Organizing whiz Barbara Reich wants us to whip out our trusty Brother P-Touch label-maker, round up some Hefty bags, and restore order to the irksome kiddie mess all around us.
I don’t know about you, but I’m being slowly driven insane by the endless array of Barbies, stuffies and microscopic Disney Princess and Polly Pockets gew-gaws the Wee Lass hoards in her bedroom and playspace. I can get the entire house in tip-top shape, but if I leave her to her own devices for more than, say, five minutes, disaster ensues. It’s a total and complete Zen buzzkill, and I know it will only get worse if I don’t put some systems and rules and regs in place ASAP.
To do so, I reached out to New York City-based professional organizer Barbara Reich, owner of Resourceful Consultants and a super-busy mama of twins. (And a perfectly groomed one, at that!) I told her about my plan to sneakily toss about 50 percent of my little lady’s possessions when she wasn’t looking, and guess what? She wasn’t down with that plan.
Dana: I desperately need to get my five-year-old daughter’s toy and doll situation under control. She’s about to start five weeks of day camp, so I’ll be able to attack her room and playspace while she’s out of the house. My question: Should I be sneaky or upfront about what I want to get rid of? She has soooooooo much stuff, I figure she’ll never even realize I chucked some of it.
Barbara: If she really won’t notice, then being sneaky is okay. But if your child would be upset, then s/he should be included in the process. Think about how you would feel if someone touched all of your “stuff” and unilaterally decided that some of it should be discarded.
Dana: How often do you recommend doing a clean sweep in a kid’s room and play area?
Barbara: How often you weed out toys depends on your child’s age, how much space you have, and how much of a “junk” collector your child is! For babies and toddlers, I would weed out every 2 months. For children from 4 to 8 years old, 3-4 times a year is sufficient. Children older than that have fewer toys and their interests are more established. Once or twice a year should be fine. If your storage space is limited or your child tends to accumulate a lot of stuff, you should audit more frequently.
Dana: It seems as if every toy and doll is part of a “collection” these days. I know that’s just a way to make parents part with more money. But do you have any tips for discouraging collecting?
Barbara: I don’t have a problem with collections, as long as they’re stored properly. You’re better off if your child has a few large collections than two things from twelve different toy lines.
Dana: I’ve read that kids actually respond really well to a cleaned-up space, even if that means fewer toys and tchotchkes. With your clients’ children, have you also found that to be true? What is it about de-cluttering that just makes us all relax so much?
Barbara: My clients’ children LOVE the way their rooms and playrooms look when I’ve organized them. What makes people so happy is not having to look for things, knowing where everything is, and not having the visual over-stimulation that accompanies clutter. It’s also the feeling of being in control that becomes addictive!
Dana: What are your favorite kiddie-organizing tools and accessories? For example: Clear plastic boxes, a label-maker, one big toy box vs. a million bins, etc.
Barbara: My favorite kiddie accessories are colorful bins and stackable boxes for collections. Of course, everything should be labeled with a label-maker. I’m not a fan of toy boxes. There’s no organization inside the toy box, and it just becomes a home for broken toys and missing puzzle pieces. It also teaches kids that cleaning up means throwing things in a big box.
Dana: How can I install in my dear Wee Lass a love for order and organization? I feel that if I could do that, my future would be a lot less cluttered.
Barbara: If you want to instill good organization habits in your children, you have to model those qualities. Build time to clean up into every play session, and clean up every evening before bed. Your children will learn that organizing is part of a routine, and it will become second nature to them.
Dana. Perfect. I’ve always wanted to be a model, if only of hyper-organization!