In the great before, before Boston, before stay-at-home momhood, before downsizing to less than half the space, our family room was consumed by toys.
I started with the best of intentions. When my oldest was young, he had a single basket of toys and a bookshelf in the family room; I was so proud of how organized we were. He was a year old and really didn’t walk yet. When he was 18 months old, we bought three sets of these complete with baskets:
Plenty of storage for his books and toys. My mother approved and I was assured that the horror stories she told about my sister’s house would not be repeated about mine. I carefully labeled all the baskets and organized his toys and books. It was lovely for a while. Then he turned two; his book and toy collection exploded. The shelves were filled and another baby was on the way. My big boy struggled to put things away and I was tired, cranky and pregnant. The system started to fail.
By the time we left, my oldest was almost five and my baby was already two. The entire family room (which was about half the size of our current apartment alone) was covered in toys. Nothing was ever put away. Nothing was together. It was such a disaster; the boys couldn’t really play because they couldn’t find the parts. There were Thomas trains strewn everywhere, mixed in with Legos, Duplos, matchbox cars, game pieces, and superheroes.
Then we learned we were moving. Something had to be done. I bought some new clear plastic tubs with lids that fit in the cubbies and created a bin for each major set of toys. It was like an archeological dig and I was ashamed of the amount of trash that made up that pile.
When we arrived here and all of our things were delivered to our apartment, both bedrooms AND the bathroom were piled to the ceiling with boxes. We simply had not anticipated downsizing THIS far (and our rent if you include parking is twice what we were paying in the Midwest). It took me two weeks to get most things unpacked. The job is still not done.
Have you ever tried unpacking an entire house by yourself with two small children and no one to watch them? I don’t recommend it. I love my boys but my youngest was driving me insane. I would open a box and put the things inside it away while he would be unloading all the things I had just put away from the last box in the other room. My husband would come home at the end of each day and helpfully ask if he needed to take the oldest child out to do something. NO! Take the baby! Please. The big boy would happily play on the computer or watch TV or play with a small amount of toys. Not Devil Baby! For some reason, no matter how many times I explained WHY I couldn’t get anything done with the little guy around, he still wanted to take the oldest out. I don’t blame him.
Clearly, in a space this small, we can’t have THAT kind of a mess. I put one of the cubbie’s in the closet because there wasn’t room for three in their bedroom. ALL of those clear plastic tubs that I had put toys in went on the shelf at the top of the closet so I could control their use. The rule is (and my Kindergartener-to-be loves to tell people the rule even if he doesn’t follow them) one box at a time. There are still toys that were out all the time. Their large trucks, their kitchen things, their costumes and stuff animals are always out in baskets. Some things are in the living room all the time as well. But most of their complicated, many parts things are up high out of reach. And yet, it still feels like an archeological dig.
I’ve been surreptitiously getting rid of stuff. A stuffed animal here, a toy missing a part there. There is a path to their beds but not a clear floor yet. I am hopeful we will see it one day soon.