Sharing and Caring Week: Stuff Management

How do you manage it? The toys and clothes, especially?

I'm wondering if anyone has a good system for managing kids' stuff (and
your adult stuff, frankly). I feel like no matter how often I weed out
toys they seem to multiply. And, theoretically, books aren't a
problem, but they seem to multiply, too.

My only technique for clothes management is to toss anything that
doesn't fit my older one into a plastic bin, toss anything that doesn't
fit my younger one into a bag of clothes to be sent to a friend with a
1-year-one son, and toss anything not in wearable condition into the
bag that goes to textile recycling at my local farmers' market.

(We're talking about schedule management tomorrow, and somehow I feel
like the crazy influx of paper from the school is part of that, so hold
off on comments about paper management until tomorrow.)

Also, is anyone else completely motivated by the TV show "Hoarders"? It
terrifies me, and that makes me very productive with cleaning, sorting,
and getting rid of stuff during the show.

How do you manage your stuff?

55 thoughts on “Sharing and Caring Week: Stuff Management”

  1. I throw it out.I have a reasonably attractive storage system for toys and whatever doesn’t fit is GONE. I donate, recycle and purge constantly and mercilessly. Of course, my kids are too young to object, but I hope I’m teaching them not to be attached to material possessions so that when they ARE old enough, they will join me in gleeful tossing!
    100% of their clothing is hand-me-downs so I am brutal about weeding that, too, since I have no attachment to any particular item because it was a gift from so-and-so or whatever. I simply do not tolerate excess in that area or, for that matter, in any other.
    With books, I pass them on or donate them to the library book sale. If I need them again, I check them out of the library.
    I just figure, my memories are in my mind, not in my storage bins, and I want to minimalize my attachment to ‘stuff’ so most things go OUT.
    The mantra is, I keep things only if they are TRULY beautiful, useful or meaningful. I get FAR more satisfaction from uncluttered space than even from successfully managing ‘abundance.’ I try to stem the influx, as well, but mostly I focus on weeding what’s there.
    Of course, the justice in my approach is that my husband is a total sentimental pack rat. Drives me BANANAS!!

  2. I’m about to attempt a monthly toy rotation program. We are lucky enough to have storage space, but it’s about a 10 minute drive from here so it’s going to take some organising. The plan is to photograph all the toys and put the pictures on laminated sheets – just to ensure out of sight isn’t out of mind. If our son asks for a toy mid-month he can put a sticker or checkmark by the toy he wants and then swap for it on the garage visit day. Same goes for us if we want a different toy pulled out for the one year old. When I was little I spent HOURS with toy catalogues, folding down pages, circling the toys of the moment. Hoping these sheets do the same for my kids. Love the idea of shopping from our own stock.Only problem is finding time to make the sheets and deciding how many toys and which ones to keep out. I can’t tell what’s more overwhelming: having so many toys taking over our small home or trying to tackle this plan.

  3. @j…love that idea!We know our 2nd is our last, so I love the fact that once she’s outgrown something, it can immediately go into a bag for giveaway. There’s no saving/storing for the next what-if baby.
    I am far more merciless about purging than my DH is…if I had my way, I’d be living in a modernist, minimalist apartment where everything is spare and out of sight. Instead, I have this eclectic, mishmash of stuff. SIGH.
    We are lucky to have charities who call us fairly regularly and will pick up from our house. Couldn’t be any easier, and truly, I always have *something* to donate.
    P.S. Moxie, I am obsessed with Hoarders and also the show “Obsessed”. Ironic, that.

