If you’re new to Happily Ever Mom, you probably don’t know that I’m on a quest to find organization tips that work for Moms who get overwhelmed by clutter and messes.
Because I AM that Mom.
When I see a big giant mess, my first instinct is to walk away. I get overwhelmed just by seeing a big mess. I think to myself:
- Where do I start cleaning up?
- Where does everything go?
- How can I get my kids to help when I can’t even do it myself?
- I should probably start picking up that… *squirrel* <—just me?
Then I don’t know what to do, so I avoid the mess altogether.
Honestly, I’m getting better at it, but that’s primarily because of my husband’s genius idea. He started something in our family that is so simple, I didn’t think it would work…
The Slippery Slope that Leads to Overwhelm
Can you picture this?
Your kids are starting to play and, at first, their toys are contained. They’ve taken out a few books and lined them up in front of their dolls because they’re playing “school.” Then, they take out the Legos – because what reasonable school doesn’t have Legos? Then, they take out some puzzles.
Suddenly, you’ve got different pieces of toys all over the house and you’re wondering if the teachers are going to pick all of it up?
Spoiler alert: the teachers (aka your kids) aren’t picking up those toys.
Meanwhile, you’re cooking dinner. Instead of helping the kids pick up all the toys, you’ve opted to have everyone sit down calmly without bickering over who’s going to pick up what toys. You’d like to give your picky eater a chance to actually eat a bite without fussing.
Now, a mound of legos and barbie dolls are left out, and once the kids are in bed for the night, you run towards the couch to finally sit down for a half a minute (priorities, right?).
Is this sounding familiar?
While you may plan to pick everything up tomorrow, we all know that life happens. And, a lot of the time, things like picking up all the toys in the morning just doesn’t happen.
And, that’s when you get overwhelmed by clutter.
Well, at least I do.
When my house gets to that level of messy, it’s hard for me to motivate myself to clean up let alone to motivate the kids!
But, this is where our little trick comes in…
How to Clean Up When You’re Overwhelmed ~ One Simple Strategy
So, there you are, with toys all over the floor. This is when you tell the kids that it’s time to pick everything up, but they’re overwhelmed about starting to pick up the toys too.
I mean, where do you even start when there are toys everywhere?
This is when you tell them NOT to put away the toys. Instead, you (or an older child) throw all of the toys/mess into a BIG pile in the middle of the room.
This part is really important: Don’t try to sort the mess, just throw them into a big pile.
Once everything that’s on the floor, on side tables, on the couch, under the couch, etc. is in a big pile in the center of the room, start sorting into smaller piles.
Is this different from what you normally do?
It was for me too.
I’d normally sort the toys while I walked around the room telling my kids what to put away. I’d say something like, “Okay, L you go get all the barbies to put away. M you grab all the legos.”
But, I found that I was doing too much micromanaging that way.
How to Make Clean Up Time Easier on YOU
Then, I watched my husband clean up with the kids. He took the big goal of putting all the toys away and then he’d help the kids put things away by creating tiny goals.
But, I’ll get to that in a minute.
For now, let’s go back to that big pile of toys you just made…
Now that you have the large pile in the middle of the room, start by sorting things that go to a specific room or place together.
This is where the tiny goals come into play…
In order to get everything cleaned up, we’ve got to teach our kids to put groups of things away in the easiest way possible. Otherwise, they end up feeling overwhelmed too!
Did you catch that? Don’t pile all the stuffed animals together and tell your child to go put their brother’s stuffed animals away in his room, then grab the ones that belong in your room, and finally put away the ones that go in the closet.
Pile the stuffed animals that go to the kid’s room together. Then, pile the stuffed animals that go to another room together. Then, finally group the stuffed animals that go to the closet. These little piles that you are making need to go to the same place.
Then, give your kids a pile to take to their place and put away. Or, better yet. Let them choose who’s putting away the toys by asking, “Okay, L – which pile do you want to take? Do you remember which room they go to?”
We’re almost done…
Keep working until the pile gets smaller and smaller. You’ll probably be left with a few items that are hard to put away.
Those are the first things that we consider donating or getting rid of.
In fact, grab this free printable to help you decide what to get rid of and what to keep.
Why does this work?
- It’s more efficient – you don’t have to spend five minutes trying to figure out where to put ONE annoying toy. From the pile, choose the ones that you can quickly put away first, then figure out the harder ones later.
- It’s less overwhelming – With a big pile, you always know where to start when you’re cleaning up a room – everyone starts in the middle!
- It’s simple – Even toddlers can help bring toys into a big pile in the center of the room, but they can’t necessarily remember where to put toys away. This tactic gets everyone involved. Less fuss is easier for everyone in the family.
Ultimately, having fewer toys around the house will help reduce overwhelm.
But, I don’t find that to be a practical option while my kids are little. Instead? I want to help all of us feel less overwhelmed by the things in our home by teaching my kids a simple system for cleaning up that we do every time we clean up.
Now, every time I say it’s “time to clean up,” my kids start piling all the toys in the middle of the room. We all know exactly what the first step is when it’s “clean up time” and it makes sorting and putting toys away a little easier.
And, that means that I spend less time feeling overwhelmed about cleaning up toys with my kids and more time running towards the couch to sit down – for a few extra heavenly minutes.