We spent a good portion of Saturday going through the house and picking up. Every single surface in the house had become piled to Mt. Everest proportions. I admit that some of the mess was the remains of my school planning that I had never put back into place, but certainly not all of it. The disease of 'leave your belongings where ever they drop out of your hands' had reached epidemic levels. It was time to take drastic action. It was time for the big blue IKEA bag.
[Insert menacing music.]
This is something I used to do long, long ago, but decided it was time to dig it out of my bag of tricks. It's a simple idea. I keep the big blue IKEA bag in the kitchen. If I find anything that it is not put away and I pick it up, I put it in the bag. A child is welcome to reclaim the items in the bag at any time (in fact, it is encouraged), but at a designated time on Saturday mornings I will empty the contents of the bag and get rid of it, no matter what happens to be inside. It's a very effective system and useful for discovering what people really care about.
I few notes if you want to try this at home. First, I give the littles a little grace. I will probably help them to find their things before the disposal because they really don't understand what's happening. Also, for the first few weeks, I will offer a reminder to older people in case someone, somehow missed the memo about when disposal was happening or decides to not really believe me. (For some children, it takes having your stuff actually thrown away before they understand you mean what you say.) Lastly, it takes a strong parent to actually follow through, especially if you know there is something in the bag that is cared about.
But it is effective... and memorable. When younger brothers and sisters mentioned the IKEA bag to M. and B. this weekend, the response was, "Oh, the IKEA bag" with great understanding in their tone of voice. It does make the house more tidy.