Thursday, April 2, 2009

Toys, Paper, and Stuff

We are in the thick of organizing and cleaning. Our move to our farmhouse was pretty harried and we did it right after starting our business and shortly before my Dad died. It was a very busy time for us. We didn't get to do a lot of the normal "cleaning out" you do when you move. And we are still doing that and unpacking.

Some rooms got moved into nicely--the kitchen, for example. And the living room. But other rooms . . . not so much.

People think I'm neat and organized. And in many ways, I am. And when I'm organized, I am organized. But in many ways, I'm not. I've relaxed over the years (quite frankly, I think Mark's glad). :P

I'm the kind of person who, when a room is clean and neat and tidy, is NUTS about keeping it that way. But when it gets out of control, I sort of shrug, shut the door, and toss more stuff in there now and then because "it's already a mess."

Basically, I'm Monica and we have what we call our "Monica Closet." As illustrated here:

(Stop at 1:28--the rest has nothing to do with this post and will likely get you fired if you view it at work. And don't let that bait you into watching either. You've been warned).

So, now we're organizing. And sorting. And cleaning. And it makes me wonder how people handle things like this.

I mean, I think we have WAY too many toys. I always swore we wouldn't have more than could fit in a toybox. But we're way overloaded. When we look at most of the toys, we take some comfort in the fact that we haven't bought most of them. And we're really grateful for them. But we're a bit overloaded and I'm not sure what to do.

Why do I save this stuff? Well, I can think of a few reasons:

1. The cost. I know people who just toss stuff. They clean out and throw out and Goodwill and give away like they're on a mission. But then, many of them buy the same toys again later. I'm fundamentally opposed to that because of the expense. If you're going to use it again later (having more kids, giving to your grown children/grandchildren, etc.), then save it!

2. Plus I get attached to stuff sometimes. I don't like that I do, but I do. I get attached to the thought of who gifted it to us, etc. (I totally know that's one of the no-nos from those people who go on Oprah and tell people how to declutter, but what can I say . . . therapists can have issues, too).

3. Also, most of my childhood toys got tossed by my parents (sorry, Mom, but it's true), because my Mom is an impulsive thrower-outer. She can quickly deem something as "garbage" and toss it out before you have time to blink or say, "That's my Sesame Street Clubhouse!" (Yeah, still a little bitter about that one--even replaced that one through eBay for the nostalgia factor).

So on the one hand I'm trying to be the opposite and not throw stuff out because I miss some of my toys. But on the other hand, I sort of envy my mother's ability to so easily part with stuff as it makes for less clutter. And less clutter is good because there's less stress, better chi, and, you know, you're not a slave to things (to clean, to organize, to find, to fix, to put away, etc.).

(For the record, I'm not like those people you read about in magazines who pay hundreds of dollars for storage space for loads of stuff they store. It's not nearly that bad. We don't pay for storage and I'm talking fairly typical household stuff here).

So I'm a dichotomy: I don't like clutter and I don't like to throw stuff out. Hmmmm. Conundrum.

I think in general, my time management and organizational skills have gone downhill. 99% of the time, I'm fine with it as this is a result of my learning to relax and go easy on myself in order to help myself heal from depression and anxiety. And I really am happier and healthier. But 1% of the time, I feel frustrated.

Some rooms are not cluttered--our kitchen, for example. And our bedrooms. But our playroom and den get overloaded sometimes.

So I read up on how to organize and declutter and many of the tips work. And we do them!

But sometimes in the midst of these paper piles and toy piles, I think, "Do other people deal with this? How do they handle it? What tips could they give me that would take into consideration my slight attachment (attachment isn't good, I know) to stuff, my financial conerns (don't want to buy twice), and my guilt factors (I don't want to throw out the kids' toys so that we can give them to them when they get married and have kids)."

I don't want to make the kids feel badly by throwing out their stuff and yet I want to teach non-attachment and how nice it is to have less stuff and more order.

I did see a cute idea for saving kids' drawings--save several from every year, make a nice cover with name and year, and bind them in a book at Staples.

And for stuffed animals, check out The Zoo. (Stuffed animals we have aplenty, but no word of a lie--they are played with almost CONSTANTLY).

So, how do you handle this? What do you do with their toys? Their drawings? Stuff in general? Are you organized? When do you organize? (If you're one of those people who has always been organized and just keeps it that way, you can just keep your comments to yourself. :P) What are your organizational challenges? What helps? What works? What doesn't work?


terahreu said...

I have found myself in this predicament in the past. There is nothing more liberating than to throw things out and lessen your load by 20%. Then again, what would happen if you throw the wrong thing out at the wrong time.

