Have a cherished kid in your life that you enjoy gifting to? Great intentions and generosity from friends and family leave many homes overrun with toys. Every birthday or holiday brings in gifts from multiple people and often each of those people gives multiple gifts!
When considering what to give, begin with the end in mind. Inevitably the toy you give will be outgrown and need to be disposed of somehow – it is VERY difficult to donate toys. Most thrift stores won’t take them. Toy consignment stores are picky and toys need to be complete and in great condition. Most families don’t have the time or energy to sell things online or have garage sales. All this means many, many toys end up in landfill or homes get overrun because folks don’t want to just throw things away.
There are lots of clutter-free ways to express your love and care for kiddos, here are some easy gift alternatives to toys:
- Memberships – or single visit tickets to fun kid places such as amusement parks, zoos, or aquariums
- Digital Gifts – Audible, iTunes, digital books, online magazines
- Experiences – movie tickets, miniature golf or fun centers, mani-pedi or facials, a picnic outing with special relative
- Classes – toddler play spaces or mini gym. Summer camp. Swimming, gymnastics, sewing, cooking, art, nature; there are classes in every topic imaginable!
- College fund or savings bonds – Open or contribute to a college fund
- Food – a variety popcorn tin, box of cake pops, tour of Jelly Belly Factory, candy apple making kit, cake decorating kit
A quick google search of “clutter-free gifts for kids” will turn up lots of other creative ideas. Give your adult children a break by not burdening them with toys to sort, store and pass on when the kids outgrow them.
Are your children growing like weeds? … and are their dresser drawers overflowing with clothes that don’t fit?
In anticipation of the new school year, hit the reset button and make space in their drawers for their new wardrobe. It’s a great opportunity to teach kids about the ongoing need to purge items that no longer serve a purpose – and possibly pass them along to someone who can use them.
Cycling Clothes Between Siblings
Saving good clothes for a younger child when the older one has outgrown them sounds like a great idea: Re-use, Recycle, Reduce – right?
The reality can be a messy pile stuffed onto a closet shelf or floor, a bag with mixed-up sizes and generally an inconvenient hassle to actually find what you want to re-use. Sometimes by the time you find the clothes, the younger kid is already too big for what you’ve found.
The easiest way to cycle clothes between siblings is to use storage tubs pre-labeled with sizes.
For clothes to pass on to a younger child:
- Get adhesive label pockets for the outside of a medium sized tub. The Container Store has a few kinds or you can get them from an office supply store
- Create a set of labels that will go into the sleeves that cover all the sizes that your child will outgrow. For example if your child now wears a size 4, create label inserts “size 4”, “size 5”, “size 6”, etc. You don’t need a tub for each size…just 2-3 tubs
- Store the extra labels behind the current label, ready to swap out when needed
- If you receive clothes from friends/relatives for your oldest, create a few tubs with those larger sizes as well to store them
- If possible, store the tub labeled with the current size of each child in their closet so that as soon as you notice something is outgrown, in the tub it goes!
- If you don’t have room for tubs, grocery bags can work in a pinch
For those clothes you want to save for other kids:
- If you collect clothes to pass on outside your family create a specific tub names for that special cousin or friend
- Always keep a donation bag handy in a kid’s closet – when it’s full, move it straight to the car and replace it with an empty!
Middle School and Beyond
The transition from child to tween is often a time when folded clothes start needing more room than small dresser drawers.
- Bulky items such as sweatshirts and jeans often do better folded on open shelving in a closet
- If a closet has been used for toys it may be time to retire those and take over the space for clothes.
- If the closet only has a hanging rod it’s a good time to consider a makeover to reduce the amount of hanging space in order to add some shelving.
- Graduate to an adult size dresser
You can save money, save the environment and build community by recycling your children’s clothes and passing them on when they’re outgrown. Start today by at least setting up 2 labeled bags: one for donations and one for your oldest child’s current size; you’ll be on your way to a sorted system.
Have you come up with a great sorting system? Share it in a comment here!
Take managing your household to a new level of organization!
