Kids are Inherently Hoarders

Kids are Inherently Hoarders

Kids and all their treasures, well in their sweet, innocent eyes they are treasures. To many parents it is just junk, trash and in my case a lot of rocks. Sometimes not even rocks but chunks of concrete. So how do we battle the clutter of kid “treasures”? I implanted the “Treasure Chest” aka the junk box. For each of my 3 children their chests look very different, my eldest is on the spectrum, so his box has nuts, bolts screws, even pencil shavings. All somehow work into a master plan to build a snowplow and use the pencil shavings as snow. He has been gathering these “treasures” for years. My daughter’s chest is full beads and sequins and anything pretty. And my youngest son’s is rock, mulch and sticks, all treasures in his eyes.  It is our agreement that if it fits in the chest then it won’t be thrown away.

Twice a year we completely purge their rooms. All 3 kids have their birthdays near Christmas, which gave me the great excuse to implement the donation schedule. In order to make room for new birthday and Christmas gifts we must first make a box to take to donate for girls and boys that don’t have as many toys. Amazingly the kids get very excited to do this, they discover toys they had forgot about, find toys that they are longer interested it and always find new ‘treasures” to add to their treasure chests. I allow them to sort the chests and decide what they can part with. It gives them the responsibility to decide for themselves if that feather or rock or sequin still brings them joy or if it is in fact just junk. Through this process my kids have grown to make decisions on their own as well as to stay organized.

I hope you find these tips helpful with all the kid junk, I mean treasures.

 

Written by: Erin Pickering, Project Coordinator

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Back to School... Again! How to Save Money and Time by Shopping at Home First

One of my favorite things to do as a professional organizer and productivity consultant is introduce my clients to the concept of shopping at home. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but now that it’s back-to-school time, let’s dive into it with a little more depth.

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When things are in their place and we know where that is, we tend not to  become repeat buyers--as in purchasing things we already have. For example, when we buy dish soap we usually put it under the sink, right? When it’s gone we replace it, and so on. But when we’re buying items that don’t have an obvious place, sometimes they get stashed elsewhere and then we forget about them. How many times have you opened a low-rotation cupboard to find something you were looking for that you’ve maddeningly since replaced?

Getting ready for back to school is a perfect time to survey anything you may have tucked away “for later” and to shop at home in general. Before you head out with your kids to purchase all new stuff, do these few simple things to save your family time and money.

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  • Go through clothes--including shoes and coats--with your children to establish what needs to be donated, what should be tossed, and what can be passed on to a sibling or friend. Children grow so quickly that they often don’t have enough time in the saddle to truly wear clothes out, so hand-me-downs at younger ages tend to be less worn. Once you’ve done this and have a solid idea of what they have, you’ll have a better concept of what they need.

  • If you didn’t do this at the end of the school year, now is the time to empty, clean, and spruce up backpacks. Shake them out outside, and use a damp cloth to rid them of crumbs and other mystery items. Good quality backpacks are essential for kids since they have to carry several textbooks every day, so if your child is making a move from a kid pack to a more adult version, look at what your family has for day hikes that might be suitable and let them trade up that way.

  • Go through last year’s school stuff to see what can be salvaged in terms of binders, folders, lined paper, pencils, markers, pens. Get rid of anything that doesn’t need to limp along for another year and then sort through what’s left. You can divide the used items among your children and then round out their needs by purchasing a few new things for each of them.

  • If you’re someone who buys things when they’re on sale to be used down the line, check out the area where you stash that stuff (with luck you know where that is!) to make sure you didn’t tuck anything away that would work for back to school.

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  • Don’t head straight to department stores--see what you can find first in the world of discount retailers or thrift stores, especially for shoes and clothing. If your kids refuse to shop there, don’t hesitate to buy for them to try on at home; discount retailers all have super smooth return policies. (I have a friend whose middle-school daughter’s favorite jacket was a $3 thrift store buy. She just neglected to mention where she got it!)

 Getting your kids ready for another year at school doesn’t have to break the bank. By shopping at home to reuse and upcycle you can save time and money while teaching your children valuable life lessons in the process. How’s that for a win-win?

 Happy Organizing!

Storing Schoolwork, Artistic Masterpieces, and Precious Papers... Oh My!

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You know the drill. The school year ends and your kids come home with the special things they’ve kept in the classroom all year; paintings, drawings, maps, awards, reports, essays, and projects. The really young ones want their creations hung up for the world to admire, and you can’t help but marvel as the years pass at how they’ve learned to sign their names, capture a flower, or draw a torso wearing a shirt instead of just a belly button.

The question is: what to do with it all?

Since we’re all about systems at Org&Relo, I’m going to offer up two--one soft, one hard--that might work for you to keep the kids’ paper tornado from taking over your house, one smiling stick figure at a time.

Soft Copy System

This solution is by far the least labor intensive--as well as being a space saver. The art or schoolwork comes through the door, gets photographed, gets stored in a file on your computer, and the hard copy gets tossed. No fuss, no muss! But if throwing away your mini Picasso’s work breaks your heart, you might consider the next option.