  4. How do I manage the stuff…Moxie-never seen hoarders, but the concept does motivate me..and i try to also think of, if I was moving, would I want to take this.
    @J-the plan does sound a little overwhelming, but how awesome if you could get it off the ground and stick to it!! And the truth is, if you don’t stick to it regularly, it will be bc they are managing fine without those toys!! But my kids love love love toy catalogues also, we call them “magazines”!
    Um, Not WELL!!! I try, I do, really, but somehow there is always more more more. I do rotate toys out, and try to weed out and donateresell to kid to kid, but somehow there are still always toys. And, our toys are always always missing parts and have the boxes broken and stepped on or missing. Anything with small parts or cards is basically just a disaster waiting to happen, bc my younger kids are dumpers, and no matter how hard we try to keep things away from them, eventually somebody forgets to put a gamepuzzle away, and then it’s fair game. So I also have tons of free floating random pieces to things, that eventually I throw away, but sometimes am hopeful that the other parts will resurface. I theoretically have a goodish system, with labeled bins, and rotated out bins, etc. etc., but the only way it is maintained is if I spend a huge amount of time resetting it, and stay on top of it ALL THE TIME, which honestly, is no fun for anyone. And the oldest, who is the only helpful one, gets really and truly frustrated, bc the other kids mess it all up, and she gets overwhelmed to put everything in the right place, she she just shoves it all in the same place. So, that’s toys…I don’t think we have too much, necessarily, but somehow the system is not working. Maybe if there was WAY LESS it would work.
    Books-I throw out ripped ones. Usually. Unless we love them. Then I don’t.
    Clothes, my system is ok for, although not perfect. I have stuff that’s too big for each kid (hand me downs, stuff bought on clearance, etc.) in a specific space in a closet. I have a bin near each kids’ dresser or in their closet, for stuff that’s too small. As stuff gets too small, it gets tossed in there. As the bin gets full, or, more honestly, overflowing, andor it’s time to pull out the stuff that’s too big for the new season, I sort through everything. It goes either into hand me downs for the next kid down (i have 2 girls and 1 boy, but please G-d hope to have more kids, and share with cousins, etc.), good will, or for resale. The part that doesn’t work so well is that sometimes that stuff sits and sits. It is a pain taking the stuff for resale, bc to carry in a bin and a toddler is pretty, um, impossible. The goodwill stuff hangs out waiting for me to take it at that same time, since whatever the resale place won’t take goes to goodwill. And, the bins for the attic, well, I hate to stick them up there and find one more thing that size that’s too small in the dryer, so i wait a while with those. And then the kids decide to play dress up with the stuff, and all bets are off. What? I said I don’t manage this stuff well!!
    I think my problem is being really bad at doing things well enough, getting stuck at wanting perfect, and things then deteriorating into REALLY BAD and overwhelming, and then it is EVEN harder to get to perfect.
    Um, I think this issue might be one of the top 3 stresses in my life…is that crazy or what? But if a magic fairy would come and keep my house clean and organized, I think I would be a significantly happier person. Not that I am unhappy. But happier.
    Thanks for the free therapy.

  5. I find it easier to manage my daughter’s outgrown/out of season clothes than mine, actually. Just went through my own closet, and got rid of a whole garbage bag full — I mean, if I haven’t worn this garment in three years, what on Earth makes me think it’ll be more appealing next year? Ack!For me, stuffed animal management is the biggest challenge in terms of kids’ stuff.
    I have a bin in which I toss things that no longer fit, and periodically I empty that bin — a friend holds kids’ clothing sales for her husband’s charity, so anything in good condition goes to her. She also happily takes the kid-sized plastic hangers that seem to multiply in the closet.
    We go through books regularly to get rid of those that are no longer interesting.
    I’ve (mostly) come to terms with the idea that my daughter will be an only, but I rather dread cleaning out the attic someday and getting rid of her crib.

  6. I’ll try to post pics later but I’m -reasonably- happy with how we handle our stuff.I have to say up front my mantra is “toys are not a blight on my spotless existence.” IMO toys (good ones) are a key part of learning in the preschool and early childhood years and my son does not have the option of moving out, having an office, etc.
    So when I approach toy storage in our home it’s with that in mind – not that I intend to keep every bit of junk or allow our home to be chaotic. But during this period of my son’s development, toys are his *work* and need to be treated respectfully.
    So that said we have storage for toys in most rooms in the house.
    Besides his room, which we try to keep fairly zen so he can sleep and relax there, we have two two-row expedit bookcases from Ikea on their sides: One in the living room and one in the basement. We have the baskets that fit the squares (about 12 x 12 x 12) and then we have some smaller baskets, and some of the shelves are left open.
    This means we can rotate toys upstairs/downstairs/closet easily, and the multiple baskets mean we (usually he and I together) can sort them pretty quickly. We also have smaller baskets for the smaller groupings of toys. So we have a dino basket, car basket, two Playmobil baskets (and growing), etc.
    We also have two benches, one downstairs and one in my office, that have roll-out drawers underneath, and are play surfaces. We often leave toys “set up” on the surfaces for easy play (LEGO MAT), but we can sweep them into the bins quickly.
    In the front hall, kitchen, bathroom, master bedroom, and DH’s office, we have one basket per room that is for “misc” toys.
    Anything we find in there gets pitched into there and then each night I sort one basket into the toys’ homes (so I’m basically just sorting one basket a day, every day).
    This means that if my son’s toys get tidied up by anyone in the family he knows where to look, and it also means all of us, including him, can super-easily clean up a room. As he gets older he’ll be more in charge of that and he does help, but I feel like at this age (4) the support is worth it.
    For clutter control, we try not to buy single-use toys like “oh we’re out and this will buy us a half hour” and we don’t shop for entertainment. Even so it does get overwhelming and I’m still struggling with that a bit – I want to give my son both limits and control, but he’s at an age where he has a hard time releasing stuff.
    I also find 4 challenging in that he’s not QUITE out of some of the babier stuff (Little People, Megablocks/Duplo) but he’s also into the Playmobil/Lego/Star Wars. I am working out in my mind whether to just push the Little People out, but whenever I’m about to he has a weekend of fun out of them. I’ll be a bit glad when we get just a little bit further down the line, I think.
    I will say that part of my experience growing up was living with parents who now truly, truly qualify for Hoarders, but who dealt with that issue by blaming my sister and I for the mess. I will be erring on the side of insufficient training in cleaning and organizing if I have to err on any side of it and I tend to focus on MY stuff first. Mostly.

