Cleaning Out the Toys

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This is a story with a beginning, a middle, and an ending yet to come.

A few weeks ago I went into Nicholas’s room to grab his hamper of dirty clothes. I walked out confused. It wasn’t there. I went back in, thinking I made a mistake. It still wasn’t there. I walked back to the laundry room, thinking I already grabbed his hamper and forgot. It wasn’t there, either. I know it sounds silly, but I went back into his room and did a slow circle in place. No hamper! Again I walked back to the laundry room, this time staring into corners and walkways. Nothing. I gave up and assumed I was losing my mind.

I went into Mikey’s room to grab his hamper, and that’s where I found Nico’s. In the center of the room, somewhat lopsided, for all the world to see. I called out to Nicholas and asked him if he put his hamper in Mikey’s room.

He said yes. “I’m ready for my bunk beds, mama.”

Apparently, he was moving in. I told him before that was possible, we were going to have to get rid of some toys. Two boys with too many toys can’t fit in one room.

We reduced Mikey and Nico’s toys and books by 75% over the course of three weeks. What’s amazing is that Mikey and Nico are thrilled with the results.

I have yet to immerse myself in this month’s book club pick. Instead, I went to the library and checked out Simplicity Parenting once more. This time, I took copious notes and read it cover to cover instead of trying to cram it in between dozens of books almost due. I devoured it and will buy a permanent copy for our home soon.

I love this book and everything it has to say. Not everyone agrees with me. Some find the practices the books recommends difficult to follow. I could spend an entire post on this book, but for today I’ll share what we did and how the rooms look now.

They are a work in progress. I still have a ways to go before Mikey and Nico can share a room! The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone planning a major overhaul of a child’s toy storage is that you do it on your own or with your partner. Don’t involve the children. It’s what Simplicity Parenting recommends, and having done it both ways (before and since the purge) I can tell you it’s excellent advice.

I always included the boys when purging out their toys in the past to make sure I didn’t get rid of something they truly loved. The problem is that every toy is a toy they truly love. Their memory is astounding. The know the who, what, where, and how of every single plastic widget in their room. The 5″ stuffed toucan they won at a flea-bit carnival that lived underneath the bed for two years is suddenly of utmost importance. You can spend hours arguing the necessity of keeping a Star Wars action figure with missing arms.

“Mom, he’s been injured in battle! We use him in our war scenes.”

Nice try.

We dropped the boys off with my parents for quality time and the Mister and I spent the eve before Super Bowl Sunday purging toys. It was fun! We called the shots, we flew through boxes, and we ended up with a pretty clean room for Nico (no train table, a great reduction of books, etc.) and a head start on Mikey’s (most of the expedit purged).

When we brought them home, we were nervous what they would say, especially about the missing train table (that they never used except to pile their toys).

They loved it. All of it.

Although we cleaned out the closets in October, Christmas brought another avalanche of toys from the grandparents. It was depressing and annoying. I worked so hard to clean out Mikey’s closet, and then worked hard to keep it clean. The simple truth is we were storing so many unused, outdated, or broken toys before Christmas, we had nowhere to store the new Christmas toys I didn’t feel they needed.

We’ve since come to an agreement on how gift giving will go from this point forward.

This past holiday weekend I emptied out all the toys from the closet and began purging those, along with what was left in the expedit.

I normally include lots of progress shots when I do these William Morris posts but this is all I have. It was so exhausting, so discouraging, and so absolutely overwhelming at times to be surrounded by all those toys that it was all I could do to keep from crying. I wanted to give up a thousand times and hated every minute of it. I don’t know if it’s because the boys were with me the second time around (and Nico especially slooooowed down the process) or if it was because I was coming down with a cold, but I felt really frustrated and alone.

I would pick up two toys and then stop. Pout. Wonder why I even bother, since I’m the only one who even cares if the house stays clean. Pick up two more toys and a book and then stop again. Imagine the homes of all the natural living bloggers I admire and compare it to my plastic strewn disaster.

