Saturday, February 02, 2008

Decluttering the Toys

The grumpy old man in me hates toys. Most of the time, at least in our house, they end up scattered all over the floor in heaps of plastic jetsam, spreading out across the room like some kind of brightly colored plague and can only be corralled together again after a family-wide effort… an event that is rarer than a blue moon. I'm left fearing for my safety when I roam the halls in the pitch blackness of night. Nobody should live in fear like that.

When Natalie was a baby, we bought this multi-bucket contraption that soon enough was brimming at its tops with toys, and for the last four years of my life, a big part of my to-do list involved organizing all of the toys into like themes and putting them in the various bins.

Then along came what I refer to as the Little People Invasion, and a town, albeit a little one, sprawled out across the playroom, complete with a school, a small liquor store and a red-light district near the airport which is frequented by pirates and a fully-manned basketball team of Micheals. There is no reason to put those toys away because—and I’m the only one yet who seems to believe this—but the Little People reassemble their little town in the middle of the night while everyone is sleeping. I’m not surprised if they send small groups of them out on exploratory missions to decide which will be the next room to conquer. There’s already a small colony of them in a corner of Matthew’s room, and I’m just waiting to wake up one morning to find a Little People farm in full production at the foot of my bed, plowing up my comforter.

Since we outgrew the multi-bucket contraption, I set my mind on finding something else that would better contain the toys, something where Matthew and Natalie could each have their own space in the common play room to keep their things. Most importantly, I wanted something that would be easily accessable but would hide everything. My original idea was to build a bookshelf-like storage unit with cubbyholes in which small boxes could be filled and fitted, and the plan has been on the long list of things to do and probably would never get near the top. At least any time soon.

Instead, Target has exactly what I have been looking for, a bookshelf cubbyhole system that has enough room for nine boxes each, but they never had two for sale at the same time. Since I’m not one for piecemeal—do it all or don’t do any of it—I never bought one only to wait for the other. My luck, they'd quit production of it or change the style so much that the two wouldn't match.

Yesterday, after dropping off Natalie at school, I felt especially tired and I knew that if I just went back to the house, I’d end up falling asleep on the couch while Matthew watched TV. The side-effect of that, besides Matthew becoming a couch potato, was that I would waste most of the day being tired because mid-morning naps will ruin your afternoon—it’s a proven fact. Instead, we went and got from AAA the license plates for the trailer and then headed to Target.

I wasn’t thinking about organizing anything, as I just wanted to walk around a little and people watch while Matthew looked at all the toys. Everything he saw, he’d exclaim, “Look what I found! Look what I found!” as if whatever it was was lost and he enjoyed the Eureka! moment in discovering it again. It was cute, and Old Blue Eyes always gets smiles hobbling down the aisles.

At any rate, I was patting myself on the back for making several circuits around the Target aisles without buying anything, as I have decided that 90 percent of the things we buy at Target (well, anywhere really) aren’t necessary. The cart only held Matthew; that is until we walked by the storage aisles, and it dawned on me that we could take a look at the cubbyhole bookshelves… like I’ve done most every time I go in there. Of course, on the day I was proud about not buying anything, they had two of them, and I figured I should take this as a sign to organize the playroom for once and for all.

The canvas boxes were sold separately, of course, and to be fair, I got two of each color so there wouldn’t be any confusion or who has what, even if that means that Matthew also gets a pink one. I also decided to leave a few of the cubbies empty so they could accommodate those things that don’t do well in boxes, like coloring books and larger items, etc.

Once home, Matthew and I put them together and ta-da! Organization, not only more effective than the previous system, but much nicer to look at too.

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