When you're a mom, Spring cleaning comes with a whole new and totally daunting category: tackling your kids' stuff.
Too small, ripped, and stained clothing, broken toys, games missing half their pieces, toy bins and boxes overflowing with playthings your kids haven't touched in months . . . this is your new Spring-cleaning frontier, and we're here to help you deal with it all as painlessly as possible. So get motivated, Mama, to start cleaning, organizing, and tossing your way to a tidier home, just in time for a sunnier season.
Here's how to do it.
- Decide whether having your kids there will help or hurt your process. If your kids are around age 5 and under, we'll answer this one for you: get them out of the house before you start tossing their stuff, or they'll be hell to pay. Once your child is old enough to logically think about what they actually do and do not need, enlisting their help can be useful, especially when you're deciding about clothing that you're not sure actually fits. But younger kids will inevitably turn your cleaning process into a battle of the wills, so wait until they're at grandma's or preschool to start getting rid of that stuffed animal that they haven't played with in two years. Because if they see it, you know it's not going anywhere but back in the toy bin.
- Prep bags and piles for items to keep, toss, pass down, store, and donate. Before you start ripping into your kids' closets and play areas, get yourself organized. Designate an area for items you're keeping that aren't currently in the correct space, a box for donations, trash bags for items going in the garbage, a box for things you'd like to store for your current or future younger children, and bags for toys and clothes you'll pass on to friends or family members.
- Set guidelines for each category. This is not the time to hoard, so go in with a plan. Items that are broken or stained beyond repair go in the trash. Only much-loved toys should be held onto for younger siblings. Pass-down items should only be designated as such if you actually have someone to pass them down to.
- Wash and repair everything you're keeping that needs it. This is the time to repair favorite toys that need a little love and clothing that might have a split seam or treatable stain. Be realistic about what you actually can and will fix, however, and don't hold on to things that will linger eternally on your to-do list.
- Go shopping for a more easily organized future. Toy storage has gotten a lot cuter, but investing in those adorable, large bins is just asking for one, your kids' stuff to either be hidden away in the land of forgotten toys or, two, for your living room to constantly be covered in all the toys stuffed in that large bin when your kid dumps it out. Instead, invest in smaller, see-through bins so your kids can identify what's inside and only open what they actually need and want.
- Put everything back in its proper place. An organized closet and playroom will help your kids find everything easily, making your life easier in turn. Labeling bins and drawers — for smaller kids, use pictures — is a great way to ensure your kids can help keep things organized.
- Enlist your kids' help going forward. Start a policy that for every new toy or item of clothing that comes into the house, another has to go out. Once your children get used to this new way of doing things, they won't fight it, and next year's Spring cleaning will be a lot easier.