Towards the end I cheered up as I watched Mikey take ownership of the project. When I told him he could work at the garage sale and sell toys he didn’t want (and keep the money for whatever he wants to buy) he was beside himself. He started making advertisements for all his toys and has big plans for all the money he is going to make.

19.99? Lasts only thru Monday. Buy it now and you’ll only have to pay 15.99$!

I mean, come on. You can’t stay in a bad mood in the face of superior marketing. I called it a day shortly after that and didn’t tackle their rooms again for a few more days.

This is a coincidence, but Nicholas is looking in the direction where that train table used to sit.

This is his room now. That little Target cubby system (worthless) holds his shoes in the bottom row. The rest is empty, minus what you see. We’ll sell it at the garage sale.

Here is the expedit. It’s empty! Not empty-empty, but close enough. I could have moved what’s there into the closet, but I was too tired. We’re going to sell this, too.

In the closet are toys we are going to donate, sell, or keep but are too large to store anywhere but under the bed. I prefer not to store them there because of Mikey’s allergies.

And here are the remaining toys. The three bins at the bottom store what they play with most often: dinosaurs, Hot Wheels, and action figures. They also love legos, blocks, and construction sets. I somehow managed to fit all their books onto this shelf, too. (Also worthless, also from Target.) We’re going to sell it and buy something more substantial that can actually fit picture books. Ridiculous.

In the end, we had over nine trash bags of toys and books, both functional and to discard. They’re all sitting on the back porch, waiting for the garage sale/trash day. Amazing what you keep when you aren’t paying attention.

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This post was part of The William Morris Project, a weekly series that details the steps I am taking to create an intentional home. You can see more of my goals and completed projects here. To learn more about this project, start here.

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Now it’s your turn! Feel free to share how you have lived according to the William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Made a plan? Cleaned a drawer? Bought a sofa? Tell us about it with a link or comment. A few guidelines:

        1. Please link to a specific post, not a general blog address.
        2. Your post must relate to your efforts to create an intentional home. I have a delete button, and I’m not afraid to use it.
        3. No links to giveaways, please.
        4. There are buttons to add to your post or sidebar, too, thanks to the lovely Alex, of Type A Calligraphy. Please link the buttons back to this site.
        5. Let’s use this weekly link up as an opportunity to gather inspiration and motivation. Click links. Discover new people. Say hi and good job. I know I will.

 

 

   


Comments
70 Responses to “Cleaning Out the Toys”
  1. First off, Jules, the rooms look WONDERFUL!! What a change! It has to feel freeing for you.

    I’m all over purging toys (even though we have no kids) because I know my nephewsy only play with certain things and the other stuff is left in the dust. When I was little, my mom kept a small cradle that friends made for me when I was born. It later became toy storage – whatever didn’t fit in the cradle had to go (not counting my toy kitchen or the Big Wheel outside). It was a compromise of her setting up the designated toy space, and me choosing what went in that space. She might have thought I was nuts to keep the freebie McDonald’s toy and toss the name brand toy, but it was totally up to me.

    Since I do have these nephews (and gift giving is always an issue), I would LOVE to know what your decision was on gift giving in the future!

    • Jules says:

      My mom keeps a trunk/bench that I stained and wood burned with a daisy basket design (don’t ask) and that is stuffed with toys. Other than that, there isn’t much there, and the boys love it! It’s what confirmed what I already knew: they do much better without so many toys.

      I’ll share the gift policy next week because I want to open up comments for suggestions and ideas. :)

  2. Courtney says:

    Girl, that stash of toys looks familiar and is nothing to be ashamed about – but the end result should make you proud! Love the advice to do it without the children present. I’ve always tried the opposite, and it may explain why we still have 8 million toys. Going to have to check out Simplicity Parenting . . .

    • Jules says:

      Someone says it later in the comments, but if your kids are younger, it’s better to do it without them. Around Mikey’s age, it gets easier to do it with them–at least that’s my experience with Mikey. Nico was a challenge.

      I feel pretty proud! I wish we had the money to buy a storage system that holds everything nicely, but that will come with time.