  7. For us the key is having very little to start with. We have one big bookshelf full of books and medium bookshelf for toys. We only ever have an amount of toys that fit on that one bookshelf – all toys are shared by all 3 children.I have made it super-clear to relatives and friends that we don’t need/want any things – just experiences with them. All gift-giving is small -scale around here for philosophical reasons.
    I think that the reason that this system doesn’t feel mean is that I have consistently noticed that the fewer toys we have, the more the children play with toys. If we have more, the children can’t see the trees for the forest and just don’t play with them. Instead they whine to me about boredom.
    We also don’t have anything with a billion small pieces or anything that can only be played with one way (exception: puzzles). Everything is open ended. If each toy has 1000 purposes then you don’t need 1000 toys.
    We might have about 20 toy items max at any one time.

  8. Oh and we have a permanent Thomas area in our living room. Of all the toys ever, this one has gotten played with every day I can remember, in so many ways. It blows me away, but I’ve also just started vaccuming it in place. It’s now pretty much decor.

  9. Um, I’m not a terribly organized person. My DH is much more so, but we have a reasonable and, for now, workable, system of managing stuff.For kid stuff, like Shandra, we try to incorporate some toy storage into most rooms of our apartment. These come in the form of boxes. Some are brightly colored storage boxes with lids from Ikea, that fit onto the bottom shelves in our living room; but we also have one of these boxes in his room and in our office. We also have two more nice wooden boxes (vintage whiskey crates, so they look nice) in the living room for dumping stuff. The idea is that whatever room we’re in, there’s stuff to play with (in the kitchen that of course consists of pulling stuff out of all the cabinets and drawers), and whatever room we’re in there’s a place to just dump whatever toys ended up in that room at the end of the day.
    And I just did my first round of toy rotation, putting away a bunch of stuff in his closet in a plastic box to get out at some later date.
    We tend to have a lot of toys because: a) we use a lot of non-toy things as toys, so household stuff gets appropriated into the toy boxes (old medicine droppers, egg boxes, plastic take-out containters, etc.); b) we go to thrift stores a lot and it’s just so easy to pick up YET ANOTHER crappy plastic truck when it only costs 50 cents and you know it will provide hours of entertainment. Add to that the fact the DS is the first grandchild on both sides and you have a lot of stuff.
    As for clothes, I try to be good about weeding out the stuff that’s too small and then making big plastic storage bins sorted by size in case we have a #2. But the boy is 22 months, has been handed down a ton of clothes and outgrown a ton already, so that means we have a LOT of plastic boxes. Luckily he doesn’t really put anything else in his closet at the moment. But still, at some point the storage shit is going to hit the fan.

  10. I just have to be merciless about getting rid of stuff. Clothes that will be handed down to the next kid get saved in the garage … otherwise, to charity or the trash.Toys get a two-step purge. We have a decent-sized play area for the kids in our living room (no playroom and not much space for toys in kids’ room). It’s a bookshelf from Pottery Barn that holds 6, 12×12 baskets, plus another toybox about 18×18. I think that is enough toys! So when stuff gets over-stuffed, I do a purge (when the kids are sleeping … they are 5 and 2.5 so I can get away with this). Stuff that is old/broken/not being played with goes to the garage. If they don’t ask about it for a few weeks, off to charity.
    Our house is smallish but not too small, but it is older and very lacking in closet/storage space. So while we have plenty of living space, we just don’t have enough space to keep a lot of extra toys around. It seems to me like my girls have PLENTY of toys to play with … plus they are both in school (older one 8:30-3, younger one 8:30-12) 5 days per week, so they really need less. Of course, we will be adding kid #3 (and a boy, this time) in a few months, so I think I will have to get a new system eventually!
    I used to be a pack rat, but I have reformed. 🙂 I really, really love to get rid of stuff.

  11. PS I get rid of books too. I used to think that “you can’t have too many books,” but I changed my mind. We have 2-3 shelves of kids books, and that is enough. Any more and they can’t pick some to read, is is just overwhelming. So when the bookshelf gets stuffed, I purge and donate.

  12. DD is only 2, so we’ve gone with clear plastic bins with lids (Ikea) that sit on bookcases we’ve put in every room. She can see into the boxes and tell me if she wants one that is too high. They are big enough for art supplies, as well. One of these days I’ll get a label maker and label them all; for now they are roughly sorted by type.I kept most of DD’s outgrown clothes in her diaper boxes -so they are already roughly sorted by age (except for the ones you always miss at the back of the closet, haha). When I know they won’t be needed anymore, they’ll quickly be donated to a women’s shelter.

  13. Toys do not multiply in our house (probably ‘cos my parents and his parents give the kids money and clothes for birthday/christmases). I encourage books ( in English) as presents from overseas visitors too. As a result the toys are not an issue (yet). However, the newborn toys we had got passed along to newborns we know and the rest to the local preschool or church ( that dipatch them to various charities.I actually like sorting out the clothes. Now that the kids are bigger ( 4.5 and 2.5), the chances of the girl getting the boy’s hand me downs is slimmer and slimmer, so the stuff boy grows out of goes straight in a bag for a friend’s son. The girl’s stuff goes in a bag for another firend too.

