Monday, September 12, 2011

Toys and Clutter

Our home is big enough that it should accommodate us and all of our stuff. Lately though, it doesn't. It seems like I am constantly stepping on or over something and I find bits and pieces of toys or games all over the house.

I sorted through the kids' toys a couple of months ago and bagged up two trash bags worth of stuff. A third bag was filled with stuffed animals. I don't keep broken toys, I've avoided garage sales most of the summer in an attempt to not collect more crap and I try to have the kids clean up their toys when they're finished playing.

But there are moments when the kids must entertain themselves because I'm doing dishes or laundry or sweeping or you get the idea. It is during these times that my children make the biggest mess. Our game closet, located in the same room we use for school, is a disaster. The games were dumped, pieces are everywhere and the mess is overwhelming even for me. The kids were also playing dump in the closet which involved gathering game pieces, blocks, trash, etc and dumping it into the very back of the closet.

My first instinct is to do what I do for other huge messes and start throwing things away until someone pitches in and helps. I've asked the kids several times to clean it up and have had no response. The office is so messy at this point that it is unusable for school. It's like this in their bedrooms and in the dining room that also functions as a play room. I know it is part of my job to clean up crap, but I am getting tired of having to pull teeth to get one of the kids put a toy away that they got out. Lots of whining, complaining and time wasting.

I have tried to make the toys very easy to put away. I labeled all of the containers on the bookshelves and have even labeled the baskets. Most everything is kid level. I know that Maeve's room needs more functional storage, but the boys' room should be able to be kept clean.

So how do I enforce and/or encourage them to pick up their junk? How do I prevent them from dumping everything constantly? I keep repeating "this too shall pass", but I would like to help it pass and teach the kids some responsibility. Thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Not picking up after yourself has never been an option around here. If you make a mess, you clean it up. Regardless of what the mess is. Mama helps depending on age of child and nature of mess.

Same goes with toy messes. Particularly while we're busy with school, Genna sometimes will get out, for example, every single one of the blocks. She'll play with them, and then move on. If she doesn't pick them up on her own, she is directed to pick them up. If she doesn't pick up as directed, I help her by physically moving her to where the mess is and starting her hands on the process of picking up. We don't get out a new activity until the mess is cleaned up. If that means we sit in a whiny, sobbing heap on the floor for 10 minutes, then that's what it means. I'm not mean about it, but it's a rule and I expect it to be followed.

It also helps that I don't generally keep large quantities of small items within reach of children who can't use them responsibly. (Genna cannot reach the games or puzzles that have lots of pieces, for example. It's not like the kids ever play board games by themselves, so those are up on a shelf that only parents can reach for now.) Generally speaking, anything that any child cannot treat respectfully or use responsibly goes away. Wally didn't have markers for a good solid 8 months when he was in preschool because he kept leaving the lids off.

I generally consider everyday picking up to be part of my mom duties - the random toys left here and there - but not the wholesale messes.

Anonymous said...

Liv is more than able to understand the "pick it up or it gets given away/tossed" mandate. I have to remind her, but she gets it now. Asher, on the other hand, is still being worked on.
It has helped immensely to have most of the toys in an entirely different part of the house. Even that area has gotten too full, and will be pared down as I get to organizing it.
The littles are definitely tough, but it may be time to put most of the toys where they can't be found until those few that are left to play with start getting respected. That may also mean locks on other stuff since we both know that just because there aren't toys to play with does not mean that they won't find something else to play with. I find I hate to waste money so throwing something away can be hard for me to enforce, but I think them seeing it actually enforced, as much as I may cringe while doing it, makes a huge difference, too. This is definitely the age that respect needs to be learned, and respecting things as much as people is important.

Alyce said...

I've learned through my job working with young kids that they can get very overwhelmed by the idea of having to clean up a whole room. Sometimes just suggesting something specific "let's pick up all the cars" is much easier for them to do rather than saying "let's clean up the playroom". Make it fun too by having a race against the clock to see who can clean up the cars the fastest. Give the "winner" a reward (they don't have to clean up the puzzle pieces for ex.)