  3. Jennifer says:

    What a timely post. I’m knee deep in tractors, race cars & books. Ugh. And I about lost it when my Mom came over for Valentine’s Day with big & shiny red bags for my boys…a Doodle Glow for each boy? Really, Mom? These plastic monstrosities that were used 2x are taking up way too much real estate. Anywho… I would love to know what kind of agreement that you have worked out in your family regarding gift giving (if you don’t mind sharing.) We had a talk with my folks and gave them deposit slips at birthday time. I was hoping that the point was taken and Christmas would be more streamlined. Negative. We’ve talked about the “want, need, wear, read” idea, but nothing seems to stick with them. What’s happening in your world?

    • Jules says:

      My parents are the same way, Jennifer. Nothing for Valentines, but Easter and Halloween (?why?) are big “let’s give crappy presents” days for them. I’ll share what we agreed to do next week because I want to brainstorm the idea with everyone. It might not work!

  4. Amy says:

    Looks great, Jules!

    And while I’m sure cleaning without the wee ones is the way to go, it’s still touch and go. To this day I’m bitter my mom got rid of my pink velvet dog. She insists I had a million other stuffed animals, and I hardly played with the dog {the rather large dog, she might add}. At which point I pull out the faded photo of me, in my pink footie pajamas, hugging my pink velvet pups. Now I’ll never be able to pass it on to my daughter . . . that I don’t have . . . sigh.

    Toy overload does cross my mind when I purchase gifts for my nephew or the children of my friends, however. But you know, it’s a quandary short-lived. They grow up so quickly–before you know it, they’ll be grown . . . and their wish-list much too expensive. :)

    • Jules says:

      One time my mom told me that if I didn’t put away my nail polish, she was going to throw it away. I didn’t, and she through it away! I couldn’t believe she actually went through with it. Of course, I never did leave my nail polish out every again…

  5. Lisa says:

    I too need to make a second pass through the playroom. I have no desire to take all this junk when we move. I also have grandparents who bring obscene amounts of toys into the house (last fall when my MIL babysat twice a week, she took the kids to Target every single time and bought them each a toy….that’s six toys a week, and 72 toys over the course of twelve weeks, despite my strongly worded objections.)

    Anyways–good job on the decluttering :-)

    • Jules says:

      Technically, this is my fourth pass. I did a purge before Christmas, too, which is a little embarrassing. This is the largest, most effective purge we have ever done. And that everyday toy thing? My mom and dad would do that in a heartbeat. Sigh.

  6. Tara says:

    Nice work! The rooms really look great. I purged our toy area last week and it made me so happy. I’m another person who would love to hear your gift-giving agreement. I adore my parents, and they’re pretty good about asking us about big gifts, but the small ones still sneak through and then add up. And so does holiday candy (via the mail, since we live on different continents…I promptly womp chomp half of the candy out of guilt and make my husband take the other half to work. PLEASE, MAMA, I’m not giving candy to my 2.5 year olds!!!!).

    Now–reward yourself for this good work by jumping into the book club book. I loved it and didn’t want it to end!! Such a good pick.

    • Jules says:

      That’s exactly what I plan to do. Also, I didn’t want to say this publicly, but my husband has been gone for a week. I’m ready for him to come home and for me to veg in front of a book for hours. I’m so sick right now, it’s crazy, though I’m much better today than I was M-W! He told me on the phone this morning that once he gets home I can lock myself in our room and not come out until Monday. Sounds like a plan.

  7. Pamelotta says:

    I can’t tell you how proud I am for you. That is a major undertaking. One I’ve been putting off for years. I have three girls that share a room and I can tell they’re overwhelmed with it all and that makes me sad. I’m trying to read Simplicity Parenting, but I just can’t squeeze it in. My husband and I are seriously considering going out of town to a friend’s lake house for the weekend just to read the book together and come up with a strategy for implementing it all. It seems like an overwhelming task, but the more I read the book, the more I see how necessary it is.

    P.S. Ashley at The Handmade Home did a post today on shared children’s spaces. Lots of inspiration for kid’s who share a room!
    http://www.thehandmadehome.net/2012/02/small-spaces-shared-childrens-spaces/

  8. May says:

    You deserve a huge atta, girl! This process really sucks the life out of you…until it is done. Then it feels so great!