  14. The Unclutterer website has some great tips for dealing with overwhelming “stuff.”My best strategy is to schedule an “hour of power” about once a month during which we purge the typical “clutter prone” areas of our home, i.e. the bedroom closet, my little junk drawer in the kitchen (where receipts & little papers get crammed into), and the backseat of the car.
    Having a place to donate used items in good condition, along with a friend who wants your kid’s hand-me-downs, are also a great way to cycle the stuff out. Also, anything you can rent/borrow, you’ll eventually have to return – so that can be a plus.
    “Hoarders” makes me sad the same way shows like Dr. Phil do – it strikes me as shaming. But fear can sometimes be a healthy motivator, I suppose. Though as I’ve said here before, it’s not only the tv-show folks with crazy cluttered messes of homes who may have some issues — it can also be the super-organized, clean freaks who *don’t enjoy being that way* that’s the key. If you’re happy with the way your home makes you feel, that’s what’s important.

  15. I had no idea “Hoarders” existed but should watch. That woman on Oprah who had to walk through canyons of stuff in her home? Too close to my mother for comfort. When we cleaned out her basement after her death, I “discovered” stuff in plain sight that I didn’t ever know what it was–it was all furniture, surely beloved by someone, from other deceased relatives’ houses, that had moved to our basement, never to be seen or used again. (By us at least. We auctioned it off in hopes of it seeing better days.) I swore not to do that to my kids but the storage unit is still full.Having had no role models in the purging, organizing, or tidying departments, I feel truly stunted in this department and it is hard to learn. But I’m trying. Really. And my husband, who would live in a modernist space with all clear horizontal surfaces, will go straight to heaven having lived his purgatory here, if the Jesuits are right!

  16. MamaBirdNYC – it is a difficult approach but it definitely works. We had so much less stuff when we moved more frequently. We also didn’t have kids which kept the stuff down too :)My problem is that I’m having a really hard time just giving the boys things (toys and clothes) to Goodwill or something like that. I think they are still worth a lot and want to sell them but don’t have the time so they just pile up in the garage. Not sure why I can’t get over this hurdle and just give the stuff away.
    As for organizing the things we are using, we have an Ikea Expedit too (highly recommend it) and a couple of ViaToyBoxes – one of which we turned into a great play table. We use plastic bins (with lids so they can stack) and it really helps the boys to know that things have a particular place to go. They are now pretty good about putting things back when they are done. Our biggest problem are the random toys we get for birthdays or Xmas which are lots of random pieces, only used for that one thing (think large plastic race track or things like that) that are too big to have out but the boys will see them in the closet and want to play with them.
    I feel really badly (my boys are 4 1/2) but there are times when I will throw some of the things in the closet away when they are at school or out with their dad on an errand. We’ve tried the honest approach but when it comes times to give a toy (that they haven’t played with for a year and that is way too young for them) they suddenly can’t part with it and it becomes their favorite toy for the day. Ugh. I’ve tried transitioning things to the garage but then they’ll see the things in the garage and move them back into the house.
    We have too many books but I have a major children’s book festish so I think the solution for that will be to buy another book shelf and perhaps purge out some of the less good books.

  17. I should probably be watching Hoarders, too. My problem is a combination of too much stuff and not enough time to deal with it. I’m working on the time thing, and the stuff thing is coming along through aggressive purging. We’re done with kids, so for clothing I have a handful of people that I pass along outfits as soon as they outgrow them (defined as any time between the moment it is outgrown to six months later…). Toys are more difficult because we don’t bring that many in, and they really do seem to play with them all at least some. And a nice chunk of their toys are MY toys from when I was a kid. And I simply can’t part with them (unless they break, then it’s out the door). And books you can pry out of my cold, dead hands.

  18. I donated all my maternity clothes to Goodwill and people I know who are pregnant. But, now that I am in the place of getting rid of baby clothes, I cannot do it. I am done. Probably. I think. But getting rid of teh baby clothes (and car seats) just seems so much more permanent than getting rid of my clothes. It’s a mental hurdle. So, the baby clothes sit in three boxes (Goodwill, Once Upon a Child, and give to friends with babies) and I cannot seem to get the boxes into the car.I guess I need some therapy to discover my true desires about #3. How about…I want a third when I win the lottery?