As the school year begins, busy families everywhere face the challenge of how to get out of the house on time with kids fully dressed and fed, backpacks and paperwork in order, without losing their minds – or their patience.
The key to keeping your sanity is creating simple routines around the basic tasks that have to happen every morning. The place to start isn’t the morning; making a little time to prep the night before can take lots of pressure off the morning. Take ½ hour before bed to tackle these 5 things:
- Have kids choose their outfits (and shoes!) and set them out
- Decide what’s for lunch and if possible get it packed
- Make sure school bags and homework are ready to go
- If there is an afterschool sport make sure that bag is ready too
- Make sure your own lunch and work supplies are ready to go
Prepping clothes and supplies the night before changes the morning focus to eating and personal care.
- Get up at least ½ hour earlier than the kids to have a little time to think and get grounded for the morning. If you have young kids that need more help with dressing/personal care you may need a little more time
- Make quick but nutritious breakfast that doesn’t require much prep or clean-up such as cereal, yogurt and fruit, or toast w/ a nut butter or other protein spread.
Teach the kids to handle their personal care more efficiently by grouping tasks into 3 groups:
- get completely dressed
- wash face/brush teeth/brush hair
- eat breakfast
You can put the 3 tasks in any order that makes sense for your family; the key is to finish one before you start another. The other key is grouping all the bathroom tasks together as one. This avoids the chaos of running back and forth to the bathroom, landing at the breakfast table half dressed, and needing to finish up all of them before leaving the house.
A few other tips to help keep your household running smoothly:
- As notices come home from school, calendar all school dates into your master calendar so you’re never surprised by an open house, field trip, sharing day, etc.
- Dedicate a permanent spot for backpacks and finished homework to live
- Try out weekly meal planning to streamline grocery shopping
There are many websites that offer pre-printed forms for meal planning and calendaring. Here are just a couple we found from a simple search:
Money Saving Mom: http://moneysavingmom.com/downloads/meal-menu-planners
Simple Made Pretty Daily Routine Checklist: http://www.simplemadepretty.com/free-printable-daily-routine-checklist-for-kids/
These routines are helpful for getting children ready for school but they also apply to people of any age! Having routines for preparing your clothes, supplies, and food for the day make getting out the house in the morning a pleasure rather than a chore.
Everyone with kids knows that they typically come with lots of STUFF. And somehow it keeps coming in…if you have more than one kid the challenge is even greater.
This buildup is natural. More than any other time of life, the very nature of childhood is about growth and change. Your child’s abilities, interests, and sizes are constantly evolving – and all the toys, clothes, learning materials change along with them. And young ones are magnets for toys and gifts from relatives.
This means if you aren’t keeping a constant vigil on moving out outgrown items (and how many of us are, really?) you’ve likely got some backlog of unused and unneeded kid stuff.
If your kids have a little more time at home during the summer, take advantage of that to do some weeding.
Break It Down
You’ll have a better chance at success if you focus their attention onto one category of stuff at a time. A general request to “clean out the playroom” isn’t going to get them very far. But a specific request to gather up all the DVDs and choose the ones they love to watch is much easier to get follow through on.
If you divide up the project into categories you’re teaching an important skill about grouping “like items” together.
Put out a big bag or box and have the kids weed some or all of these groups:
- Board games
- Clothes that don’t fit (can even break this down by type – tops, pants, jackets)
- Sports equipment
- Craft supplies
- Art projects/ drawings
- DVDs, video games
- Toys (you can break this category down by type – electronic, stuffies, dolls)
Create a System and Motivate
Sometimes it’s easier to decide what to keep, rather than what to let go of. Clearly labeling 3 bags or boxes – KEEP, MAYBE, DONATE/SELL can help. Let your family know it’s like going shopping for things they love within our own collection. This helps kids get in touch with making conscious choices about what they really use and like.
Motivation strategies to get them going:
- Help them visualize the end result – more space to play with their favorite items
- Use a timer to bound the work
- Offer incentives or rewards – a movie night after clearing out unwanted DVDs for example.
