Read Time: 7 min
The UCLA Center on the Everyday Lives of Families offers a telling insight on American families: “The United States has 3.1 percent of the world’s children, yet U.S. families annually purchase more than 40 percent of the total toys consumed globally.”
You’re probably thinking, “Sue, what’s this got to do with being organized?”
The genesis of this post started last week when I read the article “How To Organize a Play Area Like A Boss.” The author has some fabulous ideas and photos on organizing her children’s toys. She very cleverly shows you how to incorporate the right containers from The Container Store, Ikea, Sterilite and Closet Maid. You can see how containers are the solution to housing all those toys that children often strew in every nook and cranny of a home.
All those toys. How often do we stop and ask ourselves why do children need so many toys? Yesterday I posted a quote from Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century. Here’s another: “Spilling out of children’s bedrooms and into living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, and parents’ bedrooms, the playthings of America’s kids are ubiquitous in middle-class homes.” It’s so true. We live in a culture that loves to accumulate and works hard to find creative new ways to pack more stuff into less space. Or, make more space to pack in more stuff. The good news is we don’t have to live life this way.
“When you buy something new, give away two” is a rich concept with many applications. In thinking about your play area, are you teaching your kids to accumulate or eliminate? Yes, every family needs ways to organize their toys and play area. But in that process, consider using the elimination step to inspire your children to become givers and share their abundance with others. If you don’t teach your children to eliminate, they will accumulate! I encourage you to watch “The Hoarders” on TV or AETV.com. Once you see even one episode, you will be inspired to do with less.
OK. As I read the article, here’s a second truth I’ve discovered in my life and work: “There’s pain to maintain.”
It’s one thing to get a child’s play area organized, and another to keep it that way. In business terms, that process is called maintenance. And everybody knows that there is a cost to keep things maintained. One of the initial costs to successful maintenance is training. Here’s the question everyone must ask themselves, “Am I going to take the time and effort to properly train my child to put things back into the proper containers?”
If you say yes, and you’re committed to sticking with the process, then organize your children’s toys using the concepts and containers described in the article. However, if you don’t have the time and effort, day after day, to train your child to return each item in its correct container, chaos will find its way back into the play area and undermine your investment.
A mom in Virginia asked me to help her with her child’s toys. She wanted a system very much like the one shown in the article. But when it came to the question of consistency in training her child, she said no. So instead, I suggested a large toy box. I can hear you now, “Sue, you didn’t really suggest that, did you?” Yes I did, because she said the child normally plays with everything all at once. One big box suited that child’s situation better than many smaller containers.
How do your kids play with their stuff — a few at a time or do they like to dump them? Do you have the time and determination to train them?
Your answers to those questions can help you decide what will work best, not only in your playroom, but in your life.