  19. I don’t watch Hoarders, but I do watch Clean Sweep. It always inspires me to clean and organize, and I get some really great ideas from the show.My biggest thing lately has been to make our house really child-friendly. With the pre-schooler who is into everything and finds ways around any child-proofing and with the second one now born, I knew I needed to make a big change in how our house was organized. I’ll have plenty of time for my pretty breakables later in life. So I packed away, sold at the annual neighborhood yard sale, and am about to give away to the organizations who will pick up from our house all the stuff that we didn’t need or use at this time in our lives.
    I packed up all my china and crystal and other breakable knick-knacks into storage bins and put in our storage room or put on those tops shelves in the kitchen that are so high up I never use them for anything. I will pull them out later in life. I am now using the hutch in the dining room for art supplies, including Play Doh, and the hutch in the kitchen for all the chips and bread that used to sit on our counters and drive me crazy and be right in grabbing distance for my daughter.
    Back when we had a little money (read: prior to having a second child), I bought a drawer/cabinet/cubbyholed shelves from a system sold by Pottery Barn. I put it in my family for my daughters toys and my cookbooks. I LOVE THEM! They are pretty and can close, so when the toys are put away it looks nice. And they are very accessible to my daughter, so she can get stuff out herself.
    A big problem I have right now is storing all the maternity clothes, baby clothes and toys. I don’t know if we are going to have another, so I don’t feel right about giving them away yet because I don’t want to have to re-buy all those things for a third. So they are in bins in the storage room. Luckily, we have a large storage room.

  20. It really does seem to be easier when you have a place to park things that need to be donated. We have a spot in the corner of our bedroom where these things land, and sounds like a lot of us have some sort of bin for kids’ clothes.Another thing – we got rid of all but one crapcatcher (by crapcatcher, I mean a bowl, plate, or other object sitting on a counter or table where crap gets dumped — keys, sunglasses, and other *stuff* that’s used a lot less often). If there’s nothing there to catch the crap, it doesn’t accumulate.

  21. My not-so-simple but simple method is to stop buying. Really.For example, when it comes to grocery shopping, I stopped buying 5 of something even if it is on sale. (Of course exceptions but not many.) Do I need 20 rolls of toilet paper? I am lucky to live within a 10 minute drive to three grocery stores. I make a shopping list, stick to it, and then I don’t wind up with mystery cans and boxes not needed or never used.
    Correlary to above, I greatly reduced the amount of packaged snack food. We do our best to eat fruits and veggies for snacks. (Yes, I do spend 1/2 a day each weekend being a bit of a sous chef for the week but it pays off for me.)
    As for my 4.5 yr old son’s stuff: rotate, rotate, rotate. Literally only 3 or 4 items are out at a time and older treasures are rotated about every week or so. He now has a say in how long an art masterpiece can stay on the wall but knows that once the wall is full, if he doesn’t want to take one off, we can take a picture of it and save the picture but we aren’t hanging it up until there is room. He has a shoebox for his scraps, uhm, treasures of paper and stuff and knows the shoebox is the maximum until he has to clean it out.
    The hardest part for me is following the “touch once” paper rule: when I get mail or notices etc. from school, act on them right then and there and then, if needed, write on calendar, file, post on bulletin board, or toss.
    Sometimes I come home with my work bags and put them on the kitchen table instead of sorting through and it looks like hurricane mommy hit. I’m working on that because it pleases my spouse and I guess I like less clutter, too 🙂

  22. My not-so-simple but simple method is to stop buying. Really.For example, when it comes to grocery shopping, I stopped buying 5 of something even if it is on sale. (Of course exceptions but not many.) Do I need 20 rolls of toilet paper? I am lucky to live within a 10 minute drive to three grocery stores. I make a shopping list, stick to it, and then I don’t wind up with mystery cans and boxes not needed or never used.
    Correlary to above, I greatly reduced the amount of packaged snack food. We do our best to eat fruits and veggies for snacks. (Yes, I do spend 1/2 a day each weekend being a bit of a sous chef for the week but it pays off for me.)
    As for my 4.5 yr old son’s stuff: rotate, rotate, rotate. Literally only 3 or 4 items are out at a time and older treasures are rotated about every week or so. He now has a say in how long an art masterpiece can stay on the wall but knows that once the wall is full, if he doesn’t want to take one off, we can take a picture of it and save the picture but we aren’t hanging it up until there is room. He has a shoebox for his scraps, uhm, treasures of paper and stuff and knows the shoebox is the maximum until he has to clean it out.
    The hardest part for me is following the “touch once” paper rule: when I get mail or notices etc. from school, act on them right then and there and then, if needed, write on calendar, file, post on bulletin board, or toss.
    Sometimes I come home with my work bags and put them on the kitchen table instead of sorting through and it looks like hurricane mommy hit. I’m working on that because it pleases my spouse and I guess I like less clutter, too 🙂

  23. @Shelley – “If there’s nothing there to catch the crap, it doesn’t accumulate.” How I wish this was true for us. If there is nothing there, then the crap goes on the counters and tables. It drive me nuts. I think it’s really because a lot of the crap has no real place to go. That’s one of my next projects. Setting up a place by the front door where our keys, mail, and other crap can go.

  24. momofthree – can you tell us about some of your favourite toys…the ones that are used in 1000s of ways and that you feel are really worth having?Re. getting rid of clothes: I agree with others, it helps knowing you are DONE having kids. I’m not tempted to keep the cute little baby things around.
    Also, agree with whoever said that if you can borrow from friends it helps because giving it back is a great way to de-clutter!