    • Jules says:

      Now I feel good, and I felt good when I was working with my husband. With the boys…oof. I think it was just overwhelming, and I also wasn’t feeling well.

  9. Ms. Amy says:

    Purging toys is the absolute worst. It always leaves me filled with a mixture of guilt, shame, remorse, and a dash of anger. It looks amazing, and I’m so gad your boys are happy with the results. Mine would be filled with frustration and tears.

    Looks like I really need to read Simplicity Parenting.

    • Jules says:

      Try it, Amy! We thought there would be hell to pay, but there wasn’t! In fact, my husband was so chicken that he left me to show them their rooms on the pretext of getting us dinner. Yeah, right. Scaredy-cat!

  10. Jaimie says:

    I also love Simplicity Parenting and did a big purge of toys right before Christmas. My kids are younger than yours (1.5 and 3.5) so we haven’t yet accumulated a lot of the bigger/multi-piece things like Lego sets. The kids’ bedrooms are quite small, so there really isn’t room to store toys in there, so all they have in their bedrooms is their favourite stuffed animal(s) for bed, and a small collection of books. Most of our toys live in a big Expedit in the basement. My goal was to have lots of breathing space around the toys on the shelves so you could see exactly what was there and be able to take them out/put them back easily. I think I’ve achieved that, but it does require a lot of vigilance to keep it up and it will only get harder as the kids get older. I have put some things away in temporary storage to rotate out again so they retain some of their freshness.

    Jules, that was really encouraging to hear that your boys were so pleased with the results! I really do believe that it’s more fun and restful for kids to play when there isn’t so much to choose from (and then put away).

    • Jules says:

      They LOVED it. Yesterday I placed all the books on one shelf and told Mikey he could organize his books as he sees fit whenever he likes. He took one look at it, gave me a huge grin, and came running over to hug me. Then he went over and looked at all the books. He said he loved it because it looked so organized.

  11. Tiffany says:

    I know it was difficult, but doesn’t it feel good to get rid of all that “stuff”. I love purging (not my stuff of course, but Paul’s-Ha!) and I love me a good yard sale.

    • Jules says:

      Someone is going to make out like a bandit at our yard sale. We have so much stuff now that we’ll be giving it away just to get our garage back!

  12. Jules,
    I am so inspired…the before and after shots are great. I am starting with the books today.

    I tried to paste the small icon button into my html (in the sidebar of blogger) but it wouldn’t transfer…any thoughts?

    • Jules says:

      I fixed the code issue! WordPress kept switching my straight quotes to curly quotes, and I figured out how to keep it from doing that.

      • I was fine before (eliminated the curly quotes on my own), but now, even if I type in the code directly in HTML, WordPress changes it. I’m a complete WordPress novice, so I don’t know what to do! BTW, all the links to the buttons are broken now, even on my earlier posts. Suggestions?

        • Jules says:

          Jiminy Christmas Pete! I have no idea. WordPress automatically converts straight quotes to curly quotes, so to bypass that I had to replace each quote with ". I did that, and made a mistake in one, but that shouldn’t be affecting anything on your end. I just fixed it, but if you have any trouble just delete the code, upload it as you would a regular picture, and link back to me. If this is for your sidebar, upload it like you would your ads and link back to me. I’m so sorry! This was supposed to be easy and I’m causing all sorts of ruckus.

  13. Rachel - Love In The House says:

    Fabulous job, Jules! Purging toys is difficult but so worth it. Six years ago when we moved to our current house, we put all the toys in one corner of the living room. Our son would walk right on by, whining and bored out of his skull. I couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t playing with his toys when they were all right.there. Once I put most of them away and left a basket with a few select toys in it, he played and played and was so happy. Lesson learned. Kids play more and with more imagination when there are fewer things distracting them. I’d love to hear your solutions to holiday giving as well; grandparents are so lovingly generous. :o)

    I think it’s adorable that your boys are excited to share a room. Good luck with all the work left to do to that end!

