Dear Aunt Juniper,
I am surrounded by so much stuff. Since having children, we can barely move because of all the equipment, clothes and toys. How on earth can we reclaim our house without giving away our child or all their things?
Thank you for your question. Lots of people are amazed and surprised how much stuff ends up in their home after having children. Besides all of the equipment (like changing tables, buggies, cots and walkers) you also have an influx of toys in your home. Almost overnight it feels that everywhere you look you can see kids stuff. Now we have all tripped over a Barbie, stepped on a piece of lego in the middle of the night when it’s dark or ended up with a bruise on our knees from walking into the wooden toy box, but there are lots of things you can do before giving away your kid or their things. Here are my top tips:
1: When the kids are smaller use open baskets or tubs so it’s easier to tidy up toys at the end of the day with the kids. Furthermore the toys are normally bigger when the kids are little, so it’s easier to fit them in.
2: Print off labels with pictures of which toys live in which box, again for easier tidying up and also finding toys. Help your kids tidy up at the end of the day. This way you teach them how to do it instead of saying “tidy up your toys” when they have no idea what you mean by that.
3: Rotate toys. Create a space somewhere (the loft, the under stairs cupboard, a storage container in the spare bedroom) where toys can live when they are not being played with and rotate what’s in the box every couple of weeks.
4: Agree as a family where the toys will live instead of all over the house. You can decide they can have their books and their lego/dolls in their bedrooms and the rest of the toys live in the living room, the playroom or if you are very lucky the conservatory. That means you keep your kitchen, hallway and your bedroom free of toys.
5: When the kids are older buy storage units with smaller compartments so you can divide, for example, the different coloured lego or the activity books from the colouring books and regularly check supplies.
6: Do a toy clear out several times per year. Once before their birthday, once before Christmas and once during spring cleaning. Throw out everything that is broken or no longer complete, everything they have grown out of can go to friends or family or to the charity shop.
Last but not least; your kids do not need to own every toy available under the sun. According to studies British children own around 220 toys, but only play with about 12. Remember that they are sometimes happier to play with the box than the actual toy!
Lots of love,
Aunt Juniper* xx
*On this occasion, Aunt Juniper was professional declutterer and organiser Ingrid Jansen.
Dutch, mum of 2, Ingrid runs her own professional organising business called Organise Your House. She has been helping clients with lots of clutter for the past 5 years to reclaim their homes and live a more organised life. Ingrid works in South East London, Central London, East London and parts of Kent and Essex. She offers a free consultation for new clients. Check out her testimonials and pictures of projects on www.organise-your-house.co.uk. You can also follow her on www.facebook.com/organise.your.house or on twitter via @organiseurhouse.
FROM THE MUMMY’S GIN FUND FACEBOOK COLLECTIVE:
’Zones! An area of house for toys. Baby changing area, even if on a landing or spare bedroom. Storage cubes fit will in a room to stow away toys, wipes, etc. Don’t let it overwhelm you if possible. I’m a stupidly organised person so happy to offer specific solutions via message x’
’You need Marie Kondo! ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ is brilliant. She’s a bit of a nutter, but really, just follow her rules and you’ll be sorted.’
’I say embrace the toys. It’ll only be for a few years, when the kids get to around 7, they’ll start to become more territorial and want to have all their possessions in their room so problem solved. Having toys around is a sign of life being lived.’
’I’m with you on the clothes, etc. – we had so many and I kept thinking, aw we’ll just keep them – then I thought – our house isn’t big enough, so the things that I knew were easily replaceable (if we do decide to have another) have all been bagged and given to charity and some of the nicer things I’ve bagged and given to friends expecting (no I never forced it on them haha). I’ve been ruthless with my clothes too and bagged a good few bags (still needs more tbh). I’m trying not to be too sentimental about things, it’s the worst thing to becoming a hoarder! I’ve even started getting rid of cards – I used to keep them all……but they are going, so fed up of having clutter. I’m getting there, but slowly. It is helping – I do have Mary Kondo, and will start my things properly and in a more methodical way once I have finished the book. It is quite inspiring!’
‘Storage, storage, storage! IKEA Kallax is great as everything is hidden and it is still accessible for the kids. Not sure how old your child/ren are but we had some nice hamper baskets for baby toys in the living room, which could be packed and stacked when needed. And remember the toys get smaller and equipment gets less as the kids get older so it is not forever!’
‘Definitely good storage and Ikea is brilliant for that. Preferably something with doors, lids, etc. – out of sight, out of mind! For clothes – I have two under-bed storage boxes under each child’s bed to store next season’s clothes so less clutter in their wardrobes. Toys – I rotate the toys so I have some in their play area and then some in a storage box in the garage and then rotate every few months. And when they are bored of that toy – I sell it!’
‘There is a Konmari with kids Facebook group which has good suggestions on what to do. Marie Kondo method is great if you are a single adult, doesn’t quite tell you what to do with kids stuff.’
Note: These are suggestions from members of Mummy’s Gin Fund based on experience and should not be treated as official advice. Any action taken is at your own risk. Always seek professional advice if you have any questions or concerns about any aspect of your life.
Always consult NHS 111, your GP, health visitor or A&E for professional medical advice.