Tag Archives: Organizing

Confession

This year, like every year, I planned multiple summer projects and so far I’ve managed to complete many of them.  There is however one project that is not proceeding as well as I had hoped.  The weather this summer is partly to blame – you see, I planned to work on reorganizing the basement on rainy days when it was too wet to work outside in the yard. There have been many days when it was too hot to work outside in the yard and it might actually be nice to spend some time in the basement but that little voice in my head always whispers ‘You are suppose to wait until it is raining‘ and of course it never does.

In my basement there is a twelve foot section of wall that is filled from floor to ceiling with plastic bins like this storing toys not currently in use;

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Yes, they all have lovely labels describing what each bin contains.  There are also labels on all the art supply storage boxes on shelves and other various spaces throughout the house.  Visitors always comment on how organized I am. LOL

The problem is that some of those bins and boxes don’t actually contain what the label says they do.  In fact, in the basement, beyond the locked door in the area that is off limits to the children there is loose stuff. Much of the loose stuff belongs in one of those labelled bins but it doesn’t fit in it because there is something in that bin that doesn’t belong in there. This is what happens when I plan too many weekend projects and don’t get around to rotating toys until late on Sunday then don’t have time to put things away properly.  ‘I’ll fix it later’ I say.  Well,  this summer I intended to fix it – but it hasn’t rained enough so it is not done yet.

That’s not the confession.  The confession is that – and this may not actually surprise anyone – I think I might be a hoarder.  You see, along with reorganizing and putting things in their proper bins I also planned to purge – yes, I was going to get rid of stuff we don’t use.  Stop laughing! I’m serious. That was, IS my plan.

Every weekend I get a little more done.  Loose stuff and mystery boxes get spread out on the tables;

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Some stuff gets boxed up to donate (it is kept out of sight so I won’t be tempted to take it back).  There are several empty shelves in the basement now;

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There are only a few ‘sorting boxes’ left on the basement floor;

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At one point there was barely any room to walk in the basement but now there is plenty of space, several empty bins, and new labels have been made so everything is accurate.

I’d also like to point out that I think that my ‘problem’ may have been caused by elementary school teachers.  It was my (now an adult) son’s Kindergarten teacher that asked me (and other parents) to collect milk jug lids and that is why I had a container full of hundreds of milk jug lids in the basement.  If you still need them – too late, I don’t have them any more.  I don’t have any shoe boxes either.  All those sleepless nights fretting about how my child was going to fail diorama making because I didn’t buy shoes that came in boxes with lids.  So, I started collecting shoe boxes – and now I just flattened dozens of them and overfilled my recycling bin.

I also have some extra space so I picked up a few more jungle animal toys.  Didn’t really need more – I had some already but now I have families of jungle animals.  I simply have to try and fit the new ones in the bin with the old ones.

I do still have a bin, two boxes and a shelf full of empty food and spice containers – I know I don’t need that many but I haven’t sorted through them to decide which ones are the most useful – remember, my recycling bin was too full.  I still have time.  Summer is not over yet and it might even rain sometime.  Besides, sometimes it is really cold in the winter and I might want to do things inside.  That is usually when I plan to defrost the freezers (which have a thick layer of ice now because last winter I waited too long and Spring arrived). Probably I should catch up on paperwork first though.

I may have other issues besides just hoarding stuff…

Searching

Even the youngest children quickly learn where their favourite toys are located in the playroom.  If they need a tool they head over to the workshop area.  When they want to join the others in a song they know where to look to see which musical instruments are available.  They know which shelf in the housekeeping area has the plates and bowls and which bin has the fruit.  The fact that I organize the play food according to food groups is a playful learning opportunity.