For me, I have moved so many times it has helped to really reflect on whether the item is worth going through the mountains of India or not. When you have to sum everything up every so often, you tend to resolve that less is better. I have also left things in boxes for several months. If I have forgotten what is in the box, it is tossed.

As for the toys, my mom also kept buckets of my childhood toys. In the end, when it was finally time for me to take them, I took the Sesame Clubhouse (no joke) and a few 'little people' and called it good. The fact of the matter is, toys will only get better and I hope my children will no need too much from the past. Plus, as you said, there is always Ebay. If they really want it and they really miss it, they can buy it themselves.

Finally, there is nothing better than to give things to people who really need it more than you. You don't really have this back in the US, but it has been super easy for me to pass things a long to people who have really nothing. It is good for the soul and it makes me happy for them. I can always buy another one, but for them, it is gold. The charity factor helps a lot.

That's my 2 cents. Now I think I am going to clean!

Boquinha said...

Oh oh, that reminds me. We also got the Speak-n-Spell off eBay.

Yeah, the Charity factor isn't quite as strong in the US as in other countries. If I could send a bunch of toys to kids in Africa, it'd be another story. Having lived in Africa, "poor" in the US is very different than "poor" overseas.

Although their lives are also so beautifully simple and they're so happy with a stick and old tire to roll down the dirt road . . . I wouldn't want to clutter it! :P

See? I do believe in simplicty. I really do. I'm anti over-programming. Anti-clutter. Dichotomy, I tell you!

Boquinha said...

Oh oh oh! You know what we can do? Have BLOG GIVEAWAYS as we clean up and unload! How fun would that be?! :P Share the stuff!

kara said...

Make a pile of the old toys, let the kids choose (pick a number) of items that mean the most to them, and donate the rest. It's a good lesson for the kids (even if we can't be sure the donated toys go to kids that really need them, or packrats) and they can't grow up feeling slighted by your purging because they were part of the process. Personally, N doesn't seem attached to anything yet...other than her scooter, which I sold because she never used it, then one day she asked where her scooter was and I said, "I don't know? Where is it?" She said, "I don't know." And that was the end of it. Good luck! And thanks again for the call!

J Fo said...

I'm a thrower! Big time. I only have baby clutter right now, so I'm thinking that it will only magnify over the years. I'm not sure how I'll handle it. I like the idea of making a book of artwork. I've even seen people take picture of everything and then make a snapfish book for each year or something. Good luck!

Lindsay said...

I am an in-betweener. I don't know if that is possible, but I am. I keep things for a REALLY long time then I will go through it for the hundreth time (I always thought I would NEED to keep college papers that were well written, or random stuff like that) I realize, I have had this for HOW many years and HOW many times have I looked at it?? Zero. Then I end up throwing it out. I don't know how I will be with kids stuff. My Mom is almost a hoarder of things (not even close to Oprah guests) and it drives us kids nuts when we go home and there is "stuff" all over that doesnt need to be. So...back to me...I can't WAIT to open up our office closet and tear into our things. It really needs some spring cleaning. Im jealous you get to do that right now. OUr place is in great need

Lena said...

Oh we have piles. Piles of papers that I want to keep, or need to file- those annoy me the most! With 5 kids you can imagine the toys that we have. I have found though that the toys they always come back to are the creative toys- art supplies,cars, trains, blocks, legos- and now that Sarah is 10, she doesn't have as many "toys" that make messes and take up a lot of space. I go through the toys as often as possible and if it fits in what their alloted storage is or they can find a good spot for it, and they are willing to fight for it, I won't get rid of it. Christmas is a good time to declutter toys because you can say you need to make room for anything you might be getting. I am getting better but will be watching the comments for help!

Anonymous said...

I miss my speak and spell! My Mom was also famous for throwing my toys away because she hated clutter. I still have my Nintendo game boy from 1990! Good luck with the clean up. I also need to do some de-cluttering. "Blog giveaways" sounds great. You are brilliant! Take care. Kelly x

bythelbs said...

We are very similar in this vein, I think. And I have no answers for you.

As far as kids school work goes, I save the best of the best and the stuff I think tells of their personalities or will make them laugh the hardest when they're grown. With toys, I save the nice things with all the pieces. If they don't have all of the pieces, they are dead to me.

Be sure to post again when you have all this stuff figured out. I could use the help.

D'Arcy said...

I am the same! I want to be organized, but I LOVE saving things and every time I through something out I debate on then in a year or so I wish I had it again! Especially with clothes! Ugh! But then, you want to be giving and give stuff to goodwill.

