A Tidy House with a Toddler

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So I don’t know if anyone has ever told you – but toddlers are MESSY AS ALL GET OUT, and make it feel impossible to keep a tidy house. There – the cat is out of the bag – I said it – it is out in the universe for all to know.

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I am a very neat person. Mess, simply stated, stresses me the hell out. I have tried to explain this to my husband over the years – and at one point found an article that I sent to him and basically threatened to deprive him of his dinner until he read it – that explained how a messy house can give some people (namely, women) anxiety (here is an example of one of the literally 18 million articles that pops up when you Google “messy house causes anxiety”). And honestly, I sent it to him because I felt like I needed to justify why the house being a mess stressed me out and I couldn’t just sit back at the end of the day and relax.

Then, to top it all off, you add a toddler to the mix. A 2 foot tall master of destruction living here, who literally takes his bins of toys, dumps them on the ground, and lays down to make snow angels out of the mess. He thinks the entire house is a canvas for his crayons – and laughs in my face when I utter the word “no” as he shreds whatever paper he can get his hands on. Don’t get me wrong – when Asher colors on the walls, Asher has to clean it up. Before bed every night, Asher has to help pick up all of his toys. When Asher throws his food all the way across the kitchen because he is “all done”, Asher has to help pick it all up. But he is also 2, and for some reason hasn’t mastered cleaning to my own personal standards (shocking, right?).

Enter maximum anxiety for Kristin. Everywhere I looked was clutter and mess. Things where they didn’t belong. The number of baby/toddler toys exponentially increasing while the storage space appeared to be shrinking. Closets were full. The garage was full. Drawers were full. Under the bed storage was full. And  the crazy thing about it is that while I type this, I can imagine anyone who reads it envisioning that we lived in this hoarder house that was wall to wall, floor to ceiling, full of junk. But our house always appeared at first glance to be relatively organized and clean. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that there was just so much stuff, and the cleaning never felt like it was done. We had a clean house. We did not have a tidy house though – and apparently there is a difference.

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A few months ago while Matt and I were watching TV, I put on an episode of Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up. Having no clue what the premise of the show even was, we watched the first episode and I became obsessed. We binge watched the entire season, and decided that we were doing this. It was one of those moments where I had been living with something that bothered me for years, but I had no clue how to truly fix it, and suddenly someone was showing me exactly how to fix it. Before this, I didn’t know where to start, and even when I tried to clean/organize, or even purge my closet, it never really felt like I accomplished anything. After watching the show and realizing that we needed to have not only a clean house, but a tidy house, we went so far as to order all of Marie Kondo’s books (if you want a super quick read that will get you started, her graphic novel The Life Changing Manga of Tidying Up is perfect and can be read in one sitting).

The entire Konmari process took us about a month to complete – since we did go step by step with our entire house. But there were a handful of things that I felt like really resonated with me for keeping a tidy house with a toddler (note – this post isn’t about how to teach your kid how to keep the house as perfectly neat and tidy as you want it, but if any of you have figured out how to miraculously get a 23 month old to do that – by all means, hit me up with your magical ways).

  1. The overabundance of toys

The toys. ALL. THE. TOYS. You know how when you get pregnant and you think to yourself, I’m never going to be one of those parents whose entire house becomes one giant shelf at Toys R Us? And then you blink, and look around, and you have become that parent? Yeah – it drives me crazy. But I also have a toddler who has been pretty significantly delayed with gross motor skills – so I found myself piling a massive amount of toys into the living room so he could access them all, and keep himself entertained and stimulated. But when I started paying closer attention, I realized that he was becoming OVER stimulated. There were too many options, too many toys for him to go between. He would play with one for a few minutes, then jump to another, and another. I spent what felt like my entire day following him around and cleaning up the mess of toys that were scattered everywhere while trying to keep a tidy house. It was just not an ideal solution for either of us.

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When Asher plays with toys every single day, he will become bored with them over the span of a few weeks usually, and then he doesn’t really have any interest in playing with them anymore. The problem with having all of his toys in the room for him meant that he became bored with ALL of them over those few weeks, and we were back to going and getting new toys that interested him. Insert MOM FAIL right here. During the Konmari process, as I went through all of Asher’s toys, I isolated all of the ones he hadn’t shown any interest in in a while, and broke them down into one of 3 categories.

a. Donate – these were the toys that Asher never plays with anymore, either because he never liked it or he has outgrown it, and that have no real sentimental value to us.

b. Store for future baby – these are the toys that Asher loved (or I loved), and although he has outgrown, we wanted to keep for the next baby. I did NOT keep all of the toys that Asher has outgrown for future kids, but tried to limit this to the ones that he either really loved and got a lot of use out of, or that had a special sentimental value (gifts from grandparents, etc.)

c. Store for rotation – this was the key for us. Asher was overwhelmed with all of the options, and I was overwhelmed with the mess it was making. So I separated the toys that Asher was currently playing with frequently, and the ones that were still age appropriate, but he had gotten bored with for the time being.

For the ‘donate’ category, that is simple enough to understand – we donated them. This got rid of a large chunk of the toy clutter in and of itself.

For the ‘store for future baby’ category, this category was not a massive amount, as I tried very hard to be selective about what we were keeping for this purpose, and these were stored in the attic (since they did not need to be easily accessed).

For the third category, these were placed in plastic storage bins and were stored in the garage. Every few weeks to a month, or whenever I notice Asher is getting bored with his toys that are out, I rotate them with the ones that were in the garage that he hasn’t seen in a while. He thinks he just got a ton of ‘new’ toys, and we drastically limited the number of toys that are cluttering up our living room which helped us significantly in our efforts to keep a tidy house. WIN WIN. Here are some of my favorite bins and baskets that we use to store Asher’s “current” toys around the house.

