Even though the playrooms we see in catalogues (or the ones we dream about) often seem Zen-like and definitely uncluttered, in reality most spaces dedicated to play tend to be rather chaotic and often filled to the max with things meant to stimulate play. Princesses, action heroes, and Lego blocks are often fighting for the last free surface. Toys might be all over, mixed in some stuff your kids moved from your kitchen, closet, or desk. The Christmas presents from last year are hidden under stuff, stuff, and more stuff.
Even though it’s not spring cleaning, it is a great time to conquer this chaos and make not only your house look nicer but also prepare for Christmas. Some new toys will probably land under the Christmas tree and they won’t want to be lost under mountains of previous Christmas presents…
If you decide to attempt the Advent cleaning spree, I strongly recommend doing it WITHOUT your kids. If they are present, they will fight you for every broken doll spoon. Left out, there is a 99% chance that they will surprise you and not mind AT ALL.
1. Broken toys
Toys that are broken, damaged or just don’t work properly anymore need to go – out of the house, that is. You probably meant to fix them before, but chances are if you haven’t done it so far you are not going to. If there is an item that you really – and this time you mean it – want to fix, take it to your workbench or wherever you “fix” things. If it still sits there a week from today release it for good.
2. Age inappropriate toys
Your baby is already four years old but he just can’t be without that little rattle? Your toddler is not ready for this space shuttle but it just looks so cool? Chances are you mind more to let go than they do. If toys are outgrown, give them away or put them in a keepsake box. If they are meant for older ages, put them away until they grow into them. (Same goes for this year’s Christmas gifts if they are to grow into… store them until your child is ready.)
3. Seasonal toys
Wow, the room looks already so much more spacious, doesn’t it? Now it’s time to get your Christmas spirit out and start to make the room ready for the season. This means Christmas toys in, off-season toys out. Do you have a nativity scene your kids can play with? Christmas books? Some singing little angel? If you haven’t already, make sure you bring them in. Books about summer vacation? Easter games? Dancing Valentine hearts? They should be put away until their season arrives… (I suggest starting a toy library in your basement or wherever it fits. Toys can rotate in and out but there should only be a certain number of toys out at any given time).
4. Toys to come
Chances are, you have some clue what Santa will bring your kids this year. If they own similar items, put them away to make room for the toys to come. If they get new items that are conceptually interchangeable like puzzles, stuffed animals, cars, trucks etc., take the one they have to the storage. (Unless, of course, this is your child’s favorite toy… than you might want to ponder if they really need another item like this and what you might do with the second one).
5. Toy (or real) tree
Decorate the room according to your kids’ age and ability. It’s fun to put some kind of tree up: If you have a chalk board, you might just draw one on. You could also make one out of felt to hang on the wall (e.g., http://www.themotherhuddle.com/felt-christmas-tree-the-kids-can-decorate/). If your children are ready for it, bring in a small real tree and let them make their own ornaments to put on (e.g., http://www.scrapbooksetc.com/theme/holidays/christmas/bright-ornaments/?page=15 or http://www.toddlindsey.com/2012/11/diy-salt-dough-stamped-ornaments.html )
6. Toy clean-up
My rule of thumb for our playroom is that if we can’t clean it all up in 5 minutes there is too much stuff around… I encourage you to time your clean-up time and set a limit for yourself.
Have a very merry, playful, and simplified Christmas.