- Pick a starting point, and make sure you have empty boxes or containers to place items you will be removing from the play area.
- Let the kids help in the beginning phase. This will be a multi-step project, but if they know whats happening, they'll be less freaked out when they realize some items are leaving, never to return again.
- Go to the starting point and start sorting the items. For us, we use Rubbermaid Totes as toy boxes. I dump one out, and we sort the items that are in there. They put what they want to keep back in the box, put what they want to share in another box, and throw broken items into the trash. We continue this for each subsequent box until we've gone through them all once.
- I sort the items in the share boxes into where it will go. I put all items going to TN in one area, call my OK friend to come get the items for her kids, and put items for donation in another area of the garage so on pick up day I just have to slide them out into the driveway for the truck to pick up.
- When the kids are in school, I go back into their rooms and dump the boxes again. I put anything I KNOW they play with on a regular basis back in the box, remove items they absent mindedly put back in during the first sort into another box, and then anything they might want to keep long term but don't really play with into a third box. (You know we ALL have items our parents threw out when we were kids that we wish we now had. I try to keep that in mind and save some items for them so they'll have them later. Not EVERYTHING, because we aren't going to become hoarders, but just the things they find important.) I continue this with ALL of the boxes until I am done. I do a box or two a day, because I have to do this when they aren't here, and still get other things done throughout the day.
- I then take the items I have removed and put them in boxes and place them in an area of the garage that they can't see. I leave them there until the next sort. If they ask specifically for something in one of the boxes, I'll go get it out and return it to them. If they haven't missed it, it gets added to the giveaway boxes.
- For organizing. I mentioned that I use Rubbermaid Totes. I take the lids away (because they once tried to hide one another in them with the lids on top, and that's not safe. So, to prevent an serious accident, mom puts the lids in the attic out of sight and reach! Their closets will fit 4 totes each if I place them right, covering the entire closet floor. Then we have one box per child out in their room at the foot of their bed.
- Each child can put whatever is "theirs" into their tote at the foot of their bed. These are items the brothers have to ask to share and play with. Everything else that is fair game goes into the community share boxes in the closets, regardless of what room it's in.
- I try to organize the share boxes in the closets by type of toy. It doesn't always stay organized long term, but generally they do stick to how it's set up. Oh, and we have two closets in their hallway that each hold one tote, and I put items in their as well. The "book" closet (formerly a linen closet) holds their books on the shelves, and "learning" electronic toys in the bottom in the tote. The "game" closet (the second linen closet in the hallway) holds all of the boxed and card games, with train tracks and trains in the tote.
- In the room closets, we separate all Star Wars toys into one tote, Hot Wheels and accessories into a second tote, Swords and light sabers into a clean and unused but re-purposed trash can outside the closet door, little people and accessories into a third tote, costumes into a fourth tote, and so on until each tote has a "category" of item in it. This makes it easy for them to find the items they want to play with, and theoretically easier to clean up.
To keep things de-cluttered and organized throughout the year, ( I do a big de-clutter once per year), I require that they boys clean their rooms and put everything away before they can go outside or to any activities. That motivates them to get it done quickly, and they know I will check, because I consistently do so. Consistency is the key. Once they know there are consequences to not following through, they are more motivated to getting it done and keeping it picked up. The problem comes in when it's getting close to the big clean out, and they have acquired more items than we really have room to store, and everything doesn't fit into the totes. We probably should clean it out more often, but this process works for us, so we stick with it:)
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