Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Organization Challenge Final Link Up

Well, it's that time.  Time to share my final photos of my combo dining room/play room.  My after pictures are dark because I took them last night, but I hope you can see the progress!

I decided this was the space to really tackle for several reasons:
  • I felt like the clutter had gotten out of control and was causing me stress - I used to have a clean and orderly house before kids and I want my kids to enjoy a clean orderly space because I am sure it is less stressful for them, too
  • I didn't think the cluttered play space and messy piles of toys were really "good" for my kids - and certainly not conducive to productive play
  • It was really an embarrassing mess that I was simply not getting control of until this challenge gave me a push
It was really hard to get this done in 29 days because with three little boys, no closets, and our house being plagued with illness most of the month, we lost a lot of time to just trying to get through the day.  I feel like it is still in progress - but I do think it is much better than it was.  I still have one tote with the boys current year art work and all their big paintings rolled up on top of it.  Last year we went through the whole year of art they brought home and narrowing it down to 10 pieces we framed in their room.  We are planning on doing the same thing again this year.  There really was a progression in their work - and it they love having it up on their walls in their room.

As I have gotten it more under control I have realized other options for the space that never entered my mind before.  (Like now that my kids have space to paint - they do it almost every day and want me to hang the pictures up.  I'd like to add a cork tack strip to the arch way where we can pin up their work.)   To make it happen I committed to planning during the week (first toys, then papers, etc. ) so I could really implement the plan on the weekend when not at work and the kids were napping or after they went to bed. 
The toughest part of this challenge is the fact that my 100 year old house has NO closets downstairs at all - and is an open floor plan of sorts.  This meant I couldn't shut the door and tear it apart because the kids (3.5 yr old twins and 15 month old) would be able to get at it the minute they came downstairs.  That meant I really did have to plan and think about what could I do in steps that would keep everyone safe - including a few really sentimental antiques, but also keep moving in the right direction.

I purged a lot of stuff.  I was very happy (ok, almost giddy) as we packed up the car with stuff.  We took a lot things to Good Will and offered up the baby toys that everyone had outgrown or not played with on FreeCycle.  I also tossed/recycled anything broken, had pieces missing, or that I really couldn't remember why I had kept it in the first place!

The first time (yes, first time) I saw the top of my dining room table I was thrilled.  I hadn't seen it since we started using it as a "safe place" to put pretty much anything we wanted to keep out of the reach of the kids almost 3 years ago!  I actually saw the top of the table come and go several times during the process as I tackled a new corner of stuff.  We do still have 3 little boys - so as much as I wanted to ditch the baby gate - I just couldn't.  It still protects the curved glass china cabinet and a few other antiques that had to be moved to safety. 

Boys new play space

The best physical tool I used to contain the mess was the cubby shelves for the boys to put 
their toys on.  They were so excited as we put them together and immediately started organizing their toys as soon as they were up.  Now they actually put their toys away as they play.  Even the 15 month old 'gets it.'  Without any promoting I watched him take his xylophone from the living room and carry it all the way across the foyer, through the sitting room and put it on the shelf when he was done with it.  I used a small rolling cart to contain all my scrapbooking stuff.  I would like to get a real storage system for it one day and maybe set up a corner in my room - but for now the rolling cart works because I can move it to where I am working, then roll it back to the corner.

Look!  I have a table!
These shelves also gave me a limit to how much stuff we were willing to keep.  Once the shelves were loaded, we were done.  This lead to a more careful look at what we had and the removal of toys that really weren't getting played with or were on their way out because the boys were getting older / moving on to new things.  We tried to make sure the shelves weren't jam packed so the boys could really see and get to what they had.  What you can't tell from this challenge is that all the tpys that used to be in the other side of the house are now all in one place.  So we got our family room back.  It used to store tons of toys under the coffee table, on the coffee table, and just all around.  Now everything is over in the dining/living room and contained.  (Double bonus!)

We also moved the table on a bit of an angle and told the boys that "this side" where the cubby shelves are is "your side."  All this stuff is for you to play with and enjoy (and take care of - as much as preschoolers can, which is more than you might think!)  We added a little table for them to use as a work space.  This helped them have a limited, central location on which to paint, color, play kitchen, etc.   Then we told them everything on the other side where Mommy's china cabinet is - is the grown up side.  We don't touch things on that side without asking first. 

I think my advice to anyone wanting to organize a space is to set a deadline and just make it happen.  Even if it feels overwhelming - you don't have to do it in one day, or even one week.  All you really have to do is just start.  I found that breaking my huge task into smaller ones and being able to walk away from it each weekend was helpful and made me start each new session with a fresh and critical eye.  I know if I had tried to do it all at once I would have started purging less and less as the project wore on and I got tired.  It would have seemed like I was throwing/giving away so much stuff, but taking a few bags and boxes out each week felt great - AND the kids weren't overwhelmed by the change or loss of 'stuff' because it happened gradually.

Now, I have printed the list of hints for purging clothes and since we are so closet challenged even upstairs - I am preparing to purge as I do the seasonal change over of the closet.

This has been just what I needed.  I feel like letting go of the clutter really lightened my overall stress.  I might even update the pictures to daylight when I get home this afternoon - because there is only one little overhead light and it didn't give the space justice last night!

Thank you OrgJunkie for making me start the process of getting my house back!


hsmominmo said...

making a decision for where everything must go - that's huge! The open floor plan does make it tough in someways, but you've accomplished what you set out to do. Good work!

Mark,Kim Lau said...

well did it. You made it work with out any closets. You go girl.....