Personally I enjoy arranging items according to size, type, color etc.  When I’m in the playroom with the children I will automatically sort and organize toys.  I put the farm animals on the shelf according to family groups;

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I do encourage all the children to put away toys when they are finished using them however grouping them is not a requirement.  Some of the children also like to arrange toys as they play or when they clean up.  Others will simply place them in the general area where they belong but find sorting them is too much of a chore.  That’s fine – it gives the rest of us something to do later if we get bored. 😉

The main reason I like to organize the shelves is so a quick scan of an shelf will reveal if all the toys are accounted for or if one is missing. If one is missing we can look for it right away – the less time it has been missing the more likely we are to easily find it.  This is especially important for the toddlers in particular.

Many of the toddlers have favorite toys that they like to carry at all times.  The pink ice cream cone, the rice bag, and the stuffed unicorn are the current favorites – if one of them is missing there will be meltdowns if we don’t find it.  Sadly some of the older children seem to find it amusing to occasionally hide these toys and ‘watch the show’.  Grrr.

It is rare that a toy is missing and cannot be found but occasionally it does happen.  The little stuffed swan from the Ikea farm has been missing for months.  I have an idea which four legged, stuffed toy loving, feline may have absconded with that particular item during a nocturnal hunting expedition.  Taken beyond the confines of the playroom there is little chance we will ever find it.

One mysterious disappearance that baffles me is the plastic heart shaped container.  It was the beginning of February that I put two of these containers in the playroom.  By 7:15 Monday morning one of the containers was missing – two lids and one container were in plain sight near the shelf where they belong but the second container was gone.

15-03-search02 It is not a particularly small container – at a little over three inches wide it is bigger than many of the cups and bowls.  Still, after many hours of searching over the past eight weeks we have never found it.  I think the children have given up but on weekends, as I clean, organize, and rotate the toys in the playroom sometimes I can’t resist searching some more…

Coming Together

In the post ‘Alternatives‘ I wrote a little history about how I have used the various rooms in my home. I was planning a BIG renovation – so big it had to be broken down into several phases.

Phase one of the BIG renovation took place on the weekend of March 22nd and was predominantly a demolition and construction phase. Some of the built in playroom components were moved, removed, or modified.

 
On the weekend of March 29th my husband and I worked on phase two of the renovation. We began on Friday after the last of the children had left but this phase took longer than expected. In fact, by suppertime on Sunday I was feeling a little panicked – what if it wasn’t going to be ready before the children arrived on Monday?

 
To be honest, I didn’t finish everything I planned to do in phase two. It took nearly 28 hours for this construction phase but there were a lot of loose things that got buried in corners and hidden away and most of the sorting and organizing stuff didn’t get done. Still, the space was usable.

 
It made spring break ‘interesting’ – kind of like playing hide & seek all day, every day. The first time one of the children went to do crafts they asked for the pencil crayons. I replied “All the craft supplies are easy for you to get right here on these shelves …. except the pencil crayons.” Grrr.

 
I’m sure some people would wonder why I’d choose to start such a major project before spring break. Spring break is a notoriously hectic time. Everyone is here for the full day and although the weather is improving we still spend more time indoors than out.

 

There were difficult periods, not everything went as planned but this was a good thing too. We got a chance to discover the flaws in the design before the project was complete.  Both the children and I had time to evaluated the space and recommend changes.

 

This past weekend was spent making some layout adjustments and finishing a few of the incomplete phase two projects.  I began some sorting and organizing and by Sunday afternoon the playroom looked like this;

 
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As for the ‘finished’ project….we’re not there yet so I won’t include any other pictures. The plan is nearing completion. One more weekend to complete a couple of smaller components and some painting etc. We will have spent approximately 112 hours over 10 days working on the project.

 
Paper work is piling up on my desk. I’m neglecting the laundry and other household chores. Everything is coming together, slowly, and the big main floor renovation is nearing completion.  Then, over Easter I’ll have a four day weekend to recuperate and catch up on all that other stuff.

Maybe I Should Quit…

When it comes to cleaning up the toys in the playroom I encourage the children to put away their toys before they move to another activity instead of waiting until the mess gets out of control.  My only real ‘rule’ is that as you walk across the room you pick up any loose toys in your path regardless of who used them.  This is more a ‘safety’ rule to prevent tripping.

