Wednesday, September 28, 2011

ten tips for de-cluttering and organizing toys in your kids’ playroom or bedroom

I remember when my first child was a baby.  We had a few little toys for him.  We had a bookcase in his room with the few little toys on it.  He got older.  The toys became more plentiful.  The bookcase was over run.  We bought a toy box.  The toy box fit in his room and it was so easy to keep the toys in order and controlled.  There was no clutter around the house.  It was great.  Time went on.  There came to be more and more toys.  We had a second child.  We built a playroom by finishing our basement.  It was great.  There were shelves and all the toys were so neat and organized.  Time passed.  The toys became more plentiful.  Now we had boy toys and girl toys.  We had baby toys and toddler toys.  We had baby #3.  The toys became more plentiful.  Now we recently had baby #6.  The toys are very plentiful!

So what can you do to keep toys organized in your home?  Is it a losing battle?  Do you just throw in the towel and give up while there are children in your household?  Here are some tips for keeping the toys under control!

1.   If you have  basement, that just might be the perfect space to get toys out of your other more commonly used living space.  If its not finished living space right now you can semi finish it for not too much money.  Buying large rugs or even a piece of carpet and  loose laying it rather than installing it is an easy fix for floor comfort.  Buy portable shelving units available at many stores or buy brackets and wood to create shelving.  Of course if you have the money, finishing the space with drywall etc is preferred, but for a quick and easy fix, this works great.

2.  If toys are currently kept in your main living areas of your home, like the family room or living room, move them to the children's bedrooms if you don't have the option of using space elsewhere as a dedicated playroom.  When there are toys flung about everything instantly looks messy.  If you get drop by company you are constantly apologizing for the condition of your home.  You can't sit and have a conversation or watch tv or read in your living room because the children are playing too loud or there are toys all over your furniture.  Sending the toys to the bedrooms where they are less likely to be seen  by guests or in your way helps keep you happy.

3.  Use plastic storage bins.  They come in all sizes and designs.  All shapes and colors.  Its a great way to pack thigns up and away and keep things lookign neat.  Each puzzle can go into a shoe size box.  The big race track set in a large tote box.  They stack, they line up well.  They just keep things neat.

4.  If you have a lot of toys but are short on space, consider rotating tthings.  Every week put out a few different types of toys out where they can be played with.  At the end of the week, pack those away, and put out new toys from your toys stash.  The currently unused stash can be stored anywhere, attic, basement, garage just somewhere out of the way.  This will keep things interesting and new for your children but also keep things from being overly cluttered and unorganized.

5. Regualry go through and inspect the toys.  If they are broken get rid of them.  Toys that just sit around because they are no longer usable take up a lot of space.

6.  When your children out grow toys, get rid of them or pack them away if you think you will have use for them at a later time.  Don't just let toys that are not getting used sit there.  Make space for something else.  This, of course, is much trickier if you have a larger family, like me.  There are children at many age levels and toy levels.  If you have one or two children close in age, however, its much easier to accomplish!

7.  Don't go overboard with gifts.  Some parents buy buy buy for every birthday, Christmas and other gift giving occasions.  The result is lots and lots of stuff!  If you want to spend a lot of money...that's your prerogative...but consider buying one or two bigger ticket items rather than bunches and bunches of less expensive stuff.  You will have less to keep organized that way.

8.  Teach your children to clean up after themselves.  Make sure you have your children pick up one thing before getting another out.  Many toys  being out at once creates a big disorganized mess.  It looks bad.  Its also harder to clean up.  You can't just scoop up all the mess and put it in its bin and be done.  You have to pick up each piece individually and decide where it goes.  Often pieces and parts end up in the wrong spot.  Later they can not be found and the toy may not even be able to be played with  since pieces are missing.  Its just much easier to clean up one thing before getting anything else out.

9.  Set up a clean up time at the end of every day.  Sometime before pajama time.  Some time before bath time.  Some time before snack time or story time or bedtime.  Make this an all out pick it all up and have it perfect clean up!  Everything gets put away.  Now if they were picking up one thing before getting another out during the day, this will be much easier.  But even still, with pretty good clean up s going on throughout the day, children are apt to leave this and that behind.  Now is the time to get it all cleaned up!  I like to call it "vacuumable clean!"  yes, nothing left out so that a vacuum can easily be ran through!

10.  Look for the new Hot Wheels Wall Tracks.  They let your child race Hot Wheels not on the floor but on the wall!  Its a great way to keep the mess off the floor and its something new and exciting for the kids as well!  Its also a great way to keep the baby from getting into the toys your child is playing with.  I know my children would love that too!  You can check them out here

Clutter and disorganization drive me crazy.  Its a good thing there are ways to keep from being over run by the toy clutter! 

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Hot Wheels® blogging program, for a gift card worth $40. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

ten tips for preparing your home for your new baby's arrival

We recently welcomed another new baby into our house.  Jenson is our 6th child so I have prepared for the arrival of a baby quite a few times.  So what are some tips that I would give to parents who may be getting their home ready for a new little family member?  Let me share 10 tips.

