Shelf It or Trash It


The bane of a mother’s existence.

Especially a mother who thrives on organization. A mother who finds clarity when the floor is vacuumed and free of debris—when you can see the carpet color!  A mother who spends hours searching for toys—and eventually weeks—before giving up.    A mother trying to keep up with her toddler at every step.  A mother losing her sanity.

I felt this way for much of my son’s life.  Now I don’t play this game anymore.  I broke free and am never looking back.  What’s my secret?  A good shelf and the willingness to let go.

When I first became a mom, I somehow forced myself to forget about the mess, with loads of support from my husband, family, and amazing postpartum doula.  Everyone near me kept saying that it’s just that way for a period of time.  You worry about you and the baby.

I adjusted to the mass amount of new baby gear, toys, and books that flooded our home.  We played, slept, cried, and moved through the hours focused on one another.  As time progressed, so did the amount of “stuff” inhabiting my living room, bedroom, bathroom, and closets.  What started as sweet miniature baby rockers, bouncing mechanisms, board books, and rattles turned into a massive Hot Wheels riding truck, a bike and helmet, small race cars, and trains.  So many damn trains.  Moms of little boys beware.

My easygoing focus started disappearing, slowly at first, and almost completely when I entered my second pregnancy.  My son bounced around like a little grown up rather than a child.  I spent ridiculous amounts of time picking up toys—that were almost always tossed and dumped out for the fun of it. I spent significant daytime and nighttime hours literally searching, never knowing where anything had landed.

I started dreaming of everything having its place.  I needed things to make more sense before another life came into the house.  So right after Christmas, we had a purge—a pull out the sage, dive in, and move through every room kind of purge.

I took all the random storage bins taking up most of the living room, dumped them out, got rid of heaps of junk and only kept the toys that were favorites or served a purpose.  Then I moved to the next room in my house and did the same thing.  My husband had a system.  I had a system.  My son even had a system at one point.  Strangely, we knew exactly  what needed to stay and what needed to be tossed with fervor into the contractor bag.

The real excitement began when we started loading the “beacon of hope.”  A  major purchase IS NOT required for every major change.  Yet, I must say that a useful storage shelf with sixteen pull-out cube organizers gave me hope.  And it was the best Christmas present that I’ve received, well, purchased for myself, in a long time.

We Spent December 26th filling each bin with categorically significant items ranging from a “sports” bin to, of course, a train bin.  We all felt enthused and inspired.

My son overcame his initial confusion within a few weeks and started pulling out the right toy for the right moment.  We both felt lighter.  We stayed home together with ease and enjoyed the togetherness.

I regret nothing.  We saved a few large toys for the living room and moved the rest of his world into one convenient shelf.  My husband and I reclaimed our gorgeous space.  I don’t spend any time looking for specific trains.  I simply ask him to walk downstairs, and take out the train bin.  His independence shines.  Instead of dumping out two baskets and a bin of toys, telling me he’s bored two minutes later, he chooses how to play, what to play, and actually does play.  None of us are buried anymore.  We’re right where we need to be.

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