With a mixed age group there are a wide variety of responses to cleaning up.  The infants and toddlers tend to make the biggest mess.  Often their favourite activities involve clearing all the toys off the shelves and dumping the toys out of the bins.  The dozens of loose toys are then left on the floor and the toddlers move off to explore elsewhere.

Asking or telling these little ones to clean up is futile.  However, that doesn’t mean that I consider this ‘trashing the playroom’ behaviour to be acceptable.  Instead, I simply follow along and pick up the stray toys – I set an example that the little ones will copy at least briefly.  It is the first step in learning to clean up but the little ones think is a game.

With several infants and toddlers enrolled sometimes it feels like my entire day is spent picking up toys off the floor.  It is also a teaching/learning opportunity since as I pick up toys I also talk – labeling objects and attributes – and sort/arrange/organize the items.  When I clean up it often looks like this;

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I don’t expect anyone else to put the toys away like this, it is just something I do for ‘fun’ when I have enough time.  Many of the preschoolers also enjoy sorting and organizing so much that ‘cleaning up’ is one of their favorite activities.  The 3-5 year olds are the very best cleaners – and ‘teachers’ because the toddlers love to copy them.

My current group of 1-2 year olds now often pick up loose toys without much assistance – we’ve had a lot of practice with so much indoor time this winter.  They are even starting to put away toys when they are done with them instead of just dropping them on the floor.  However, there is one exception – this box full of miscellaneous soap containers;

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These little bottles are somewhat difficult to balance on the shelf under the sink. They tip over so easily that standing them up on the shelf is very frustrating so we put them in the box first and then put the box on the shelf.  Problem solved – except that for some reason the babies insist that the box must be emptied every time they come in the room.  Consequently the area in front of the sink always looks like this;

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They never play with these bottles but every time I put them back in the box on the shelf it immediately gets dumped on the floor again.  Guess who is getting frustrated now.  Sometimes, usually closer to the end of the day, I just take the whole box out of the playroom so I don’t have to pick it up any more.  Then one day, when I was in a hurry to clean up before lunch, I just tossed the bottles in the box instead of lining them up;

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When the children returned to the playroom no one dumped the containers on the floor.  In fact, the box was not moved off that shelf for two whole weeks!!!

WHY??

Did all four of the toddlers suddenly lose interest in dumping those containers on the floor?  Did they get tired of playing that game?  Did they just not like that I organized the containers in the box?  How is tossing the containers in the box any better, or less enticing, than lining them up?

Are there are other things I should just quit doing?

Transforming the Sunroom

Last weekend I did it again – I changed the configuration of the sunroom.  Earlier in the week I planned to write a post about the new and improved sunroom and I wanted to include a ‘before’ picture.

Of course I hadn’t taken one at the beginning of the weekend project so I began looking through some of my old photos…..Even I was amazed at how many times I’ve restructured the sunroom.  So here is a little history of the most significant changes:

2002

Here the sunroom is used;

  • as an art area – counter along back wall,
  • for quiet time – toys & games are stored on shelves under the counter,
  • and for meals – the real dining room was the playroom during this era.

Main issues included a lack of floor space and the furniture was too big and bulky – most of the preschoolers used booster seats and needed assistance to get in and out of chairs.

2004

Sunroom is still used for meals, quiet time and art activities. Four small square tables can be rearranged easily if required.  There is also a smaller table and benches for the preschool children;

2006

New chairs and a round table for the preschoolers.  Smaller chairs for the older children can be easily moved from dining table to art area (back wall) as needed.

2009

Playroom has been moved to the living room which allows meals to be served in the dining room.  The sunroom is now used exclusively for art and quiet time activities.  Much more open floor space is available.  Toy bins are easily accessable by all and may be used on floor or table.

Main problem – too many toys – not enough art.

2010

Still using the small table and the floor for play but there are more art supplies available for the children to access independently.  This is getting closer to my dream of having a dedicated art room.  The older children also have a desk area where they can sit to work with more advanced art supplies.

