Children mean changes in the Home

Written by Karen Jessee.

Children bring change to our livesfriend bemoaning his weight gain commented, “You have children, these little characters that cry and eat and poop. And then they become verbal, and then they become verbally abusive, and then they grow just tall enough to smack you where it hurts. Sometimes it takes beer and Oreos™ to remind yourself that these are the greatest little things in your life.”
Fact: children mean changes in the home. The stuffed fish on the kitchen counter has nothing to do with dinner; scenes from Jurassic Park are set up throughout the house; tiny game pieces have you experiencing the pain of childbirth through your bare feet; the amount of paper stuck to the refrigerator far surpasses the amount of food inside of it; you haven’t parked your car in the garage for years.
In homes where children and clutter rule, mothers bemoan the feeling that they have donated their once lovely abodes to their little darlings. Chaos reigns; there are too many toys and clothes to put away; too many papers and crafts to display

The Problem: “Too many.” A child’s room has no room because there are “too many” toys; closets contain unopened Christmas and birthday presents because there were “too many” to open and the child was overwhelmed. Rooms are destroyed by mounds of laundry because the children have “too many” clothes, most of which no longer fit but are part of the confused piles anyway. Kitchens and offices are ruled by “too many” school papers and art projects.
It takes a special effort and eye to maintain any kind of sanity within the home once children are part of it. Here are some insights from other moms:

Purge: It’s not a bad idea to do an annual clean out before the holidays. You know that more is going to come in. Any time when the kids are home and can be a part of this decision making has two advantages: they’re learning some valuable lessons about downsizing themselves and you’re getting back some real estate.
If toys and books are in good shape or new, there are solutions beyond the usual charities. One friend looks through toys that are new and yet unopened and immediately puts them in the “Toys for Tots” Christmas collections. Another gathers up the donatable items and shares them with various day care centers.
While not all children are good with letting go, the promise of making room for new things coming in for birthdays and the holidays is a good incentive.

Boundaries and Storage: It’s always good to have attractive pieces of furniture that double as storage... and a few strategies. One friend who had two boys had a house that showed no signs of children. She limited how many things were allowed to travel into her living room, dining room and kitchen and she had hassocks and a coffee table that all held toys. It was a major rule that everything was put away before dinner was served.
She also had a corner where children’s things could be stored, and when company came, she pulled out an attractive screen that hid everything.
Another had bookshelves where she had labeled bins for the toys. At the end of the evening, she pulled out one bin at a time and stipulated which of the toys went into which bin. Ten minutes and she had taken back her living room.

Displaying pieces of art work? How about taping them to the children’s bedroom doors or hanging clothes lines along the upstairs hallways? The kitchen wages its own war with clutter and doesn’t need more.
For storing children’s art work and all the memorabilia that follows them through the grades, moms have recommended suitcases, bins or boxes designed to live under the bed. It’s good to have these in place before 12 years of these delights are thrown carelessly into random containers in the basement or storage and end up tattered and messy.
Something Different: Where there is a cabinet filled with board games and the boards are in bad shape, put game pieces in jars and let the boards be recycled. Boards, like puzzles and the boxes they come in, are merely cardboard. Children can make up new games with the pieces in the jars. I’m sure crafters see opportunities here as well.

Choosing our Words
Children give personalities to their toys and stuffed animals so asking them to “put them away” might be akin to making those things suddenly lifeless. Maybe suggesting that they give those toys “a chance to rest” is a phrase that empathizes with the child’s imagination. It keeps the toys alive for the children but out of the way for you.
This is no different than asking clients if they could “let someone else love this.” The phrase allows us all to believe that the item will take on a new life in someone else’s hands.

Seasonal Joy: I bring up the subjects of children, storage and “too much,” because the holiday colors, sounds, and fragrances are upon us. It is that wonderful time of the year when we delight in buying, wrapping and giving. We can’t help ourselves.
But time spent taking inventory of our lives and our stuff, our collections of “too much” throughout the year, during commercials, during a summer, whenever we can snatch those moments to focus on a closet at a time, will make a big difference down the road, both for the house...and for the children.

Karen Jessee is a professional organizer and founder of Simply Organized. She is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and the Philadelphia Chapter of Professional Organizers. She encourages people to simplify their lives and works with those who need to downsize and get organized. Karen helps clients make the decisions and create the systems that are best for them. She also teaches the strategies to help clients gain greater clarity, control, productivity and peace. Karen is a public speaker on these topics. Visit her website at: www.nowsimplyorganized.com
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