We’re back! And with this hot spot, we’re officially halfway through Project: Simplify. Are you feeling re-energized? Exhausted? Motivated? Overwhelmed? Maybe a little of everything?
I understand. It’s easy for me to feel that way, too. But that’s the beauty of all of us doing it together — watching progress happen, testifying with our own eyes that the goal isn’t perfection, but instead a more purposeful living space. You guys really have inspired me.
This week’s hot spot will require help from others in your home — specifically, the little people. Not only will you get extra hands to help with the stuff, you’ll be teaching life lessons in how to treat the things we own — with respect, but with an open hand.
That’s probably a pretty big clue. Ready for it?
Hot Spot #3
This week’s hot spot: toys and/or kids’ clothes.
It only makes sense that Project: Simplify isn’t a solo deal. Everyone lives in your home, and helping your kids declutter and organize their toys is more than just cleaning — it’s helping them hold on to things loosely, prize the things they do keep, and learn the value of giving to others.
Organizing their clothes gives you an excuse to take inventory of what they have, box up or pass on clothes they’ve outgrown, and make a list of what you need to buy for the future.
An important note about this particular Hot Spot: Everyone has a different situation, so it’ll be a bit hard to prescribe hard-and-fast tips for decluttering and organizing. Sorting through stuff with your teenager is light years different than helping a toddler. To keep this post from being chapters long, I’m going to share my own experience and plan with my young children. You’ll know how to best do this with your own children — and feel free to ask and answer questions to other readers in the comments section.
Let’s get started.
Here are the tools you’ll need this week:
• Organized Simplicity, especially chapters 4 and 13
• A large “give” box
• A large “store” box (one for toys, one for clothes)
• Smaller boxes for clothes storage (if you’re doing the clothes)
• Containers for corralling toys (if you’re doing the toys)
• Cleaning supplies (check Appendix A in the book for my homemade recipes)
• Price tags and a pen (optional)
Here’s the basic plan for decluttering the toys:
1. Set aside some time with your kids to handle every toy, one by one. If your kids mostly share the toys in one playroom of sorts, you can do this together as a family. If they have separate toys in their own room, you can do it one-on-one.
2. Toss any unwanted items in the “give” box. This can be either for donation, for selling, or both.
3. Clean the remaining toys and the toy storage system.
4. If needed, set aside some toys in the “store” box to be shelved and rotated out in a few months.
5. Organize and display the toys so that they’re loved and play-able.
6. Tag and price the toys in the “give” box you plan to sell in a yard sale.
7. Donate, pass on to another family, or post online (Craigslist, eBay, etc.) the rest of the toys in the “give” box.
Here’s the basic plan for decluttering the kids’ clothes:
1. Go through each of your children’s clothes, possibly holding up the items to see if they still fit.
2. Set aside items that no longer fit. If there are younger siblings (or there might be in the future), put these items in the large “store” box. If there’s no one else in your family who can wear them, toss the items in the “give” box.
3. Clean the closet and the dresser drawers.
4. Organize and re-stock all the items currently in use.
5. Sort and store the items to be passed on to the next sibling.
6. Tag and price the clothes in the “give” box you plan to sell in a yard sale.
7. Donate, pass on to another family, or post online (Craigslist, eBay, etc.) the rest of the clothes in the “give” box.
Head here to download and print the supply list and steps (written above), so that you can tack it somewhere where you and the kids can see it.
A few tips…
Really think about the toys you want in your home.
We’ve written extensively here about the value of quality toys that allow your children to exercise their imagination. As a family, we do our best to avoid toys that entertain — essentially playing on their own while the kids watch. To us, that’s not playing.
I shared my favorite classic toys a few years ago, when my kids were much younger. I’ve also shared ideas for cheap and free playthings you probably already have around the house. Megan has also written about how to handle your relationship with well-meaning gift givers who give you toys you — well, just don’t love.
And in my book (pages 179-180), I talk a bit more about our favorite open-ended toys.
Consider your kids’ feelings.