  25. @j I LOVE the idea of a toy catalog. Brilliant!I just went through a PAINFUL toy and clothes purge here. We have one, very small storage closet that was (literally) bursting with baby crap.
    I never, in 4 years, had parted with one item of my daughter’s clothing. I am TERRIBLY sentimental about really, really ridiculous things. From the legitimate: “Oh, she took her first steps in this outfit”, to the, um, not so legitimate: “Oh, she spit chewed up peas all over this bib!” So I just kept stuffing things into that one abused closet.
    After my son was born I did a much better job of going through his drawers once every few months and giving away the items I knew we were done with. (It also helped that I knew we were getting off the baby train for a good few years and by the time we get back on most of this stuff will be obsolete.)
    Our local Courage Center does donation pick-ups every other month so it motivates me to go through the kids’ (and my) things to hand them off to someone who needs them as opposed to someone who just wants to take them out and sniff them once a year when she’s supposed to be pulling out Christmas decorations.

  26. I have five friends trying for a baby this moment. I pass on most of my baby stuff as my 2nd son outgrows it to them immediately. I actually resent having to store things I know I won’t use again. I do have a bin of clothes in my older son’s room that needs to be properly sorted and stored for use with #2, though. I usually get to these projects every other Friday (I have a day off then and the kids are in daycare and school).My husband is more sentimental than I am and so wants to hang on to a lot more things than I do. Now that I have lost almost all of the baby weight, I am determind that when I unpack the fall/winter clothes, I’m only keeping what I absolutely love and in the spring getting rid of what I don’t wear over the winter.
    I figure we take a billion pictures, I’ll have photos of my sons in outfits I love. I do keep the handmade clothes, though: quilts, knitted sweaters, etc. if they are in good condition as they can become heirlooms to them.
    As far as toy clutter, we go through the toys on those free Fridays when the boys are not around. Usually they never miss/mention what we pitch/donate. Once we got rid of a bath toy that had mold in the squirter part and our older son still recollects about that one. One missed toy out of hundreds of donated toys? Not bad.
    We also, as others have mentioned, keep toy baskets around the house so the house can be cleaned fairly quickly.

  27. I’m compulsively organized! Clutter drives me crazy, so I’ve found some useful tricks:I’ve found the hand-me-down clothes thing to work pretty smoothly. Older boy has boxes in the closet for ‘Too Big’ and ‘Too Small’. I keep summer/winter separate, so in a way there are multiple boxes. Younger boy has upcoming seasonal items put in the closet out of his brother’s box, and Younger’s ‘Too Small’ pile is the give-away box. I put things out any time a charity calls and is willing to come pick up.
    I have a milk crate in the room holding all gear for the current sport. In the garage is a second milk crate for the outdoor/dirty portion. When I wash the uniform/swim suit etc. it goes back to the milk crate.
    We keep toys at a minimum. I leave Lego out all the time, but rotate old items in and out of storage every few months. ALL items are cleaned up and put away every two weeks so I can vacuum. They are threatened that I will vacuum up anything left out that day. We stopped having toys in other parts of the house when Younger was about three. (Really, have hope. They have fewer toys as they get older– altho those toys have more small pieces…) The boys share a room so the second BR can be a playroom and nothing really leaves that room except books. We have several kid-bookshelves around the house so I don’t mind where they get put away.
    Book bags are prepared for the next day prior to dinner. The papers that come home are put in three piles by me- to do, to toss, to show Daddy. Daddy’s pile goes to the dinner table. Tomorrow’s snack for school is chosen from a bin of snacks I keep in the pantry and put in the bookbag.
    Now, if I could stop saving so much art, I’d be in good shape.

  28. All our clothes are hand-me-downs from my sister’s boys, and they come already sorted by size into boxes. Luckily we have a basement where I can store stuff til we need it, so I just keep the boxes down there til we’re ready for the next size. As the boys outgrow stuff in their drawers, I just toss it into a plastic tub in each guy’s closet, then when the tub is full I re-sort through the clothes by size and either stick them back in the appropriate box, toss anything that is too stained/worn to keep. Now that we know we’re not having any more kids, I’ll start giving the too-small clothes away to friends, or to charities.For toys, anything that hasn’t been played with in a month or two gets demoted to a plastic bin, and then periodically sorted the same way we do for clothes. Group by age-range, anything broken or worn out gets tossed, and annoying toys that I never want to see (or hear!) again, get given away.
    For adult stuff, my general rule is that flat surfaces are NOT for storage. My goal is to keep the kitchen and dining room tables clear by the end of the day since we use them for meals, laundry sorting, laptops, library books, etc.
    It is a CONSTANT struggle to battle incoming mail, magazines, flyers, and other paper. When I grab the mail, I immediately pitch about 75% into the recycle bin, strip off the envelopes and extra crap that comes with bills and throw that in the bin, then keep the bills themselves for payment/filing. I do online bill pay for almost everything. I keep bills and receipts for taxes at the end of the year, and once the taxes are filed, the contents of the filing cabinet that aren’t attached to the tax return get shredded and we start over.

