Sunday, April 21, 2019

Containing the Packrats

My kids are HUGE collectors. If they get one character, they need them all. It doesn’t even have to be things we buy. They create things to collect. If one clay figure is good, five are better. They make cards and signs and other lovely creative things. And I do love that they use what we get for them. No one can accuse my kids of not playing with their toys, or not knowing how to be creative. They might like their devices, but they aren’t obsessed.

Of course, that brings issues too.

Sometimes you have to get creative when you have little packrats. I wouldn’t say the girls are hoarders, but I also know that purging is nearly impossible, and I find totally bizarre collections  - little notes that turn out to be from the dolls, rocks from a parking lot. I know my girls aren’t unique here, so these are my solutions.

1) Everything has to have a home.
We are an organizer’s dream when it comes to containers. My rule is that “on top of my dresser” or “on this shelf” isn’t enough - we need a real home or it isn’t allowed in the house. That way, when I have them clean up, they know where to put things. If you truly can’t give it a home, it probably doesn’t need to be here. This means that backpacks, purses, the backseat of the car, also aren’t “storage spaces” unless they’re organized too.

2) Weekly inspections.
My kids aren’t really required to clean up every night. Our schedule would never allow it, and I know as an adult that it’s possible (probable! ) to get behind. But once a week, with plenty of warning, I go through and make sure that our organizational system is being kept up.

3) Mess goes to the middle.
Most kids who are packrats tend to have very messy “edges” of their spaces. They feel like they’ve cleaned if they have space in the middle, but often this isn’t the case. When my kids start to clean, they’re required to go around the edges and push EVERYTHING into the middle, then put away from there. It might seem counter productive, but it’s actually a huge help.

4) Keep them aware.
Twice a year we do a big purge, but during our weekly cleaning and inspection, especially if they’re having trouble, I point out that elimination makes the job easier. I don’t try to overwhelm them and do it all at once. But while we’re squeezing books on the shelf, I’ll suggest choosing ten that we don’t need anymore. If the stuffed animals no longer fit, it may be time to give a few to someone else.

I know my kids aren’t special in this regard. They may never be minimalists, but we can keep the pack rat tendencies contained!
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