It’s easy for us, as adults, to think the rock collection on the window sill is trash. But to our child, it might be a prized collection. This is a fine line to walk.
I tell you all the time to ask yourself the questions, “Is it beautiful? Or is it useful?” when you’re decluttering, to help you decide whether something stays or goes. This comes from the famous quote from 19th century architect William Morris — “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
Your kids should ask this question, too, about their living space. A child’s room is their little sanctuary, a haven where she can be herself and express her personality.
As an adult, extend some grace when your kiddo wants to keep something you find ugly. I can already tell you Strawberry the Bear will have to stay in our home, even though I’d toss it in the “give” box in a nanosecond if it were me.
Store toys appropriately — easy to play with, easy to clean.
The one problem with quality, open-ended toys is that they tend to also be loose-parts toys. Train tracks, blocks, play food, Lego, cars… They’re little, and they get everywhere.
I like to store everything in separate bins, easily dumped on the ground, but then easy to just chuck back together and store on the shelf. We use the Trofast storage buckets and the Expedit shelving system, both from Ikea.
Create a toy rotation.
If your kids are younger, and you feel like there’s still too many toys to have out at one time, store half of them in the “store” box out of sight. In a few months, rotate those toys back in circulation, and store the original toys. Rinse and repeat.
Kids really don’t need many clothes.
Like us, kids typically wear 20 percent of their clothes 80 percent of the time. I constrain our kids’ clothes to small buckets, and this is more than enough. A week’s worth, more or less, works for us. And if we need anything, we either call up the grandparents or head to the thrift store. I can count on one hand the times I’ve bought kids’ clothes at a regular store.
Make clothes easy to reach.
Most of our clothes are in buckets, where the kids can just cram their items inside. Pretty much everything is 100 percent cotton, so wrinkling isn’t an issue. Because of this, we ask our children to dress themselves as early as possible, as soon as they have the physical ability.
Store clothes-in-waiting nearby.
Store clothes in the next size up somewhere easily accessible, like on the shelf above the clothing rod. Label these boxes well, and check them every few months, to see if anything needs to be moved to the current rotation.
Finish by Friday
Do your best to finish by this Friday. Post your before-and-after photos either on the blog or on the Simple Living Flickr pool, and then come to Simple Mom to link up (I’ll provide a spot on that day’s post). Spend the weekend resting, relishing in your work, and oohing and ahhing over everyone’s accomplishments as you browse the links.
This week’s giveaway
Everyone who participates in this week’s hot spot — and then links to the before-and-after photos on her blog or the Flickr pool — is automatically entered to win this week’s giveaway! As I mentioned earlier, all the prizes are tools to help further simplify your life, not more “stuff.”
Laura Edwards runs Simplicity Consultant, but to her, it’s more than organizing your things–to her it is a process of changing your orientation to your attachments, integrating mindfulness and fulfillment. It is an ongoing path of self-awareness.
You want less stuff, but you don’t want to go through the pain of letting it go. You already feel the resistance when you just think about sorting through and making decisions, one-by-one, of your trinkets.
Simplicity Consulting takes a different approach to organizing. Together, you focus on what you originally imagined your life to feel like. You remember your dream together. And then, with this lovely picture in mind, you gently peel away anything that doesn’t serve that vision.
Laura is giving one participant in this week’s Hot Spot two hours of Vision Mapping. This is designed to reorient the approach you have to fulfillment. Instead of focusing on externally focused goals, Laura guides you through the process of mapping out how you want your experience to be.
Laura will spend a few minutes getting to know you over Video Skype, and during the two hours, will take you through a candid and thoughtful tour of your intentions. The result will be a Vision Map that will arrive at your door that week.
Ready… Set… Go!
Alright, are you excited? I am. Set an example for your kids, and include them in Project: Simplify by helping them organize their stuff. Maybe they’ll react like Marla’s kids, who wrote her that note in the top photo. Thanks, Marla, for sharing that with me on Twitter.
I can’t wait to see all your photos this Friday.
How do you think your kids will react to this week’s hot spot? Have any tips for motivating older kids to declutter and organize?