Tuesday, May 08, 2007

WFMW - Controlling Toy Chaos


As you may recall, Big Daddy and I became the parents to three daughters at once in January of 2005. Talk about your culture shock. One of the things we realized almost immediately was that if we didn't think of some way to organize the toy chaos in our little house, we would quite possibly lose our ever lovin' minds.

It's really simple, and has always Worked for Me (Us), but you'd be surprised how many people are appalled at the idea when I suggest it. I mean, you'd think we were recommending [insert something horrendous here, cause it's late and I'm drawing a blank].

I suggest this often to people who are bemoaning the toy clutter in their kids' rooms, and the responses I get range from incredulity to horror to disbelief to scoffing. I just don't get it. But here goes. Get ready, cause it's drastic!

Our girls are allowed to play with one toy (or category of toys) at a time. What that means in a houseful of girls is this: You can play with Polly Pockets. All of them. Including the Polly cruise ship and Polly's horses. Cause the horses, they love cruising on the high seas. But please do not get out puzzles in the middle of the Pollys.

When you're done with Polly and her paraphernalia, put her up and then you may get out the puzzles.

We have three girls, and they may not all be playing with the same thing at the same time. But if they're playing with different things, they're also playing in different rooms. That way, Barbie and her minions don't get into a turf war with The Littlest Pet Shop gang. You don't want that crap going down in the Texas suburbs.

Y'all, this has been the rule in our house since day one, and the only time our girls have a problem with it seems to be when we have company, or when they're at someone else's house. Stray from our regular routine, and then civilized life as we know it flies out the window on Fairytopia wings. But we make allowances for brain farts.

So. Big Daddy and I were at a marriage retreat for adoptive couples a couple of weeks ago, and one of the topics of discussion was messy kids' rooms. We were so excited to share our successful way of handling this, and oh my goodness, the two couples at our table looked at us like we were rip roaring crazy. "Oh, that wouldn't work in our house." "Our kids would never do that." "Our guys like to dump everything out at once." Okay, don't gripe about it if you're not willing to fix it.

I didn't give them my suggestion for guaranteed success. Take all the toys out of their room until they do what you say. Oh my goodness, it's crazy, but it just might work!

So there it is. Our solution may not work for everyone, but if you want to simplify that area of your life, it's definitely worth a try. Now go on over to Shannon's, and check out all the wonderful ideas.

13 comments:

The Lazy Organizer said...

Wow, you're, like, the meanest Mom EVER but still a lot nicer than me. I took all the toys away and never bought more! My philosophy is, "Don't give kids more responsibility than they can handle." If they can't take care of their stuff then they have too much stuff!

I am totally on your side. Don't whine about it if you don't want to fix it.

Dawn said...

My mom, who babysits my kids a lot, has the same rule at her house. It's not surprising that her house is never a mess, even if she has all five of her grandkids over at once. Meanwhile, our house is a mess, and every time my mom comes over she says, "You need the rule that they can only have one toy out at a time and you wouldn't have this mess anymore." I totally agree. I am going to work really hard to use this rule at our house because it is a great idea.

Girl Gone Wild said...

That's a great tip! Whose the parent? Oh yeah, we are....

Awesome Mom said...

We do something very similar. We do have a few loose toys out but everything else is boxed up and like you we only take one box out at a time. My boys ate 18 months and 3 years and they get it at this young and tender age. I am brainwashing them young in the hopes that it will stick.

Kara said...

Great tip :) I try to do this but haven't been as strict as I should. But what I did was packed up most of the toys, all they have is what fits on one small bookshelf, and there are different baskets for things. Blocks in one, cars in one, miscellaneous toys in one. I only like them to get out one basket at a time, and try to help Toddler clean up one before he can play with another.

Karen said...

Great tip! I also have 3 girls (only 2 old enough to really play).

Lisa said...

I am the president of the "meanest Mom" club! I only let my kids get out one thing at a time, too. I even went so far when my son failed a class in school that we took away all his distractions! That meant TV, gameboy, ninetendo, radio, CD's, everything! (It gets better)Then when he still was failing, we took everything out of his room except his mattress and pillow. We're talking REALLY tough love! He had no distractions left, and low and behold! He got a "B" in the class! He'd never gotten a "B" before, so I coun't that as a success!

Lavonne said...

I just wanted to interject my two cents, for what they're worth.
In my opinion, lovingly controlling your children for the sake of training them up to be good, functioning adults is completely different than being mean to get results.
I don't think "one toy at a time" is being mean at all. Children need and want boundaries.
On the other hand, I was raised by parents who restricted me beyond reason and were proud of the fact that they were "mean parents" and it did not turn out to be "for my own good". Years of self-criticism and several therapy sessions later, I am convinced that what children need is love and discipline. But you can't have one without the other. And taking everything out of a child's room but a mattress until their grades improve seems drastic. It's not my nature to judge, and I am by no means trying to be combative. I just know from experience that "mean" discipline without love may get results, but it doesn't accomplish the ultimate goal of happy, well-adjusted adults.

Our Peculiar Life said...

I do this too! Love your writing... I will be back yo read more.

Kristen said...

OK, so I tried to leave a message, and my internet messed up on me again, so if you get two messages from me, sorry, but I'm a total moron most of the time.

But, I was saying that we do the same thing in our house most of the time. If we don't, then we have Star Wars Legos hanging out bothering the Pirate Legos, and the Hot Wheels bugging the Pokemon! I am a strong supporter of "like-minded" toys out at the same time. If you want something else, put it away!

Jane said...

I wish my parents had been more strict about cleaning up and had trained me to be neat, because it certainly isn't easy to learn these habits on the job! Or...in the marriage!

Queen Of My Domain said...

I have also follow the one toy rule. When your done put it away. And no playing outside with your friends until everything is picked up. With four kids it would be a disaster otherwise.

Lori said...

Lavonne, I appreciate you sharing your experiences with us. I'm sorry to hear that you had bad experiences as a child. I had very strict parents, too. I still believe in firm boundaries, but add some love in there and you've got a good balance.

I think when most of us say "mean Mommy," we're saying it very tongue in cheek. That's not something that any of us aspire to. We're joking because of the criticism we sometimes receive.

As far as Lisa's choices for discipline go, I don't think any of us can or should assume that the restrictions are given without love.