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5 steps to tame a messy house
Thanks to Japanese engineering, cleaning up kid toy mess is a breeze.
Your House Machine takes a new approach to home organization and life. I’m a left-brained systems thinker, and I like applying engineering principles to the daily work of running my home. If this sounds interesting I’d love if you would subscribe for weekly(ish) emails about organizing home life.
This post is about managing a kids play space, but it would apply just as well to a home office, studio, or workshop as well.
I try to be a minimalist parent…and often do not succeed, but the effort is persistent. When you have other people in the house who have the values of an unemployed drunken party animal, it’s tough to adhere to your Kondo-esque fantasies.
Here’s the compromise I’ve landed on with my kids’ playroom. They are 6 and 1.5, and this room is their main hangout. It’s the first room you see when you walk into our home, so it matters a lot to me that it not get too bananas in there, while still being inviting for the kids.
So I’ve applied 5S principles to the playroom to keep things running smoothly. If you haven’t read my post about this useful engineering framework, here’s a quick primer.
Here’s the '“before” view of the playroom in the evening so you have a sense of what I’m working with:
I realize that this already looks pretty minimal compared with many people’s playrooms. I am a huge fan of Simplicity Parenting (probably my #1 parenting book recommendation) and follow the credo that having fewer choices reduces stress for everyone and increases engagement with what is available. Therefore, we never have a large number of toys/activities in the room at once. I use our basement as a “toy store” and rotate items in and out of there regularly.
So that’s the premise, but where is the system? Here ya go:
Sort - Every night after they go to bed I spend 2-3 minutes “resetting” the room. I put things back in their spots, and if I notice an item I haven’t seen them engage with recently I put it in a bag to go down to the basement backup toy store.
Set - Everything has a spot where it lives. Books in the bookcase, Montessori-esque toys on the shelf, and everything else into the catch-all bin.
Shine - I vaguely take note of anything that needs to be run though the dishwasher or corners that are gathering dust so I can get them next time I vacuum.
Standardize - I know I’m done when the room looks reset. If this takes longer than 2 minutes that tells me there is too much clutter and we need to move some things out.
Sustain - I do this nightly after they’re in bed (and increasingly I have my 6 year old do this before he goes to bed), so it’s the first step of my beloved “grown up time” evening wind down. This is a useful habit-trigger (thanks for that concept, James Clear!) to ensure it gets done.
A big part of this is having a “home” for everything. For instance, I got these foam blocks for them to tumble around and build with. As soon as they entered my house I knew I needed a home for them, or else they’d kick around the entire house endlessly and make me crazy. Luckily they happened to fit snugly under the record player cabinet in the playroom, on the left of the image above. So satisfying!
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