  29. Clothes go to either a friend who has a baby boy who is 10 months younger than my son or to a resale consignment shop where I can trade them in for a larger size.My guy is only 14 months old, and I have not yet purged his toy collection. Most of what he has fits into a large bin in his play space, but it is beginning to overflow. Also specifically asking for things other than toys as gifts helped so much at Christmas and birthday time.
    Also, I have to share my new favorite website with everybody: swaptree.com
    You can trade in your unwanted books, CDs, DVDs and video games for other books, CDs, DVDs, and video games that you do want. It is FREE (almost)! All you pay is the cost of shipping your item. Best part: I got my husband a video game he wanted as a gift without having to actually buy anything, and got to get rid of a book I no longer wanted. Check it out.

  30. I’m not particularly good at this. We have bins of toys in the living room and our daughter’s room, and bookshelves in both places, too- we rotate books around so that they stay “fresh” longer. Nothing new there.My one idea that (I think) has worked really well was to buy an art portfolio book for Pumpkin’s artwork. I save our favorites in there. The rest gets tossed after some time on the fridge.

  31. @caramama- one of our best recent furniture purchases was a console table for by the front door. It has a tray on top for mail, two drawers for keys and car toys (Pumpkin’s keys, cell phone, and radio…) and two shelves that have books and one bin each. The bottom bin has toys. The top bin has hats and jackets for Pumpkin. It is brilliant. We got ours at West Elm after much searching (we needed something narrow). I think it is called the “bookshelf console”. We had to buy the bins separately. We bought ours at Target, because West Elm charges a lot for bins. The console itself was reasonably priced for what it is, I thought.

  32. I’ve never seen “Hoarders”, but I used to watch “Clean Sweep” and was both entertained and terrified by it. I always did the best purge-and-organize sweeps after watching that show!

  33. It’s a total headache. A constant headache. Just when I think I’m on top of it all, some new injection of clothes and/or toys comes into our house. I’m not complaining about new stuff, but our house is so tiny that every inch needs to be smartly utilized.What I’ve been doing so far is to divide my children’s clothes into different piles:
    -outgrown
    -not seasonally appropriate
    -too large
    then:
    -charity giveaway
    -giveaway to friends with new babies
    -save for memory blankets
    -sell on Craigslist or Ebay
    -stash in garage for later (next season/when kid is bigger).
    With toys I just take a bunch of them out into the garage from time to time and stash them in plastic bins. Then, when I’m ready for the next cleanup, I move some of the garage toys back into the house.
    Our house is still a constant mess with too many jackets and shoes hanging/standing by the front door (even though we have pretty good storage bins under all of our beds). It’s just a matter of discipline, energy and time for me because the kids are still so little (3 yrs. and 9 mos). I feel like in a year or so, I will be on top of all of the coats/shoes mess. Or not.

  34. Ugh. The “stuff” problem is actually a time/energy problem, for us.I am the only one interested in a clean and organized home, so it all depends on whether I have the time/energy to go around cleanign things up after doing everything else for everybody. (I’m not bitter, no…)
    I actually just posted on this at my blog, trying to change my thinking from “storing clutter” to displaying and using “collections” – as in, only keep what you really want and really fits. (And if the hubby doesn’t notice it’s gone for a whole week you can recycle it.) 😉

  35. @Shandra – LOL! We too have a whole 5-8′ rug area set aside for Thomas play. Sometimes he even has the trains out to play with! (Other times it’s just building/rebuilding tracks. Especially when his trains have been put “in the bucket” as a consequence for hitting, and he has to earn them back.)

  36. I agree with those above who say that getting rid of handmedowns is so much easier. I have a 9 month old son, and have twin girls on the way. Anything that doesn’t fit him and isn’t unisex leaves the house to moment it’s too small. If I’m doing laundry, and it doesn’t fit – into a box it goes – and is usually out of the house within a week or two. I do have the advantage of knowing several people with sons about 6 months behind mine – so that is a plus.It’s also really helpful to KNOW that we are done after the girls. I would be very tempted to save if I was thinking of having more – but 3 under the age of one is good for me, thanks. But I’m guessing I would have thrown it in bins in the attic – because nothing is more annoying that pinning down an uncooperative baby and then finding that the shirt/pants/whatever doesn’t fit.
    Toys. For now, he has 3 big ones that don’t store easy (his Learning House, a ativity cube, and a walk behind toy) that stay out in the living room all the time. The rest, I have an Ikea bookshelf doors that everything fits in. When the girls come, I’m hoping that everyone just gets their own cabinat (there are three) and can keep what they want downstairs in there, and the rest in their rooms (which have pretty decent closets). Once they outgrow it, I’m a member of a mother of multiples group, and will just sell it there.
    As for grownup stuff? I’m doing a heck of a lot better now that I have the motivation of fitting 3 babies and their ‘stuff’ but I really wish I has a better system for my desk/office. It’s a freaking mess.