  14. Now I’ve got to check out Simplicity Parenting! What great work, Jules. My kids are also always pleased after we do a massive cleaning of their rooms. I think they get overwhelmed with the mess, too, but don’t realize it until they have some breathing room again. I totally agree with doing the sorting without the kids…until a certain age (though I’m not sure what the perfect age is–probably depends on the kid). I think when they’re older (my 9-yr-old, for example), caring for their own space is a valuable skill for them to practice. My son loves his books so much, he organizes them on his own–sorted by fiction and nonfiction, and alphabetized by author. And now that we figured out a display space for his Legos, he’s taken complete charge of the organizing. Maybe it’s just that, as they get older, it’s easier to narrow down what they most value.

    I am now inspired to ditch our train table, too. My eldest used it briefly as a Lego table, and the youngest just piles stuff on it. Nobody is into the trains at all. Time for them to go.

  15. Hazel says:

    “I would pick up two toys and then stop. Pout. Wonder why I even bother, since I’m the only one who even cares if the house stays clean. Pick up two more toys and a book and then stop again. Imagine the homes of all the natural living bloggers I admire and compare it to my plastic strewn disaster.”

    Thank you for writing that. I feel exactly the same way a lot. It’s good to know I’m not the only one.

    I lurch between the two poles with toy purging too. The children can’t keep everything, but I really don’t want to be the unfeeling parent who threw out the favourite toy that they feel bitter about for ever. And yet…

    This time in Connie’s room I removed a large bagful of stuff I thought she wouldn’t miss as well as the broken/definitely outgrown toys. She’s asked for about 3 things, 1 of which I was happy to return, the other 2 we’ve negotiated over.

    My son’s room is always tricky. He collects/accumulates little treasures and loves construction toys of all sorts (Lego, K’nex, Magnetix, Meccano…), but he has ADD and functions much better when his room is clear. I find it’s constant work to try to maintain some sort of balance.

    Eldest daughter is 13 with a vengeance and I’m just trying to keep the clothes off the floor.

    Currently I feel I’m still mostly surface decluttering, but have tackled a few cupboards. So much seems to be leaving the house I can’t believe it doesn’t look as empty as I feel it should. I just have to remind myself I am making a difference and I’ll feel better about it even if it feels as though no body else notices!

    • Jules says:

      I think they do notice it, they just don’t say much. That’s what I found in my house, anyway. Sometimes I feel my house should look empty, too! And yet it doesn’t, which is shocking if you consider what our garage looks like now.

  16. Nora says:

    I love what you’ve done and how you’ve done it! It is so freeing when things get organized especially around your kids! I’m wondering if anyone else has the problem I have though….a child is devastated if she comes home and finds that her stuff has been removed. My kids are 10 and 7 and the 10 year old is fine and loves when he comes home to find stuff cleaned up and, well, done for him. My 7 year old though, gets very sad for a very long time. And this kid saves everything. It’s her job to talk out the recycle bin and she finds “treasures” in there in the form of advertisements with pictures of stuff she likes etc. How to find the balance? We try to only allow a new thing in if an old thing goes out but even then there is tears and tummy aches etc. I’ve been “challenging” her to remove 25 things a week from her room or the playroom…those items can be artwork, clothing she doesn’t like anymore, toys etc. and I swear she looks for the smallest item and at this rate it’s going to take forever! I’ll have to cheek out Simplicity Parenting and see if it addresses how I can work better with her and her personality.

    • Jules says:

      No, I don’t have any experience with that. Does anyone? I would love to hear suggestions, too.

    • Jenn says:

      We had a friend with a little girl just like this. They ended up making a rule that all the toys must fit into the toy bins, excepting the large things which also had a limit for how much floor space they could take up. They said it was terrible for awhile in the tears and tummy aches sort of way, but kept focusing on the new toy boundary and on how she could bless others with things she was done with. She’s still really attached to her things, but is also very good at controlling her emotions about them and at making choices about what will and won’t stay when new stuff comes in. It was really hard for them as she was so upset about it, but they’re really glad they stuck to it.

