Now that the holidays are winding to a close, many Sammamish parents find themselves buried in new stuff including toys and electronics. Elizabeth Lee is a parent of teenage boys and the owner of Seattle Organizing Works. Lee draws from years of professional experience and her life as a parent, to help families around the Puget Sound manage their clutter and restore order to their homes and offices.
Lee says not getting overwhelmed by toy clutter starts with being willing to sort old toys and let things go.
“I come from the school of thought that there should always be one toy in, one toy out. When my boys were young, I was able to decide what stayed and what went. As they got older and 'participated' more in the purge process, I would give them a specific number of toys that they had to part with. Sometimes it was like pulling teeth without Novocain. However, they also felt empowered to make their own choices," Lee says.
"We explained that there are children who did not have as many toys as they did, and some who had none and that when they received presents and new toys, it would be a great idea to pass on some of their old toys.
"After I had their attention for as long as they could tolerate—say ten minutes—I would continue the purge process without them. If there were toys or games or art supplies that I wanted gone, I would toss obvious garbage. But other items that could come back to haunt me when asked, 'Mom, where is my Spiderman thingy?' I would put into large black garbage bags and I would put them in the garage for a month. If after a month there was no questions, then off to be donated they went.”
Lee says that there are many great organizations to donate gently used toys and games that are ready for new homes, including , , and Issaquah’s Eastside Baby Corner. And for both toys and clothes, don’t forget you can make some money with consignment, says Lee. Local consignment stores include Redmond and and Issaquah’s Me ‘n Moms and Small Threads.
Once you’ve purged, you can start organizing the storage for the remaining toys. Lee says, “for all toys and games, I am I am a huge fan of the plastic bin.”
For bin resources she recommends stores including , the and Storeables.
“They come in a ton of different sizes and shapes and colors. Costumes go in large bins or if possible get hung up. I highly recommend rolling coat racks for clients who have large dress up collections.”
Some toys can be especially challenging to store, admits Lee.
“Polly Pockets and Legos were invented by people with no children. While these toys certainly foster imagination, the little tiny pieces are every parent’s nightmare. Get yourself bins for all of these small pieces. Create categories of toys and their pieces and start sorting into bins. For example, all doll clothes can go into a bin, doll accessories into another. Depending on your kid, Legos can be sorted by color or by project. If your child likes to build from scratch, perhaps they would like their pieces divided by color. In that case I would recommend a rolling cart with drawers from ,” Lee says.
Once you have storage systems in place, Lee says it is time to help your kids learn to pick up after themselves.
“Parents need to hold their children responsible for putting toys and games back where they belong. Work with your kids at the end of a play session, or at the end of the day to help them return their things to the right places. Make it a part of a routine. Kids learn from watching us. Do not expect too much from your young kids. Too many toys can be just as overwhelming for them as it is for you.”
Around the holidays, we can also get engulfed in electronics.
"For electronics I like to use a large Ziploc plastic bag. Cords for iPods, cell phones and headphones all should be sorted and labeled on the bag. If you have a label maker then print out a tag for each cord in case it gets separated from the beg. Sorting into bags also makes it easier for travel. Grab a bag and go,” Lee suggests.
Besides toys and electronics, many kids received art supplies and craft kits for the holidays and Lee has tips for organizing those as well.
“Art supplies in general are messy. Whenever possible keep them in a place where if there is a spill or mess you can clean up quickly. Small art kits are great to assemble for kids that are coloring and drawing all over the house. Inside of these bins you can also use Ziploc bags for small items like crayons and erasers. For paint supplies, I like to use washtubs or old dish drying racks. This item is great for holding paints and brushes.”
So once you’ve got all those art supplies organized, what do you do about all that great art your child is creating?
“I used to save every single piece of paper that my boys ever made a mark on," Lee says. "My husband rolled his eyes as I stashed away what could one day be regarded as artistic genius. Needless to say, piles of tempera painted papers eventually flake and fade and pipe cleaners glued onto paper fall off when the glue gets old. Be judicious with the art you keep. Photograph what your kids make and keep those photos.”