Although this 2010 photo was taken before we did the  floor in the sunroom (read about that here) it is the most recent photo I could find of the space and with the exception of a few minor changes it is a fairly accurate ‘before’ photo.

Stay tuned for the complete description of the newly updated sunroom space….

Hoarding

There have been many television shows and news reports that feature people who are considered to be hoarders – they have too much ‘stuff’.  I hate those shows.  You see, for me they hit really close to home.  To hoard can also mean to save, store, amass, collect, stockpile, accumulate, gather, or put aside. I could be considered to be a hoarder.

Now, I’ll admit that some of the people on these shows are really out of control.  If you can’t walk across a room because there is loose stuff all over the place then it is definitely time to clean up.  Sometimes these shows offer really good suggestions on how to de-clutter and organize.  However, they also annoy the ‘green’ side of me.

Just because you haven’t used something in a year or more doesn’t mean it is useless and even if you could buy another one doesn’t necessarily mean you should just throw something out.  That is just wasteful.  Sometimes I even covet the stuff they throw in their ‘trash’ piles – OMG do you know what I could do with that!?!

Certainly there are days that I wish that I could move all my ‘stuff’ to a warehouse where I’d have room to properly go through it all.  I love the idea of being free of useless clutter.  I detest when I have to go to the store to buy something that I can’t find but I know I have in my house somewhere.  Whenever possible I also prefer to make things instead of buying them too.  Reuse and recycle.

I had to laugh though when I saw these bread clips on my kitchen counter…

I picked them up and tossed them in the garbage.  My husband looked confused and said “I left those there for you – I thought you saved them”.  Yes, I had saved bags full of them — eighteen years ago when our son was in Kindergarten and his teacher collected them to use as math counters in her classroom.  Can you imagine how many bread clips I would have if I had continued to save them for eighteen years!?!  Now that would be hoarding.

Last week I watched as the baby took various toys and placed them in the toolbox and then dumped them out.  It reminded me of something I had made many years ago…I had seen it again recently…where was it?  It took less than five minutes for me to find it again. Lids from frozen juice containers and a coffee can with a slot cut in the lid;

Baby still likes that tool box better;

The preschoolers like the coffee can and tried to teach the baby how to put the lids in the slot.  They call it the ‘clean-up game’ — dump them out and put them back in over and over again.

No one has used that thing in at least three years but I’m really glad I didn’t throw it out.  Next week we might try some other activities with these lids.  All fifty of them are numbered and some have stickers.  We can use them for matching, sorting and sequencing too.

I am an ECE and I walk a really fine line between hoarding junk and saving useful stuff.

The Makeover

I regularly make changes to our learning enivironment. Sometimes changes are necessary to address a problem we are having within one area.  Sometimes the changes are due to the addition of a new item.  Whatever the reason for the modification these little changes add up over time and occasionally an area looses its functionality and it is time for a complete makeover.

This was the case in our workshop area.  Originally it had been just for tools. The tool racks were pegboard doors from an old cabinet — I reuse/recycle whenever possible.  The size of these doors determined the height of the shelf for the piano keyboard.  The width and depth of this new storage area were determined by the size of the cots which are stored behind the tools/under the piano.  It always bothered me that there was unusable empty space above the cots.

Over time, the small musical instruments were moved here when the sunroom became the ‘quiet time’ area. The tools and musical instruments were combined in the same area.

Later, the large piano was replaced with a smaller one to make room for the indoor garden and home to our stick insects too.  What was once ‘the worshop’ had become ‘the worshop/music/science/garden area and everything was unorganized.  It was time to fix this.

During my ‘vacation’ I reorganized this area to make it more functional.  Now it looks like this;

Tools and musical instruments are separated.  The extra space between the cot storage and the science area became a shelf for the piano.  The pegboard hooks were rearranged to display the tools and musical instruments more efficiently.

In case you were wondering how I get those pegboard hooks to stay secured to the boards — I use plastic coated wire on the back of the boards like this;

Now everything is organized again — at least until the next time I change something 🙂