      • Kristin says:

        I’m not a parent, but I remember that my younger sister was very attached to things when she was growing up (I was too, but not to the same extent). One way my parents found to make it easier for her to part with things was to take a picture of them before giving/throwing them away – that way she could still remember the item (like a worn out toothbrush shaped like an alligator – isn’t it funny the things that stick with you?) but it wasn’t still in the house taking up space.

    • Susan G says:

      I had a reaction first to the specifics of 25 things per week. I think 25 is a lot, to be honest. Also – I hope this analogy makes sense – I tried a plan for doing laundry that was to do a load every day so it wasn’t all left for the weekend. The result? I felt like I was doing laundry ALL the time since it intruded on every day. So she may feel like she is being asked to give up her belongings all the time. Maybe once a week and then it’s done – maybe 7 things?

      Also, although I do believe as parents we can set the standards I also think sometimes our children will have different values. We can either try to incorporate those, or deal with the consequences (tears and tummy aches – sometimes that was me and not my children!). My older daughter was a slob when she was little (until she used her own money later to decorate as I commented below). I decided I would let her live with it in her own room, but not outside of it, provided it didn’t directly affect me. So the only laundry I would do was what was in her hamper – if she left dirty clothes on her floor they didn’t get washed. No wet towels on the floor because we have wood floors. No food or dirty dishes because of bugs. And don’t ask me to help you find something that is misplaced because you covered it up with stuff that should have been put away. And then I closed her door and said I also didn’t want to come into her messy room and if she wanted me she’d have to come to me (except for all the negotiated exceptions – yes I’ll come get you if there’s a fire. Yes I’ll come in if you’re sick. My daughter is the master negotiator!) Anyway, some combination has resulted in a 22yo who loves her room neat and has a cute apartment.

      So…my long-winded point (if anyone is still reading) is that if she keeps things fairly neat, if she doesn’t get upset at too much mess, if she doesn’t get frustrated, if she keeps it in her own space, if it doesn’t mean you waste money buying something that is lost in the room , then maybe the amount and type of stuff she finds to be useful or beautiful can be allowed to exist – at least in her own little space.

  17. Karen F says:

    oh my goodness, the toys…the TOYS! Every time I think about cleaning/purging our playroom I break out in a cold sweat. Kudos to you for actually following through. Around Christmastime, we got an Expedit for our playroom and sorted some of the toys into bins, and that helped tremendously (but we still have too many toys and need to purge, big time). Prior to that, we had the toys in big plastic bins, and the girls could never find anything. Which is ridiculous, when you really think about it. So, again, great job Jules!!! I know what a (searching for the right word here…demoralizing? exhausting? defeating but ultimately rewarding?) project this is.

  18. Miss B. says:

    Great job! I was dying to just scroll down to the ‘after’, lol, I love these posts! I also love that Mikey is so ambitious, I hope he sells everything and makes a fortune;)

    • Jules says:

      Me, too. I just hope he doesn’t buy something that sucks. ;)

      • Susan G says:

        This made me truly LOL. Another thing I did when mine were small (which was VERY hard for me to do) was let them spend their money however they wanted (as long as it was safe and age-appropriate). I remember Emily (the older one – she’s a spender like me) using her money for some big plastic multi-piece overpriced junk from the Disney Store. It was so painful,knowing it was a toss-up whether she’d get bored with it or it would break first. I am such a controller that I almost had to physically restrain myself from stopping her!

  19. Susan G says:

    I totally agree with doing it without kids when they’re small – the only thing I had to learn the hard way was that I shouldn’t keep the things I thought my daughter SHOULD love and get rid of the stuff I thought was junk. Sometimes the toys they love and play with are not the ones we want them to love. It’s a tough thing to incorporate but it helps the whole venture be much more successful in the long run. My second daughter is somewhat of a minimalist, so she’s been easy, but the older one didn’t get really good at doing this herself until she was 13. She used her bat mitzvah money to buy lots of cute bedding and shelving and lighting from PB Teens. Once she was invested in the room, and I let her pick out whatever she wanted, she was much better and keeping it from filling up with junk. Bottom line – they are all different from each other AND FROM US, so it helped me to try to remember that.

