For me, September is the perfect time to get to grips with clutter - the back-to-school vibe gets me every year; new pencils, new shoes, renewed good intentions - that kind of thing. I've been incredibly industrious this week, re-organising, sorting and updating all of my children's things. Above is their newly organised dress-up station, and it's just one outcome of what's become known as the autumn audit. It's been a huge task, but I feel I owe it to my children - to get rid of the broken, to reignite interest in the forgotten and to pass on the outgrown.
I began by walking round the house, armed with a notebook. I wrote down headings to describe every different type of toy, game and play-thing as I came across them. From this list I was able to see the wood from the trees, and I began to assess how well my children's current interests and needs relate to the quantity, quality and accessibility of their play-things. From there, the hard work really began; re-establishing collections and unearthing long forgotten treasures, removing, or making less accessible, the play-things my children have outgrown, and trying to decrease the sheer volume of stuff we've accumulated.
Now, their bedroom looks a little more grown-up, and it contains all the toys and play-things I consider suitable (and safe) for independent and self-sufficient play. And I hope I've made it a cool place to hang out too; to read, and listen to CDs and audio books, as well as playing with toys.
By the way, that beanbag in the photograph above is full of soft toys. My children still play with them *shhhh* but now the animals and teddies double as a great seat. I saw the idea on a Pinterest board - I can't find it now, otherwise I'd give credit to the genius who thought of it.
Downstairs, there are further shelves laden with children's books and a huge games cupboard with board games, card games and equipment for more active games like skipping ropes, beanbags and juggling balls. There's a help yourself shelf with everyday supplies for writing, drawing, colouring, painting, sticking and cutting. Another set of shelves, pictured above, is a showcase for some of their favourite toys, natural play-things like pebbles, shells and drift wood, investigative equipment and kid-friendly things - on display to amuse, use and inspire.
I tidied my toys too, especially the Aladdin's cave that is the cupboard under the stairs. This is where I stash our rainy-day art/craft kits, most drawing/colouring/activity books, specialist and supervision-required art resources, tinkering tools and supplies, fabrics, wool and our sewing box. Non-toys, kid-friendly kitchen equipment and packaging from the recycling box weren't really part of the audit this time. They are well established play-things in our house, of course, but I keep them as part of the general house stuff - that way they remain different to toys, and therefore irresistible.
The children are delighted with their room's new lay-out, and have enjoyed exploring the house, rediscovering their things. They've even been more positive about helping to clear up at the end of the day; a very refreshing and new-term-like attitude - long may it last.