“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.” -Frank A. Clark
Over years of babysitting, I’ve noticed that the way kids’ toys pile up isn’t much different than how my possessions added up and started taking over the house. And in many ways, the solution is the same.
It’s great to go ahead and teach your children these things so they already know how to do them when they’re out on their own as well.
A girl I babysat used to talk about her mom being OCD. She’d complain about always having to clean. One day, she got home from a sleepover and immediately thanked her mom. Her friend’s house had been so crowded with junk that it was uncomfortable. The 14-year-old girl I babysat hadn’t appreciated how relaxing her own house was until she saw how other people live.
Here are a few ways to manage the mess whether your house is completely overwhelming, tidied multiple times a day, or somewhere in between.
4 Ways to Help Keep the Toys Under Control
- If you have a donation bin, try to keep it in the same spot so that your children always know where it is and can add to it anytime. (If you don’t have one, I recommend setting one up. It can be really small and pretty, or big and out of the way.)
- Make sure you talk to your kids about the benefits of donating. It’s so valuable because it’s a way to help other people afford something they want. The toys they don’t use anymore can find a new home where they do get played with and might become someone else’s favorite toy.
- No matter how many toys they get rid of, if they continue getting more then the chaos is also going to continue. Instead, start to let family and friends know that you’re trying to limit their gifts. If a grandmother particularly loves giving gifts, ask if she could keep some of them at her house (like the ones that annoy you the most or make the biggest mess at your house). Even easier, stop getting as many toys for them yourself. Try experiences instead. Ask them what they’d like to do for their birthday instead of what they want.
- It can go a long way for you to let your children see how you practice all of these things. Your kids can learn from seeing you get rid of a few items to make room for one you want even more. Christmas can be a great time for them to practice it themselves. They’re already out of school for the holidays, so they have more time. And they’re excited about what gifts they might get, which can be really motivating for them to get rid of other items so there’s room in the toybox or on the shelf for the new ones.
Using these practices has made a big difference in my own life.
While children may not be as motivated or enthusiastic about doing these tasks as you’d like, every little bit helps. And if they don’t even know that it’s a problem or how to fix it, then they’re way less likely to help. Keep trying, and over time, the slow progress can really add up.
There’s no need to rush them to do it all at once, although it might help them to do a lot at one time occasionally so they can quickly see a big difference in how much space they have for all the creative activities they enjoy.
Not only will you be thankful you taught them how to manage the amount of possessions they have, so will they…eventually.
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