2. Clothes

I am sure that every single one of you will be utterly shocked to find out I am obsessed with baby/toddler clothes (she said, dripping with sarcasm…). I don’t deny it – Asher owns probably 30 pair of pants alone. The thing is though – he doesn’t grow out of clothes very quickly. So the more I accumulate, the more ridiculous his closet/drawers become. And then the moment that I personally dread comes around, where you are digging through their drawers of baby clothes and you come across the most absurdly cute outfit that no longer fits them, that they never even got a chance to wear (insert my tears here).

My absolute favorite part of the Konmari process was the folding technique for clothes (this illustrated book of hers shows proper storage and folding for basically every kind of product you have in your house). Have you ever been oddly proud of how organized your dresser drawers are? If you haven’t, you are missing out. This process was huge for storing all of our clothes, but majorly clutch for storing tiny baby/toddler clothes. Shorts and pants for a 3 month old can very quickly start looking like an adult sock drawer. Complete and utter chaos. I won’t lie – it took HOURS to go through all of his clothes and fold them all the way that the Konmari method prescribes. But once it is done – well lets just say if dresser drawers could bring tears to ones eyes, his now do. Every article of clothing he has is visible at any given time – with no digging required. And it is glorious.

One thing I have NOT mastered yet, which some of you veteran parents need to help me out with, is getting rid of baby clothes. I can’t. I just can’t do it. I have removed them from his closet and drawers – but have yet to discard a single item. Don’t ask why it is so hard – because I have no clue. We got a reprieve up until now since we let my sister borrow all of Asher’s clothes he had outgrown for my nephew, but my nephew has now surpassed Asher in size, so I am stuck having to confront my own hoarding addiction for his baby clothes. Any tips for how to bite the bullet and discard them (or bonus points for fun things to do with them – i.e., baby blankets, stuffed animals, etc.) would be greatly appreciated!

Now getting rid of our clothes was another story – during the entire process, we managed to donate about 6 truckloads of stuff to the local Goodwill, and I am fairly certain I dropped off about 90% of my anxiety along with it.

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3. Equipment for future baby

We got so much in the way of baby equipment for Asher. Swings, rockers, activity mats, chairs, bouncers, and on and on and on. You never know what an average baby will like, and even more so with a child with skeletal issues, you have to go through a lot of trial and error to find something they will like, that will also work with their skeletal issues. But what we ended up with was a massive amount of baby equipment that takes up an insane amount of room. This one was relatively easy for me – I discarded. I know that I will end up having to purchase some new baby equipment if we have another baby in the future – but I have the benefit of knowing what I like now.

At the end of the day – I felt like so many of my decisions for what type of equipment we used with Asher was so driven by his dwarfism, that I did not get the opportunity to truly pick what I wanted or liked – I picked which one would most likely work for his unique body structure the best. So part of me wanted to truly scrap that when it came to a new baby, aided by the knowledge of what I used (here is a link to the items that we did use a significant amount, or see my previous blog post on our ultimate Product Guide), what I never used, what I used for two weeks and let collect dust from that point on. Yes, during this process I had to weigh whether spending the additional money an unknown number of years from now to replace the equipment I would use again was worth storing the clutter – and that is the question to ask yourself. Is it worth the $_____ to store this for the next several years.

For many, it 100% may be worth it – especially if it was a piece of equipment you loved, and was relatively expensive. For some though you may look at it and think, this cost $30, and I would rather simply buy another one if and when the day comes that I need one – and donate this one to a family who could get good use out of this one in the meantime. But once you ask the question, you at least know WHY you are continuing to store the product and that it is worth it to you.

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4. Everything Washable.

I’m not even going to tell you what the average lifespan of certain belongings in my house are – because once something gets past the point of no return when it comes to being washed and properly cleaned, it gets tossed. Rugs are the biggest thing in this category that took a serious nosedive when Asher entered the house. It was impossible to keep a rug cleaned and I just kept tossing them and getting new ones. Until I came across the Ruggable – and never looked back. Washable rugs. I’ll say that louder for those in the back – WASHABLE. RUGS.

The floor is one of the quickest ways to go from a tidy house to a mess (whether it is dirt tracked in, or clutter piled on the ground). So we are slowly switching out all of our rugs in our house with these, since the top layer can simply be pulled up, tossed in the washing machine, and restored to as close to new as you can get a rug. With a toddler who spills milk everywhere, colors all over the place, and uses my house as his personal snack bowl – these are huge.


At the end of the day – the trick for keeping a tidy house was making sure we were not keeping things just because we had the room. When we stopped viewing our house as storage for items that “may come in handy” one day, and instead only kept things because we truly enjoyed owning that item and wanted to keep it specifically, everything else fell into place. It now takes a fraction of the time to have our house truly clean and tidy – even with that 2 foot tall master of mess living amongst us.

Comments

  1. March 29, 2019 / 2:17 am

    I used to be super tidy before my little boy came along and now he’s 18 months old, our house is never tidy!
    Toys seem to be the worse culprit. I have regular clear out of clothes and only keep my favourites. But toys seem to keep appearing!
    I need to be more brutal and donate a load this weekend!!

    • Kristin B.
      March 29, 2019 / 8:16 am

      They sneak up on you so fast it seems!! I looked around one day and my living room looked like a toy store! I am glad I’m not the only one!

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