Several weekends ago, my parents took my daughter camping with them. So, as we packed her bags for the trip, I also told her that I would be spending some time tidying-up her room. She gave me a kiss on the cheek and was then out the door.
I like everything to have and be in its place. However, since I've gone from simply taking care of myself to caring for a household of five, this ideal state has been rather hard to come by. Part of it is that there are just so many more hands to bring things out. Part of it is that there is just so much more stuff to bring out. Part of it is that a busy day often means we choose to put our children and ourselves to bed early rather than spending a few minutes at the end of each day tidying up our things.
And Jaelyn's room was a sight to behold. There were posters or pictures or art all over the walls. There were little bits of nature in the nooks and crannies. There was a mountain of stuff under the bed (because she likes to hang out under her bed). I wonder if it held a certain order for her. Or I wonder if she simply was coping as best she could and needed a little help.
A lot of the ideas from Kim John Payne's book Simplicity Parenting resonate with me. We believe in the power of "less". Reducing the number of toys in a child's room reduces that overwhelming feeling of too much choice. Less stuff makes it easier for a child to focus on playing deeply. He suggests cleaning out the clutter without the children present, so that they can't protest everything something leaves the room. So, with that in mind, we started our purge.
~ All the art came off the walls, but none of it was thrown away. It was all stacked together and when my daughter is ready, she can choose to put it in scrapbooks, throw it away, or put it back on the walls. We replaced the Fun Tack free-for-all with "art strings". Meaning, we simply attached twine to screw-in eyelets. Art can be hung with clothespins on the art strings.
~ Anything that was broken was thrown away.
~ Anything that was a "branded" item was put into our donation pile. By "branded", I mean anything that is simply a marketing scheme aimed at kids. Puzzles, shirts, or toys that are based on a movie or a TV show were removed from the room.
~ I removed some of the furniture from the room, leaving the bookshelf, dresser, bed, bedside table and one chair.
~ I organized each shelf with a different theme. She has one shelf for books, one for toys, a nature shelf, a treasure shelf, and a clayworks shelf. There are limits to how much can be on the nature and the treasure shelves, as these are the ones I expect will expand the fastest. For example, she can have 20 items on her nature shelf at any given time. If she wants to add something new, she needs to remove something first.
And how does it look a week later? Have a look:
It's still clean! When Jaelyn came home, she was delighted with her new room. I walked her through it and we talked about what we would look for every night before she went to bed.
~ How many items were on the nature shelf? The treasure shelf? Were there too many?
~ Was there anything under the bed, on the floor or in the closet that needed to be put in its proper place?
~ Are all clothes put away?
Going through this routine every night has worked beautifully, and she can now do it independently. And, now others feel welcome and calm when they enter her room!