Motherhood brings with it so many surprises. Many of them are great. Who knew what joy such a tiny person could bring to your life? Other surprises are just eye opening. For example, I didn’t realize just how much stuff came with having a child until I became a mother. Babies may come into the world without possessions but they sure do accumulate them quickly! Their clothes may be tiny but I think laundry triples in a home the minute an infant is carried in the door. As your baby grows, so do the number of toys that find a way into your home. And then there is the paper avalanche that comes with having a preschooler. The budding artists scribble, paint, color, and paste more crafts and color sheets than any new mom could predict. What’s a mom to do with it all? I can tell you that it is a daily battle to keep your house from being overrun with your kid’s stuff. However, I have a few tips to share with you for managing all that stuff. I am by no means an expert, just a mom with a little experience reigning in the chaos. I hope one or two of these tips will be of help to you.
I am a lazy laundress. I admit it freely. Luckily, I don’t own very many clothes that have to specially washed. I want to put the least amount of effort into getting the clothes clean as possible. So here are a lazy laundress’ tips for avoiding a constant mountain of laundry.
- Invest in a basket or hamper for every person or bedroom in the house. A basic laundry basket will fit neatly under a twin bed. Each of my children has a basket under his/her bed to put his/her clothes into after removing them. This helps to eliminate soiled clothing from littering the bedroom floors.
- Consider having a hamper in other convenient locations in your home. I have one in my kitchen for linens. I don’t use many paper towels. I needed a place to put soiled kitchen linens (hand towels, etc.) and I got tired of carrying them to another room. A small basket in the corner of the kitchen does the trick. I empty that basket every couple of days and wash the contents.
- Wash a load of laundry every day, if you can. Put the load in as soon as possible in the morning. Swing by later to move it to the dryer. Fold it as you take it out of the dryer. Surprisingly, folding a single load should take you less than 10 minutes. Don’t have 10 minutes now? Okay. Leave it for later but try and get that basket of clothes folded before the day is done. Don’t let the clean clothes pile up in a heap. Fold and put away as soon as possible.
- My most lazy tip is to skip sorting clothes by color if possible. I take the full clothes basket from under my child’s bed once a week. Without sorting, I throw all the clothes into the washing machine and wash in cold water. Then I dry it and let the child fold and put away his own clothes in the afternoon. I don’t have to sort by color or person. This saves me much time. This will only work if you don’t own very much white clothing or clothing where the colors bleed.
Toys and Books
- Have a central toy hub. I am privileged to have a store room in my home where all the toys and children’s books live when they are not being used. We do not allow our children to keep toys in their rooms. This has cut down on bedroom clutter. All the toys go in the toy room on shelves or in boxes/bins. There is place for all of it. When I lived in a smaller home, I had a storage space for toys tucked away. I then had a toy tote and book tote in the main living room. I rotated the toys and books every couple of months. The smaller totes fit better in our smaller space. As a bonus, there were fewer toys to pick up.
- Bless others with the toys your child has outgrown. Do a toy purge a couple of times a year. When the boxes/bins/shelves are overflowing in our toy room, I know that it is time to get rid of some of the toys. For example, we have purged the stuffed animal box many times over the years. I was able to donate some nice baby toys to my church’s nursery last year. I also gave some to a woman I know who runs a daycare. There is no purpose in a toy cluttering your home when it can be loved and enjoyed by someone else.
- If a toy is broken or drives you crazy, get rid of it. Broken toys go immediately into the trash. Any toy that I find annoying gets spirited away to a new home (usually when my children aren’t looking). My children have plenty of toys. There is no reason that I need to suffer through toys that bring no joy to my home. I have learned stop caring who gave it to my child. It is better to have a happy mama.
- Set limits on what toys come into your home. Don’t buy toys you don’t have room to store. Encourage relatives to give few toys. Give good suggestions on what classic toys will last or on what family passes they can purchase instead. Ask grandma to give you a season pass to the zoo or to invest in a quality set of building blocks. A few quality toys are better than a room full of toys that your kids never want to use. Personally, I have found that the fewer noises and lights a toy makes, the better. A basic baby doll is better than one that cries and wets itself and costs 3 times as much. My child can be more imaginative with the basic doll. She is fully capable of creating sound effects for it. No batteries required.