- Create a contest or game around who can purge the most
If you’re paying for a babysitter or childcare, enlist their help to tackle 1 category a day. Even as little as ½ hour each week spent on weeding will go a long way to staying ahead of the next influx of new gifts or purchases!
Have you had trouble finding a new home for your child’s outgrown car seat? The charity stores won’t take them. It can be pain. They take up a lot of room in your house or garage and they don’t fit in the trash can!!
TerraCycle and Target want to reward you for recycling your old car seat at a participating Target store!
From April 17th through April 30th, you have the opportunity to recycle your old car seat at participating Target locations! To participate, simply bring your old car seat to the designated Target Take Back recycling area at a participating Target store.
All car seat brands are accepted for recycling. In return for recycling your car seat, you will earn a 20% discount on a new car seat.
To see if there are participating Target locations in your area, please click here.
You don’t have to buy a new car seat in order to take advantage of this service.
Be Prepared For a Day at the Beach … or Anywhere!
Want to head out to the park and find yourself scrambling around the house trying to find where the sunscreen was last left? Or the hats?
Summer, with its many outings and camps is a great time to put together a few “grab & go” bags. If you have certain activities you do often, it is worth duplicating some items in order to always have them on hand when you’re ready to go. The bag contains the staples that always need to be there and things like snacks or reading material can be added as needed.
Beach/Pool Bag: bathing suits, sunscreen, goggles, earplugs, towels & hats
Park/Outing Bag: sunscreen, hats, bug repellant, picnic blanket
Day Camp Bag: sunscreen, sunglasses money, hat, light jacket
The key is having a dedicated home where your specialty bags live and remembering to replenish the bags after your outings. Make sure freshly laundered items make their way back into their bags instead of into a dresser or cabinet.
This model of making specialty bags also applies year-round to other activities and not just for kids:
- Sports: uniform, water bottle, sunscreen
- Overnights: toiletries, flashlight,
- Classes: paper, pen, class materials
- Gym/Workout: water bottle, toiletries, snack bars
- Meetings or Committees: notepad, pen, reference materials
- Charging kit: extra phone & computer chargers
It may seem like a bit of extra work, but when your supplies are ready to go, getting out the door quickly keeps you relaxed and able to be spontaneous. Spend your time on your outing instead of stressing out and wasting time searching the house for the park blanket. As an added benefit your kids learn the benefits of being prepared ahead of time!
live a curated life … life by design instead of by default
Last week the three showings of the Minimalism documentary that our professional association (NAPO) hosted sold out! The majority of the attendees stayed afterward to share their impressions.
Here are 5 of our takeaways from the movie:
- Fashion Challenge: Project 333. A woman who picked just 33 pieces of clothing, shoes and accessories and just wore those for 3 months. The point is that no one noticed!
- The story about the couple where the woman had multiple sclerosis. They decluttered their lives to bring her stress level down as a way of managing her MS symptoms.
- Seeing people live in tiny houses or small apartments designed with moveable walls and features that enable minimal living challenged our assumptions about how much space we really need.
- Fabulous clip of a speech by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 on consumption. His message: Owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning.
- The idea that we need to be MORE materialistic, not less. Attaching value to well-made construction … treating items with care so they have long lives. When did furniture become as consumable as magazines??
What we wanted to hear more about:
- Details of the different styles of minimalism with concrete examples of HOW different kinds of people have implemented minimalism in their lives.
- How this philosophy applies across class and race
Here’s a movie that will help us all challenge assumptions about what’s disposable, what we really need; inviting us to stop and reframe those assumptions with the goal of living with less.
As professional organizers, we’ve been exposed to the dark side of overconsumption. It has given us a perspective of minimalism by default and thus we mostly live simply.
After watching the movie Dana felt liberated to keep her favorite sweater. She had felt pressure from our culture to have new, more fashionable clothes. Though old and getting a little worn, the sweater still looks good, is a classic style, works well, and she loves it! It’s a keeper.
What has this movement given you permission to do? Need some more ideas? Check out www.theminimalists.com.