1.  Get baby's clothing ready.  For first time parents that probably means buying a lot of new things or getting everything they got at their baby shower washed up and put away.  But what does it mean for us who already have clothing from other children?  Well I keep all my children's outgrown clothing in big plastic bins and write on the outsides the size of the clothing and gender.  So before my new baby arrives I send my husband up into the attic with the mission to find the bins labeled BOY 0-3 clothing, unisex bin and also the 3-6 month clothing because its really hard to get my husband to go into the attic and my babies are born very big and grow very fast so they fit into 0-3 sizes for a maximum of about 3 weeks.  Then I wash everything up and sort through putting back anything that won't match the season the current baby will be born in. 

2.  Since I have had other children before I have all the baby equipment as well.  So Before baby's arrival I like o go through and get all the baby equipment out and clean it up real good.  I also make sure everything that might be battery operated, like the baby swing, is still in working order and that it has fresh new batteries in it.  I make sure everything else is in good shape with no undue wear etc to it also.  Some of my baby equipment is now 13 years old so it important to make sure it is still safe and in good shape for a new baby.  Remember things like car seats have expiration dates, too.  So you will need to check to make sure big brother or sister's carseats are still within their suggested usage dates.  Also, you need to make sure there are not any recalls on any items you may have.

3.  I like to stock up on food before the new baby gets here too.  We have 2 full size refrigerators in our home plus a big freezer.  This allows me to stock up on just about anything I want to.   I make sure we have lots of the items my family goes through a lot of....milk, yogurt, cereal, etc.  Plus I like to stock up on easy to prepare or heat and serve type foods that my older children can make themselves and the younger ones to eat.  That way if I am not feeling well when I first bring a new baby home or even days when I am just real busy carrng for a particularly fussy baby, the children can fend for themselves for lunch.

4.  Along the lines of stocking food, its a great idea to make a good stash of meals and freeze them, too.  There are many sites on line dedicated to make ahead and freezer cooking.  You can find some great recipes that are freezer friendly.  having healthy homemade meals is especially important when there are other children in the household.  Being prepared a head of time like this will keep your family well nourished and help you, the new mama, peace of mind too.  

5.  When adding a new little member to your household its a good idea to think about your home's safety too.  Its a great time to think about your smoke detectors.   Did you know that it is recommended that you get new smoke detectors every so often?  Yes they should be replaced periodically.  So even if you have an adequate number of detectors in your home maybe its time for new ones.  We recently replaced all our regular ones with ones that work with each other.  If one detector goes off, they all do.  Since our home has a very spread out floor plan, this is great for us.  A detector couple be going off at the other side of the house and you would never hear it in the master bedroom.  I really like the safety these give.

6.  Since I make all my laundry detergent, before I have a new baby I like to create quite a large stash of detergent to have ready and waiting for me.  I get several 5 gallon buckets and make enough to fill each.  I do lots of laundry and adding a new baby creates even more than ever before.  Not only are there baby diapers, if you use cloth, and baby clothing but there are extra clothes that you end up going through due to baby mishaps that soil your clothing. Although making detergent is pretty easy, its nice to know I won't have to worry about it for several months at a time when I have so much else to do.   If you don't make your own detergent, its a good idea to stock up a good supply of store bought detergents.  A good choice is something like Seventh Generation's detergent.  It will be safe for baby's delicate skin and good for the environment as well.

7.  Getting a baby nursery completed is usually at the top of new parent's to do lists.  Its a good idea to get things like painting or new carpeting done a good time in advance of the new baby's arrival so that these things have enough time to "air out".  Things like new carpet have a lot of chemicals in them that can release into the air especially in the first weeks after they arrive in your home.  Not something you want your baby's new, delicate lungs breathing.  make sure to accomplish these things well in advance.

8.  Babies grow quickly.  Before you know it they are mobile and into everything.  Its a good time to go ahead and start your baby proofing before the baby even arrives.  install outlet covers and other safety devices.  look for cords that are within baby's reach.  Move breakable items to higher locations.  Look for sharp edges on furniture etc and see what can be done to make them safer.  Install safety gates on stairs.  You will probably find things you forgot to take care of once your baby does hit the crawling stage but by starting early you will be ahead of the game and ready.

9.  Another safety precaution to take is to look at your hot water heater.  Too hot water can be very dangerous for babies.   Babies' skin is thinner than adults and therefore can burn more easily.   It is recommended that you keep your hot water heater to below 120 degrees.  Water will be hot enough for you but not dangerous

10.  Even if you use cloth diapers its a good idea to stock up on some disposables diapers and wipes.  There may be times when the laundry just doesn't get done and you end up short on cloth diapers.  Or you might want to use disposables for trips or outings with baby.  Of course if you are using cloth, one main reason may be because you worry about the health concerns that may be associated with some disposable diapers.  A good option is to use diapers like Seventh Generation's Free & Clear diapers.  They are free of chlorine, latex, fragrances and petroleum-based lotions and come in a range of sizes from newborn to stage 6. Moms who have used them on their babies report that the diapers are soft to the touch and have exceptional absorbency.  They also have baby wipes that are free of alcohol, synthetic dyes and fragrances and whitened without chemicals containing chlorine.  I do have occasions when I use disposables and I think Seventh Generation is a great option. 

Preparing for a new baby is always fun and exciting.  Even when you have done it many times over, it can make you wonder what you have forgot and if you are truly ready.    Its always nice to review with other parents and get new ideas and suggestions. 

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Seventh Generation blogging program, for a gift card worth $50. For more information on how you can participate, click here.