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Piles of Potential

By Audrey Thomas A.k.a. Organized Audrey

If you've survived another holiday season where the kids took home more loot than you can shake a stick at, then you're probably frustrated with knowing what to do with it all.

Yes, holidays are fun - especially for the little ones - but the aftermath is sometimes quite overwhelming. Now that the holidays have passed, here are five things you can do to help manage the kid paraphernalia in your home.

1. Take inventory. For each of your children, count the number of books, puzzles, dolls, trucks, and games he or she has. You might be shocked as you do the counting. Decide how much is enough, keeping in mind the amount of space you have.

Idea to Try: For "collectible" items such as happy meal toys, action figures or other small toys, choose a container with a lid for each particular item. i.e. ice cream buckets work great as do shoe boxes. Teach your child that once a lid won't fit on anymore, it's time to sort through and decide if anything can go in order to make room for new ones that may come along. This simple way of maintaining their possessions teaches them that there is a limit as to just how much stuff they bring home. Establishing guidelines and boundaries around the amount of items you're going to bring into your home is the first step in guarding against future clutter.

2. It's vacation time! Even Barbie goes on spring break, right? The simple process of rotating toys is fast, easy and brings immediate relief. Take 1-2 large boxes or shopping bags and fill with a myriad of toys. Place them somewhere the kids won't find such as under the basement stairs, in a storage closet, or on a shelf in the garage. After a month or two, announce to the kids that it's Toy Rotation Day. Treat it like a holiday. You might even plan a little party or celebration of some sort. Let the kids be involved in refilling the bags/boxes for other toys whose turn it is to "get"' to go on vacation. Mark the next Toy Rotation Holiday on the family calendar so the kids can anticipate welcoming home their vacationing toys. Just don't let them see your hiding place!

3. Pay your kids to let go of toys. Older kids will often surprise us when faced with making decisions on their own about which toys they're ready to be done with. Many kids will part with much more than we could have ever imagined. Give your child a grocery sack and tell him/her that for every bag they're willing to get rid of, you'll pay them $3-$5. You can determine the size of the bag as well as the price. This tactic works best for kids who have begun an understanding of money.

4. Garage sale giving. Host a garage sale with the sole intent of making a donation to a local charity. This is a wonderful way to model and teach your kids about giving to others. Sit down and talk about those less fortunate. Give them examples of specific organizations in your community who help others, such as soup kitchens, homeless shelters and foster homes. Many times kids will willingly part with their own possessions in order that others can benefit. Take it a step further and involve your neighbors and your kids' friends. You'll be surprised at their enthusiasm and proud as a parent.

5. Have a sort and purge fest before the next onslaught. If your child is nearing a birthday and you're guessing your toy inventory is about to take a jump, go through your child's toys, discarding the torn or neglected ones as well as those with broken or missing pieces. If there are toys your child has outgrown and they're still in good condition, clean them up and donate them to a local preschool, church or shelter. Your child will be much less apt to notice the results of your purging if this is done just prior to their birthday or other holiday.

As with anything, whether it's toys or kitchen gadgets, there is a limit as to just how much will fit into our homes. Beginning early when children are young will teach them life-long lessons you never imagined.

Audrey Thomas, a.k.a. Organized Audrey, is the author of What's for Dinner? and several other organizing books and CD's. Her company works with people who want to be better organized and audiences who need a motivating and experienced speaker. OrganizedAudrey.com or 952-944-9470. Audrey Thomas is also a presenter at Mom-Camp '08

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