If you have, or have been around, small children you have probably noted that toys are abundant and far more complicated than they were back in the day. A quick scan of my memory reminds me that the Barbie stiletto would have been the smallest moving part of my toy inventory. By the way: best idea ever=crazy gluing Barbie’s shoes onto her impossibly small feet upon removal from her ridiculously secure packaging. (What’s up with that, by the way?) Today, kids are faced with nanoscopic sized widgets, without which an entire day’s project implodes, and various plugs, chargers, adapters, and postage stamp sized game cartridges, not to mention an arsenal of batteries to fuel this madness. So the question is, how do you keep your house from becoming an episode of Hoarders: Escape Toy Mountain while maintaining a modicum of style?
We all know the mantra. Reduce. Re-use. Recycle. Allow me to adapt this to the task at hand.
Reduce. You won’t re-use. Recycle.
Step 1: Become as ruthless as the I.R.S. Audit those toys like you’ll go to jail if you make a mistake! Here’s how: empty every nook and cranny of hidden toys into a bonfire-like heap in the middle of the floor. Oh, did I mention if you are motivated by your child’s sense of Toy Panic, you might send him or her to the neighbor’s house with a bottle of pinot grigio and a pre-emptive thank you note. (Trust. You’ll thank me later. Your neighbors? Probably not so much.) After you dump all the toy boxes and bins, go to the potential secret stashes of toys. Look through dog toys, under beds, etc. Don’t forget to look under your bed; it’s likely that your devious spawn stashed something there knowing that you vacuum under there only on solstices. Okay, so now you’ve got your very own Bonfire of Child Vanities started.
Step 2: Now sort into toys by types, and then, depending on your kid’s toy hoard, sort into sizes. Think small (toys that can go in a mayo jar or smaller), medium (board games, books, piggy banks and their ilk), and large (Rody-like toys, huge stuffed animals, etc.)
Step 3: While sorting, do a quick check for functionality. Make a trash heap. And, do yourself a favor, repeat after me, “I would sooner stab myself in the eye with a fork than spend an afternoon crazy gluing this x, y, or z together.” Now toss it. Anything that does not work or is missing parts goes in the trash. Period.
Step 4: As you sort, make a pile of functional toys that your child has outgrown or has otherwise lost interest in. Name this pile “Donate.” Be ruthless in this regard. Your child is fortunate to have amassed such a stack of kid crap that they need an intervention before the age of three. Other children are not so lucky. At the risk of moralizing this task, this can be an immensely powerful teaching tool for your children. Packing up toys and giving to charities to either sell, or to more directly help needy children, such as to a playroom at a children’s hospital or a temporary shelter for domestic violence.
Step 5: This is not so much a task as it is a cautionary, I-*might*-have-learned-this-the-hard-way-tale, but take the trash out to the garbage immediately before your kiddo busts you. If you skip this step, you run the risk of provoking a curbside meltdown and subsequent back and forth bargaining that would challenge even the most hardened hostage negotiator. Put the donation bag(s) in the trunk of your car, or on the curb, or better, on the curb down the street, and call for pick up immediately.
Okay, so now you know what you’ve got to work with and all your surfaces should be clear. Wipe down all shelves, surfaces, and bins. It’s at this point that you can begin bringing in cute, coordinated storage in small, medium and large sizes to get your house and your kiddo all straightened out.