Every year around this time I make it a priority to go into my basement and purge the kids toys. We pick up down there just about every day, and I’ve got a system of buckets that we use to keep the toys somewhat organized. But even with labels and pictures on the buckets identifying what belongs in them, the kids inevitably put things in the wrong place from time to time. So about every three months or so I go through the buckets and ensure all the toys are back into their proper bucket.
Purging is something I specifically save for this time of the year. It’s a multiple day process that makes me want to pull my hair out while I am in the midst of it, but feels so good once I’ve finally completed the process. It starts with dumping out every single bucket of toys into the middle of the basement floor. This is by far the worst part for me because I can not stand disorganization and clutter, but I’ve found that this truly is the most efficient way to accomplish my goals. Then I start digging through the pile and each toy goes into one of four categories, keep (to be sorted into the waiting buckets again), store (toys that the kids seem to be bored with at the moment, but may be interested in after a 6 month stint in storage), donate (things we’ve outgrown or lost interest in), and trash (anything broken beyond repair).
This year we threw away surprisingly little (given how destructive Cameron is at the moment). We’d stored quite a few toys in late August/September when I had gotten annoyed with the state of the basement the last time and angrily put away a few categories of toys that I was certain the boys hadn’t played with at all during the summer and took up a large amount of space in our basement, so I didn’t store anything new this time around. I filled four and a half garbage sacks full of toys that we’re going to store temporarily and either donate or sell at a garage sale in the spring. The remaining toys (and there were still quite a LOT) were sorted into the remaining buckets, which will be getting new labels this week. I know it seems crazy to do this in November, right as we’re going into the holiday season, but that’s exactly why I choose to wait until November. Our families have always been very generous around the holidays and if we didn’t take time to keep the toys cleaned out and organized we wouldn’t have any room to store the new years worth of generosity.
The project has evolved through the years. Originally, Matt and I worked on it together. However, we quickly found that was not the most effective way to do it. He would drive me crazy swearing up and down that we needed to keep a toy that I’d just dug out of the bottom of a bucket and blown 3 inches of dust off of because he knew how much the kids loved to play with that toy. And the crazy train went in both directions, because I am super anal about the categories the toys are sorted into and have high expectations that my catorization be followed. He just wanted to get the toys sorted and move on, so my eccentricities (that’s the nice way of putting it…) would drive him insane. Later I would go through the entire process myself, then when I was finished would allow Matt to go back through the pile of toys I wanted to donate to ensure he agreed with my assessment. That didn’t last long as 75% of the toys I’d set for donation ended up back into the play buckets.
Then we got the idea of having Brendan help me do this (he was the only one old enough at the time). That was tough the first year we put it into practice because it didn’t matter if he’d played with the toy in the last 6 months or not, once I’d called attention to it, it suddenly became the most precious toy ever and he couldn’t bear to part with it. However, things changed when I was able to give Brendan a lesson in why donating things is so important.
About 2-3 years ago, one of our friends had a fire in their apartment building. They lost everything except the clothes on their backs. Very fortunately the parents and all three of their children came through the fire un-injured. Matt and I wanted to do what we could to help them get back on their feet, so we went through our house and donated a few items. We had a computer desk, and a toddler bed we were no longer using, and we had lots of Cameron’s old toddler clothes that we sent over. We also wanted to donate a few toys for the kids, seeing as how they’d lost all of theirs. We couldn’t do much for the two oldest children, they were both girls and older even than Brendan. But the youngest child was a boy, slightly younger than Cameron. I had an idea of which toys I wanted to donate, but rather than just taking them I sat down with Brendan and explained what had happend to the family and why I wanted to take some of his toys to give to them. My dear, sweet, loving, child felt great compassion for the “little boy who lost all his toys” and went through his toys with me to find some suitable for donation.
Since then, its much easier to get Brendan’s cooperation in the process. This year was the first time Cameron played an active role in the process as well. Although, I do tend to believe his motives might be less pure than Brendan’s. I’m fairly certain Cameron’s angle is more room for new toys. All in all I was very pleased with the process this year. The boys were very upfront about things they’d grown bored with or just plain outgrown, and they didn’t hesitate to be vocal if there was something I’d thought they’d grown out of that they very much wanted to keep. Matt has come to realize the usefulness of my extremely anal organization and helped us with the last of the organizing on Sunday morning. Kaylee was the only issue this year as she spent more time taking toys out of buckets than she did putting them into them, but someday she too will be helping with this process.
And in 6 months, when I’m cursing the disaster that has befallen my neatly organized toy system, I’ll try to remember that one of these years my kids will have outgrown toys all together and that I’ll be spending the holiday season packing up the last of their childhood into plastic garbage bags.