    Oh – and GREAT JOB!!! I love that your son is happy that the books are organized – those moments are SO fulfilling!!

  20. Alana says:

    You’ve done a difficult thing–well done! And good for Mikey! Such a great entreprenurial spirit.
    I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for these posts. They are truly motivating me to get something done when otherwise I would have procrastinated yet again!

  21. Katie J says:

    Great Job!
    I’d be interested in your gift giving agreement. As a new parent that went through Xmas surprised how much relatives could give a 10 month old, I’m dreading her first birthday and have mix emotions on writing ” no gifts please” on her invite.

    • Jules says:

      I tried that for Mikey’s first birthday and the outcry was swift and violent. Some members of the family were seriously pissed off. Like, really angry. O_o

  22. Jenn says:

    Wow. Wow. Wow. Audible Sigh. Wowwwwww.
    This is embarrassing, but the kids’ toys (of which they don’t really have a lot, it is just a small space) make me want to kick and punch the air in a frenetic and wild angry dance. They’re on my list to do, to clean and sort out the toys, to come up with some better ways of organizing them, and to do this all with the kids present. Wish is was so much easier than it seems to be. Where’s the magical wand of cleaning happiness when I need it ;-)

    • Jules says:

      My husband and his brother like to tell the story of my MIL one day discovering that the way he and his brother cleaned their room was to open the closet doors and stuff everything inside. She opened the door, everything came tumbling out, and she promptly and decidedly lost it. She sat down on the floor and started flinging toys and stuff behind her, “This doesn’t belong here. THIS doesn’t belong here. And this! And this!” You get the idea. Well, her hand fell upon a roller skate, which she then treated like everything else. She flung it over her shoulder…and straight through the bedroom window behind her where it landed softly on a patch of lawn.

      35 years later and she still can’t live that down.

      • Jenn says:

        Bahhaa. That’s too funny. Luckily I’ve got a pretty good child-front/facade for these situations (breathe in, breathe out x10), and don’t let the internal diatribe loose. I shall refrain and stay composed on the outside, and provide no memories of these inner thoughts as ammunition for later years….or at least, that’s what I’m saying to myself as I sit in my office far removed from the toy jungle.

  23. Kelly says:

    So much deja vu here for me! First, it brought back my post on cleaning Tucker’s room (which is still clean), and also just your feelings of frustration, and feeling that you’re the only one in the house who cares (which is the rut I’ve been in all week), and comparing yourself to other “perfect” bloggers. And I know just what you mean about how Christmas couldn’t fit, because of all the other existing stuff (which is my current dilemma in our tiny playroom). And yes, I NEVER do deep cleaning/purging of kid areas when the kids are in the house.

    Great job!

  24. Monica says:

    Whoa, down to three bins of toys!?! That is amazing and I bow down before you in deep reverence. Seriously. Seeing that you made it through gave me the power to get back at Sam’s room this morning. Piece by piece and I am beginning to believe that I can get through this.

  25. Sandra says:

    Oh I have so been where you have been – that dark place of boys, bedrooms & ridiculous amounts of toys. You deserve a medal as it is such a tedious task. If only we were thoses women who constantly tidy in order to maintain a perfect home – oh that’s right – I decided many years ago that there is more to life than a perfectly clean & tidy home, especially when you live with 3 males who are more worried about what’s for dinner than if they can eat it off the floor or not!

  26. MemeGRL says:

    I hate how sad you sound–I hope you feel the victory after the garage sale! This is so hard, but you are not the only ones to have this happen–one of the blogging stories that stuck with me is the woman who cleaned out her daughter’s room to just one of those nine-basket shelves, and her daughter wept with joy because her room was so neat and pretty and she could find all her favorite toys.
    I have a total acquirer, with NO interest in pleasing :) so this hasn’t happend here yet. But my other one recently walked in a friend’s house (note: they were away, we were feeding the cat), took one look at the uncluttered openness and said, “WOW. I’ve always wanted to live like this!” So one of our spring break goals is to get him living like that. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Jules says:

