Well, a room of order, anyway...
This is probably going to be a bit of a long post, but I promise it will be worth the read. Some of you may already be way more organized than I am, but this was literally life-changing for us, so I wanted to share. A little history...
When Zachy was two or three, this is what his room looked like. At all times. I tried to keep it picked up, but I wanted him to learn to do it himself. So there were these horrible struggles to keep him focused enough to pick up a toy, make it to the toy box and drop it in (without pulling out another one in the process!). After about five or ten minutes of giving him constant direction, we were both frustrated almost to the point of tears.
Another thing that I noticed is the way he was playing... that photo above pretty much says it all. He'd dig around in his toy box, dumping out every toy he owned in an attempt to find what he wanted. Then he'd sit in the middle, and jump from one toy to the next... push a button on this one, then turn to mess with another for five seconds, etc. So he was never really engaged in play with any of his things.
So I decided to take action. I read the book Organizing from the Inside-Out by Julie Morgenstern. I soooo recommend that everyone have that book in their home. Really. Really. Go get it. Now. She lays out a way for you to create your own organizational system, that works with your habits and preferences, not against them. I actually taught a class about this, so I created a basic outline of how to create your system:
Please, please feel free to ask questions about those if they don't make sense. They were meant to go along with the explanations I gave in class.
So I gave it a try. I sat down and wrote out what was and wasn't working, sorted, purged, and rethought everything. And then following the kindergarten model of organization, I came up with this room. (These photos were taken a few years ago. Things have changed since then, but I'll share those images another time.)
As you come into the room, here's the wall on the left. The dressing area, where we find the hamper, dresser/changing table (Mike made that!), mat and diaper genie for changes (remember these were taken a few years ago), and a shoe rack. His clothing is divided up by type in the drawers.
Moving around the room to the right, there's the bedtime area. Glider for cuddling, with bedtime books at hand in a repurposed dump truck. Right by the bed, for easier nighttime transitions. (Hmm... I see crayon on the walls and mirror, and dirt all over the chair. This must have been his artistic stage...)
To the right of the bed is a closet, which I emptied so we could add shelving for books. I tossed in a few pillows for comfort, and we plan to lay some carpet in there. It has a nice raised base in the closet, and I thought it would work just right as a quiet space. He goes in there to read by himself, or with friends to hide in a "secret spot".
The next wall just has a large window, where I strung ribbon to hang his artwork.
The last wall is reserved for play time. The desk we had for him was there, as well as the toy box, which now holds only stuffed animals.
The rest of the toys are in that closet on the right, separated by type, put in containers, and labeled with photos I took and added type to.
So what was Zach's reaction to this? I brought him into his room, opened his closet door... and he squealed! "Mommy, it's my toys!!" Then he looked them over, chose a box, and played with his Mr. Potato Head for ten minutes. When he was done, he put the pieces back in the box and returned it to the closet, without my saying a word.
Now, does he always keep his room clean? Of course not. But clean-up is so quick now. When friends come over to play, they actually like clean-up time, because it feels like a game to them... and they always know right away where everything goes. And best of all... the power struggles and frustration just faded away.
So... I'm going through the house, room by room, closet by closet, drawer by drawer... setting up systems that actually work. It pretty much takes forever, and I'm nowhere near finished. But I guarantee you, once you organize just one area this way, you won't be able to stop yourself.