Paper – Tips for Children
- Have a place to file your child’s best artwork or school papers. There will be a some that you will want to keep. An expanding file folder or small filing cabinet can easily hold these treasures in an organized way. Have a folder for each child divided by year. Be very selective about what you keep. Try to limit it to less than 5 or 10 items per year. If the artwork is particularly good or meaningful to you, consider framing it and using it to decorate your home.
- Have a place to temporarily display your child’s work. A small bulletin board in the family room or clothes line strung along a wall can easily display a few of your child’s papers. Make a rule that you have to remove an item before putting another up. Allow your child to help decide what to display.
- Take digital photos of your child’s artwork. Once you have taken the photo, throw away the original. There are many ways you can then have those photos available to show your children or other relatives. You can upload the photos to a digital photo frame and hang it on a wall or put it on a desk. You can make a photo book of your child’s artwork. You can use the artwork as a desktop background on your computer or phone.
- Allow your child to keep some of his papers in a special box. A cardboard storage box that you can purchase at an office supply store will fit under a bed. I gave one to each of my children and allowed them to decorate the boxes. Then I sort through their papers, keeping what I want and I allow them to decide if they want to throw away or keep the rest. Any paper they want to keep goes in their boxes under their beds. All other paper is thrown away. Papers in the trash are not allowed to be rescued. This system has cut down to the amount of paper that was piling up around the house. When the box is full, take 1/2 an hour and help your child sort through their papers again to make room for new ones. This will teach your child how to make decisions about how to determine if something is worth keeping.
Paper – Other
Children are not the only ones who bring paper into a home. Adults have plenty themselves. Here are some tips for the other piling papers in your home.
- Mail – Sort your mail when you bring it into the house. Immediately throw out anything that you don’t want (junk mail). Invest in a mail hub. This may be an inbox system or a wall unit. There should be a place for bills and a place for all other mail. Don’t let the hub overflow. Take time once a day or every other day to open your mail and deal with it.
- Newspapers and magazines – If you subscribe to a magazine or newspaper, you should evaluate whether the subscription is a blessing or a clutter collection. After you have read your periodical, feel free to throw it out or recycle it. Don’t keep back issues of any magazine for more than a year. If you haven’t needed to refer to it in 12 months, you never will. If you find that you are not reading your daily paper or you haven’t read your monthly magazine before the new one arrives, then it is time to cancel the subscription.
- Other paper – You probably have a variety of other paper that you are given regularly. For example, we give you a MOPS newsletter each meeting. My pediatrician usually gives me an information sheet at well-baby check ups. All this information is helpful in general but useless if it ends up at the bottom of a paper stack never to be seen again. A basic file cabinet can be very useful for storing some of the other paper you may have. Be judicious about what you keep. If you are likely to never look at it again, don’t bother filing it. On the other hand, some papers you may have little cause to use regularly, but when you need them, they are important to have. An example of this is the student handbook for my child’s school. I have a school file for all important school information. My husband also files anything that we may need for taxes, such as pay stubs, medical bills and EOBs, and receipts for charitable donations. I have a file box just for owner’s manuals that come with our home appliances. When something goes wrong with the refrigerator or lawn mower, I know exactly where to look to find the owner’s manual to help me trouble shoot the problem. Taking a little time to file now will help you find what you need to find when you need to find it.
- Eliminating “Hot Spots” — Any flat surface can turn into a “hot spot” for paper clutter. The top of our piano is notorious for collecting all kinds of paper. Sunday school work sheets, mail that didn’t make it to the mail hub, old newspapers, children’s school papers….you get the idea. I try to take a few minutes at least every other day to clear this paper clutter. If I let paper collect in one place, it invites its paper buddies and the stack is eventually unmanageable.