      Don’t worry–I’m more exhausted than I am sad. It’s been a long, hard week. It will only get better when my husband gets back in town Friday night and I lose this vicious cold. :)

  27. Why is it so depressing to clean out your own family’s messes? The stages of cleaning should end up in some sort of self help book, first, frustration, then action, then defeat, panic, headache, frustration again…. The toys at our house are on a rotating basis, 75% up out of reach, and 25% available to play with. Then they get switched around. It’s like getting new toys. Purging them is super hard though, partly because I end up wanting to keep some of them, because I like them. Your ‘not after’ photos are still proof of hours and hours of work, emotional drain, and some amazing results. {Why are there never bookcases tall enough for picture books?} Looking forward to the end of the story!

  28. Kathie says:

    My kids are 15 and 18, and the stuff that’s left are the big items I bought that I thought would just wow ‘em…and they’ve been used once or less. A telescope. A metal detector. Even when they were younger and we were purging toy boxes, it was hard to face the guilt I felt over my wasteful spending. It’s like never-ending buyer’s remorse. I wanted to demand that they play with this thing, or else! So kudos, to you. (And “Glad” for you, too! I made sure to click on the link, for whatever that’s worth to them. :)

  29. Julie S. says:

    Jules, everything looks absolutely fabulous!! (and if you lived closer I’d come buy that expedit shelf from you in a heartbeat – I’ve been wanting another one for my studio).
    Julie

  30. Jeanne says:

    Fantastic job. Will have to get the simplicity parenting book. I have the teenage version of this challenge to deal with (little painted figurines from camp, old bows, cheap trophies, ugly nail polish in 10 shades of blue or green, etc). AND you do know that now I would LOVE to hear your voice. . . .

  31. kathy says:

    Wow, this post is so timely for me. I also have two boys (now ages 15 and 12) and a month ago I FINALLY got rid of bins and bins of outgrown toys. My husband didn’t want to throw them out because he saw that is throwing thousands of dollars in the trash, so I finally found someone who would take them and put them to good use. For this project though, I made the boys sit with me and go through stuff that I could get rid of because they’re old enough to realize if they’ve outgrown something. Once I had their blessing, it was a relief to let it all go. Seriously, I have been under the toy cloud for about 7 years, and now it’s gone! My boys are also loving the extra space that decluttering has provided for them. It has been a wonderful experience all around.

  32. kathy says:

    Forgot to mention that yes, as they get bigger the toys get smaller and more expensive, and that is a price I’ll gladly pay not to have all of that clutter in my house. $100 for an ipod that fits in their pants pockets? You bet!

  33. 1) FEEL BETTER SOON! My husband is just recovering from the worst cold of his life.

    2) AMAZING. This is amazing, what you’ve done. JOB WELL DONE.

    3) THANK YOU for sharing and posting. Your blog really gives me some get up and go on so many levels Miss Jules!

  34. Jill says:

    I cannot recall how I first found your blog, maybe it was via The FlyLady. If not, the next time you are undertaking a big project consider popping into TheFlyLady facebook site for support and encouragement.

    Cheers

  35. Shelley says:

    Thanks so much for being real with us through that process, I’m about to purge a playroom for 4 kids and disperse among bedrooms in order for my brother to move in with us, I’m not going to lie, I want to cry at just the thought of it. My husband works nights and sleeps during the day, so I’m pretty much alone around the clock, He also works 7 days. (that’s another subject! lol) with that said, I have the sitter coming on Thursday so I can start this massive project and I cringe just walking past that avalanche. I have such a hard time purging because I look at the Money invested into the toys and think “well, J will be older soon so maybe he will be interested, or maybe M is just still to young for the doll house and she’ll play with it soon I have a battle within to deal with as well as the battle in the floor. It’s just good to see that there are others that struggle with not wanting to deal with it and feel the pain through the process. lol I’m thankful my brother is moving in soon this forces me to do it once and for all and I’m going to go to donation before the sitter ever leaves to be sure I don’t change my mind. I know I can do this, I just need to keep seeking encouragement! :)

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Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.