  37. Just want to throw in one thought about baby clothes. I think we’re not done yet so I’m storing what I like and giving away or selling what I don’t. But I have maybe 10 things, dresses, a pair of shoes, that *I* wore when I was a baby and a kid, that my mom saved and gave to me when I got married. I didn’t have a girl until a year and a half ago — that’s a long time to save a baby dress! — but I have to say that to me, it was worth it. It is SO cool to be able to dress my girl in an honest-to-goodness vintage piece that I wore 30 years ago. So, though I am totally against clutter and mindless pack-ratting, for me it was a good thing to make space for just a few special things. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. (That’s my mantra for motherhood, by the way.)

  38. true, kates. my take-away from lots of ‘clean sweep’ watching (love that show!) is what peter says – ‘if you are keeping something, treat it like it means something to you, with respect.’ ie, don’t keep your wedding or christening dress in a trash bag in the attic. if you mean it, keep it like you mean it.i didn’t keep my wedding dress, 😉 and, a wedding dress from goodwill makes a great $30 christmas gift for someone who likes dress up!

  39. There is textile recycling at your local Farmers’ Market? I am totally jealous. No one around here admits to rag collection — it’s all “donate good clothing for a good cause”

  40. We’ve instituted a “toy library” in our basement. About half of the kids’ toys (ages 7 months and 3 years) are stored in a few bins there. The three year old is allowed to “check out” a toy only by returning another toy of roughly equal size to the library. She really likes it!

  41. I tend to give priority (in terms of saving/keeping) to hand-made items. Early on I put a moratorium on plush toys because I knew that could easily get out of hand. It is one of those “easy to buy” gifts for small children.With relatives I had to be firm and make it clear that certain kinds of toys were not welcome in the house. So again it cuts down on A LOT of stuff. I also go with what another commenter mentioned about not buying things. The toys are still everywhere, but the junky factor isn’t so present.

  42. This is minor, but MAKE A SOCK BOARD.Our sock board is a pair of cork mats tacked up in the hall down to the garage. All unmatched socks get pinned up on the board, making pairing them up effortless.
    We’ve never put the girls’ clothes in drawers, because I hate folding clothes. Instead, everything goes on hangers and on a tiny rack that used to be the frame of a laundry hamper. It’s easier to see what you have, and it’s easy to cull, since the rarely used items get naturally shoved to one end and can be easily swept off the rack once a month.
    Clothes that always get used or put on in certain areas live IN THAT AREA. If you always find yourself looking for X while you are standing somewhere, don’t try to retrain yourself, just move X closer.
    There are a lot of baby clothes that I can’t bear to get rid of (I keep them in a box marked MY COLD DEAD HANDS, as in you will have to pry them out of same), and we are fortunate enough to have a dear friend who is making the girls their first dolls from a pattern that will fit preemie and newborn clothes. Everybody wins.

  43. @Cloud – That console sounds like the perfect thing! I’ll look into it when I can afford to buy anything. Right now, I’m repurposing stuff, and I have a little, antique desk, a table with a shelf for books, the current cubby holes and the current hooks by the front door. I’m hoping to MacGuyver something together from those things that might work for now. I hadn’t thought of bins, though. I can find some bins or baskets not currently being used well and stick them under the desk! Thanks for the ideas!@kates – You make a great point about keeping things like you mean it. There are some things I’m going to want to save because they are special. It meant a lot to me that my mom saved some of mine. Which reminds me, I was just talking with her about getting some of those for my daughter…
    @akeeyu – I love the idea of dolls that will fit the real clothes I want to save! I will have to look into that, too.

  44. Oh and here is one other things I’m doing to help store the toys in a fun way. I’ve collected a ton of shoe boxes over the years in different sizes. I bought white contact paper to cover them, and I’m going to have the Pumpkin help me decorate them. Then I will borrow my sister’s label maker (I really need one of my own!) and label each box for different types of toys. I plan to put the boxes in the shelves we have in different rooms with her toys seperated and easy to find.

  45. @akeeyu — the sock board is a great idea! And here I was just wondering if no one else had a sock problem. My kids leave socks all over the house. It’s like dandelions.

  46. for organization and clutter control, i follow the system from flylady. i subscribe to the emails( in ‘daily digest’ form so the emails dont clutter up my inbox), so i get a reminder of what all to do each day. after a few years following that system, i am not worried about organising all the ‘stuff’ now…. it is mostly under control.my kids are 7, 4 and 1, and like the previous posters, i keep each clothing size in its own box and donate the overgrown boxes.
    toys, i keep in the closet in baskets (dollhouse in one, puzzles in one, cooking toys in one, art supplies in another etc) nothing is permanently left outside. if they take one basket out, they put it back before bedtime. baby’s toys are in a big basket in the living room.
    books are in a shelf by the bed, i dont have books enough to cause clutter. schoolbooks on the study table..the older ones each have one study table.

  47. I started it the night before, liked it well enough to want to finish it, but didn’t get so hooked that I needed to stay up late to read the whole thing. It was when I picked it up the next morning that I ran into trouble — that was when I hit the 100-page mark, and suddenly a book about a girl who’s desperate for her father’s love and approval yet very cautious about guys partly because of her father’s past behavior turned into a sisterly-bonding-through-burglary-with-exploration-into-family-history-and-romantic-roadtrip story. **-**-*

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