(Sharing this as a public service announcement. I hope all my friends share solutions they come up with because this parenting thing is no easy task.)
The toy struggle is real.
Our kids and I'm assuming most of the kids I know have way too many toys. Toys are great and keep kids busy but the mess... oh the mess. When we lived in Chicago we were able to contain it pretty well because 1/3 of their toys were up high and they had to ask to get them down, another third were in a closet and they had to ask to get them out and the rest were just free for all.
When we moved here we didn't have an up high place and there wasn't a closet in the toy room. I was dying. Every single day they would take out every single toy and make the room uninhabitable. I tried just ignoring it and shutting the door so I wouldn't see the mess but there are three drawbacks to that. 1) They don't learn to clean up their toys and aren't responsible for keeping their things tidy. 2) They didn't even want to be in that room once all the toys were out because they couldn't find anything or even sit anywhere. 3) When I did ask them to clean it up they couldn't. I could hardly reorganize every toy and I'm an adult. We lived in a much larger space so the whole, "you put a toy back before you get another one" just isn't realistic.
The second option was to just get rid of their toys. Maybe the toys they don't love or don't play with that often? But, there are two drawbacks to this. 1) People, including myself, paid for those toys. I hate to get rid of something someone bought for my kids just because I didn't want to clean it up. That's wasted money and chances are, I'd probably re-buy it later. Also, we already do go through their toys frequently and weed out the Happy Meal toys and other such junk anyway. 2) The toys they don't LOVE right now are the awesome toys in my mind ( ex. Lincoln Logs) and some I had as a kid so I'm not about to get rid of those.
So, we were at a breaking point and Brandt and I finally came up with a solution that we've been doing for a month now and just laugh at how fun and awesome it is each week we do it:
The Toy Shop Swap!
We packed up every toy and bin (minus the dress-ups, stuffed animals and balls) and put them all upstairs in Logan's closet. Each Sunday (I'll explain the reasoning behind this day later) we "open" the shop and let the kids each pick out one toy/bin for the week. In order to get one, they have to pack up and return the one they had from the previous week. After they've selected their toy, we close the shop and they are stuck with it for a week and held responsible for cleaning it up when we ask. This has huge benefits. 1) They have a much more manageable mess to clean up. 2) They seriously think about what they want to play with and use their imagination to play with it the whole week. 3) Sometimes they team up to get two toys that work well together (ex. Wendy will choose magna-tiles and Jane will choose little people or animals) 4) The reason we choose Sunday afternoon is because when we get out of church Brandt and I can rest while the kids are SUPER into the "new" toys they got and are occupied for hours. 5) Things are new to them again. Maybe they chose something they haven't played with for months because they hadn't chosen it for months. 6) Less mess and not getting rid of toys.
We also started chore charts this last week and added it as an element to the Toy Shop. They have to bring in a completed and approved chore chart from the previous week with the toy they are returning and they get their allowance. How cool would it be if you were a kid and you got to pick a new toy AND get money!? My kids are loving this and I'm so super happy we figured out a solution to the toy madness. I hope that if you are having a hard time finding a balance with your kid's toys you will try this AND let me know what you think!