Friday, July 22, 2011

Stuff, part 2: Lessons from the too-small house

Oh stop.  I'm not referring to our current house, I'm instead referring to the house we lived in before this one.  That would be the rather small, two bedroom Victorian (which is usually code for very small rooms) in which we squeezed four children.  It was also the house that caused me to read every home organizing book in existence and is probably the moving force behind my intense organizing skills.

I'm sorry to say that upon moving the the Big Ugly House, I became lazy about some of the good habits I had developed in the small house.  Having declared my war on stuff, I'm going back and revisiting some of my earlier practices.  This time not because we have too little room, but because they made for better living.

What were these habits?  First, I purged toys more regularly.  There was only so much room in the little house, and we had to be careful about what we let in.  This caused us to be pretty discriminating.  But then we moved to the overly large house with a ridiculously large playroom.  We didn't have to worry about running out of room and being discriminating was a thing of the past.  The result?  A huge room filled with toys, many of which were never played with, though they were strewn about.  The more toys there are, the bigger mess that can be made.  At some point, the mess becomes so great that the children can't clean it up.  In fact, they don't even know where to begin.  This cleaning then falls to me.  And it is guaranteed to make me grumpy for the rest of the day.

To return to my former habit, I'm in the process of clearing out a lot of the toys.  I'm only keeping the ones which encourage imaginative play (such as blocks, small plastic animals, or nice dress-up clothes), or have always been heavily played with (such as Legos and Playmobile), or encourage active play in winter (such as scooter boards and stilts).  Don't feel too sorry for my children; there are still quite a few toys up there.

The second habit I will be returning to is toy rotation.  In our old house, there were only small areas available to play in, and having more than a couple of toys out at a time made it impossible to move.  As a result, I stored most of the toys in bins in crawl spaces and brought out only one at a time.  This had the dual benefit of keeping toys fresh because they weren't out all the time and significantly cutting down on the clutter.

After the toys have been completely culled, I will put most of them into storage.  We will go back to the practice of only having a small amount of toys available at a time.

The last habit I had given up was the system of children's personal items (you know, all those little tchotchkes that pile up and are too precious to get rid of) being stored in under bed bins.  Each child had one bin and everything that was not considered communal property had to fit in that bin.  If the bin got too full, it had to be sorted out and room made.  This system was absolutely necessary since we had four children sharing a moderately sized room. Clothes were stored in built-ins and hanging sorters in the closet.  There was room for four beds and a reading chair.

I've come to realize that this type of stuff has been allowed to accumulate now that we have more bedrooms and surface areas (aka the tops of dressers and bookcases).  It makes it impossible to keep neat, much less clean, and does not require the children to be discerning over what is kept.  After the toys on the third floor are taken care of, this is the next area on my list to tackle. 

I need to begin living in my large house with the mindset of living in a small one.
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Stuff, part 1 -- Lessons from the playpen
Stuff, part 3 -- That's entropy, man
Stuff, conclusion -- The hard part

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