of them (especially Ben) just kind of bounced from thing to thing and never really sat down to play with anything for any significant period of time. Also, we never had all of the pieces to most of the toys together, so they couldn't even play with some of them.

So over Easter weekend, Kyle and I took all of the toys from their room, the living room and the basement downstairs and we all went through the toys together. We eliminated over half of the toys!

Here's our new system for the leftovers:

90% of the leftover toys were divided between five tubs. Two really large tubs and three medium sized ones. All of the tubs are in the closet under the basement stairs. Our original plan was to bring out one tub every day.  At the end of the day, all of the toys went back into the tub and back in the closet.  Then the next day, the new tub would come out.

We left out plenty of "staples" that are out all the time.  Their play kitchen is stocked with pretend food.  They have a bin of balls. We also left out the large cardboard blocks and the trio blocks because those are things they play with regularly.  We left out the train sets for the same reason.

We started the new system that week and I was pretty sure that we'd get a week or two in and abandon it.  But we didn't.  It was GREAT!  Every day was like Christmas when they'd open the new bin to see what they could play with.

We have made one adjustment, though.  We now leave each bin out for 1 - 2 weeks at a time.  I was noticing that Ben would be really excited about the fire truck one day or Jack would get really interested in a particular puzzle, but then we had to put it away at the end of the day without them really getting enough time with it.  Also, it was getting annoying to have to go downstairs and shift REALLY heavy tubs each and every morning.  So, we pretty much just leave it out until it's time for a change.  And then it's like Christmas all over.

All of Claire's toys are upstairs and the only boys' toys allowed upstairs have to be baby-safe and approved by Kyle or I.  This is a little tricky, and we do a lot of sending them back downstairs with things, but overall, it's really helped.  When Claire started crawling, we put the gate up at the top of the stairs, and it's been nice because when the boys come up and wait at the gate for us to let them through, we can tell them to take things back down before they even get them upstairs.

When we feel overrun with toys, we just leave all of the bins in the closet for a while and just let them play with the staples and all of their books.  It's been interesting, too, because they've made up more games than they ever have before and I wonder if it's because they aren't as distracted by the other stuff.

I rarely stick with this kind of organizational system, but this one works so well, that it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

1 comment:

Laura Piatt said...

I remember you mentioning that back in the spring but didn't see the pin. I know even with the few toys I have at my house for my niece, when she has access to all of the toys at once, she plays with none of them and gets into my other things that she's not supposed to play with. I followed your example, and every time she comes over, we get out a different toy (magnetic letters, crayons, play-dough, blocks, velcro animals, etc.). She gets *so excited* like each toy is the best thing ever. Of course, she's not quite two yet, but still, it has worked so well. I don't feel overwhelmed helping her cleaning up ALL the toys before she leaves each time.