My sister saw my umbrella in my car yesterday and she was like, "Holy crap! That's the same umbrella you had in high school!" Yep, it was, I spent a lot of money on it and got a good one and it's lasted.

I spend a lot of money on a really great shirt (well, it was like $40.00 back in 1994 and I made about $2 an hour, so it was a lot to me) and I still have it and I still wear it to cozy up in all the time (it was this awesome gap flannel shirt)

I spend money on things, probably too much, but I care for them and I don't rebuy them. I spend 100 dollars on real pearl earrings that I loved, but I still have them and wear them all the time.

I think it's ok. I really do. I just wish I had more space because I hate shoving everything into little bins. My dream is to have a house with sufficient storage space!!

But then sometimes, I 'm like, oh just burn down house and let me start over, a back pack and a desire to roam the country without anything I own!!

April (Thorup) Oaks said...

I think you could teach me a lot. I'm definitely not one to give advice, but I love to chat so here goes...

I LOVE to get rid of things. I hate having stuff I don't need. My rule is if I don't use it in one year I throw it out. Some sentimental things I do keep, but honestly they kind of stress me out because I feel like I have to keep them and I hate that I have no room for them.

My solution is usually to take pictures of the things that are sentimental to me. I love taking pictures and scrapbooking or journaling those pictures. I love scrapbook pages that document the everday things you do or have.

For my kids art work. I usually scan it in so I can print it smaller or combine it with other things. Here is an example of three different letter size school papers combined into one.

Don't assume your kids will want all of the toys you save. My friend's mom saved all of hers and it's a burden on her because her mom keeps bringing things over. Some of the things are nice, but she doesn't have space for all of it. My parents took pictures on birthdays and Christmas and I love looking at the toys that way. I'm fine not having any.

While I like to throw out... I hate to waste things and certainly hate the idea of filling the landfill. If I can give things away to others that need them that is great. Other purchases like decorations don't seem as easy to give away so I feel stuck with the stuff I have. I rarely decorate because I would rather have plain walls then be stuck with the same decoration no one else wants forever.

If it sounts like our house is nice and decluttered that isn't true. Keith is a saver. Ugh! It's such a burdon having so much stuff in a small house!

I can really talk, can't I? Thanks for a fun discussion.

Boquinha said...

Wow. Thakns for all the comments. Two things I should have mentioned:

1. I hate to shop. And mostly because I don't like clutter and go crazy with "too much stuff."

2. We have loads of storage space and yet I have difficulty justifying simply organizing the stuff w/out unloading at least some of it.

There are SO many good suggestions here. Thank you!! I'm inspired.

And so many who obviously struggle as I do. :P I even got some emails from people to shy to comment and publicly admit it!

I couldn't be one of those people on Oprah where the organizers go in and clean up. I'd have anxiety watching them go through my papers.

Boquinha said...

That should read "too shy to admit it" . . .

Boquinha said...

And I should qualify the shopping comment. I don't enjoy shopping for clothes or shopping just because.

But the main section of a store to grab my attention is, ironically enough, the organizing supplies.

We haven't ever been to an Ikea (yet), but we hear we'll love it!

Shawn said...

We actually have a system that kinds of works for this situation. About a year ago, we got tired of the endless disaster that was our toy room. So we organized the toys into several clear storage boxes that look fairly nice. We then put about 4 of them onto the shelves in the toy room and the rest we banished to the basement. Then, every couple months or so, we rotate boxes.

The great thing is, kids' ability to remember what they possess is limited to about 5 minutes. So everytime we rotate boxes, it's like Christmas all over again.

By doing this, we don't throw out toys, but we don't have to deal with the clutter either. Plus, the kids really seem to enjoy playing with their "new" toys.

Hope that helps. If you ever decide that you have any electronics such as a Wii, or iPods or other fun devices that you "just don't have room for", just let me know. I'll find a good home for them.!!

Jillo said...

I am not a saver AT ALL! I will chuck any and everything, depending on my mood.
My kids are keepers. I found some cool old metal boxes at a thrift store and told them they could save anything they wanted, as long as it fit in the box. It seems to be working pretty well.
I do keep some of their art work and early journal entries, stuff like that. I have a filing cabinet downstairs just for stuff like that.
We do thrift store sweeps all the time around here. As a bonus for my kids, if they fill a bag of stuff to take, then we get to go in and pick out something to buy. Sometimes I think we keep places like that in business all by ourselves.
Good luck!

Boquinha said...

Nice system, Jill!

Shawn, that's how we used to do it in our townhouse. Honestly, I feel like we're still unpacking . . .

Boquinha said...

Oh. And we're good with the Wii, but nice try. ;)