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 Hard Copy System

  • Designate a Temporary Holding Station

You can use a magazine box, a file folder, or a clear plastic box with a lid--whatever you choose, assign one for each child. For larger artwork, we recommend the underbed drawer from The Container Store. Then as the papers arrive during the year, you can decide with your child what’s special enough to keep and store it inside. (A good rule of thumb is that if it’s deserving enough to be in a frame or photo album, it stays.) This helps them choose what is valuable to them and also helps them learn how to let go of things that don’t have a gold star in their eyes.

  • Date... Everything!

If items aren’t dated, take a moment to add a date on the back of each paper. This will keep a chronology of your child’s progress and will make the pile easier to sort when it comes time to create a more permanent home.

  • Sort with Your Child’s Help

Once the end of the school year arrives and you’ve gathered the full nine months of your child’s precious papers, sit down with him or her and go through what you’ve kept during the year. Sometimes it’s easier to purge when the entire collection is in one place. Encourage your child to think about what’s important to keep and what he or she won’t miss if it’s added to the recycle bin.

  • Use a Binder and Sheet Protectors

Assign a large binder and insert the art into sheet protectors. Use tabs to label by year or semester. Since binders are bulky and take up valuable storage, you only want to have one per child (which also helps in the winnowing process). I’m not usually a fan of binders; some people like to jam them with random papers they don’t want to go through and then use them as an excuse to look organized. (You know who you are!)Keep in mind that this won’t be something that just gets shoved away in a dark closet. They are keepsakes that kids revisit to examine their growth and progress.

Once you’ve created this system, it’s easy to add to it as the papers arrive home. If that works, you could give up the holding station and just keep the binder stacked with empty sheet protectors.  You can create the same hard-copy system using a file box with folders for each child, but it doesn’t make it as easy for them to pull out and examine like a photo album.

Neither of these systems accounts for the inevitable 3-D artwork made from clay, papier-maché, or other mystery substances. Professional Organizer Peter Walsh has views on those: “If you or your child really want to hold on to the piece, make sure that it is displayed in a way that not only honors its importance but also protects it from dust and damage.  If a piece is not honored and respected then it has no place in your home--whether it's a science project or a family heirloom.”

Touché! I couldn’t agree more.

Happy Organizing!

One Barbie at a Time: Organizing Your Kids’ Rooms (with Their Help)

Some kids are convinced that a room is clean if everything is shoved in the closet and out of sight; others think that as long as they keep their door closed, no one will be the wiser. We adults know better.

Now that another school year is filed away and the kids are home during the day, it’s a perfect time to take on organizing their rooms. Incorporating your child into the process is the only way to go; if (usually in a fit of “I can’t stand it any more!”) you do it yourself, you’ll end up always doing it yourself and you won’t empower your children toward their own independence.

Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out, recommends that you be an “organizing consultant” to your children. Sit down with them and make a list of what they want in their bedrooms, along with what’s working and what’s not. Do they want an art headquarters? How important is an easily set up sleepover zone for friends? Are they bookworms or dress-up queens? What’s most important to them?

Once you’ve come up with a list that accurately represents what they want, set aside a couple of days that work for them and for you, get all hands on deck, and start the transformation.

Linda, one of Org&Relo Boulder’s Professional Organizers and mother to two teenagers, says that kids respond to structure. “Our job as parents is to impose structure, and their job as kids is to push back against it. Even though they may say they don’t like it, their actions say otherwise. Over and over again I saw how much more my kids relaxed when they knew what was expected, what their parameters were, and what was next.”

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Start by simplifying, sorting, and storing. Simplify things by inviting your kids to help choose which outgrown toys and clothes can be passed on to other children. It’s never too early to introduce them to the concept of passing on well-loved items to others in need! Show them how to sort like toys with like, and delegate those with small parts--legos, doll clothes, blocks--into piles that they can corral in clear plastic boxes with lids. Label these using a large font or even with picture labels if your children are pre-readers, and store them on shelves they can access.

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Make sure the solutions fit the child. Take their height into consideration, and organize from the ground up. If you’re working with a younger age group, you want cubbies they can reach, lower shelves, step stools for light switches or higher shelves, and kid-size hangers in the closet. Let them choose what goes where. Think about hooks for hoodies and backpacks and hanging organizers or large baskets for action figures or stuffed animals. For the younger set you might want to organize and keep art supplies out of reach until you are sure they can use them unsupervised--high shelves that aren’t reachable with that step stool are perfect.

Maria Montessori, the Italian physician and educator who developed the Montessori system of education in the early 19th century, used a simple system in her classroom to keep her students engaged. She would display only so many materials for them to work with at a time on the shelves, and others would be packed away. Then she would remove the old ones and display the new ones. Adapt this logic in your younger children’s rooms. Instead of having everything out all at once, keep some toys and books sequestered and rotate things in and out on a bi-monthly basis. You’ll be amazed how fewer things can hold a young child’s attention for longer!

Implementing an organizing routine at a young age will make everyone’s life easier in the long run. Assign tasks that give your kids a sense of empowerment. Making their beds in the morning, picking up books and toys in the afternoon, and straightening the desk or dresser before bed helps them understand that even a little order can be a beautiful thing. Everyone sleeps better. Just a few minutes a day here and there gets them used to--and, with luck, desirous of!--a clean space to play and entertain their friends.

Happy Organizing!