Tinka Markham Piper worked for over 15 years in academic, clinical and research settings all over North America managing and leading projects from design to implementation. Her areas of focus included urban epidemiology, emergency management, 9/11 response and global health policy. She has a Master’s Degree each in public health and in social work and sees her current work as a chaos counsellor at Solve My Space as an innovative approach to combining both fields.
She’s also a mom to two children (including a budding hoarder) and knows what it’s like living with the excess and overflow of children’s toys. When she asked if we could collaborate I took one look around at my own house and said yes! would you please be able to tell me how to sort out all this bright plastic?
Tinka came up with an easy to follow guide to divide and conquer that can be used not only for children’s playthings but really for anything – toys, basements and garages work too.
Still feeling overwhelmed? Tinka can come to you and help implement specialized solutions. Plus, look at her amazing style – wouldn’t you love a little of that in your house!
Many parents feel overwhelmed when looking around what was once a serene house that is now filled with toys that may or may not be used, bits of games and puzzles here and there and general chaos. Tidying up can also become a nightmare when nothing has a proper home and no one knows where anything goes.
Take back control of your house with a few simple steps and solutions to get it all back on track.
This is always the first step for any organizing project. It can be daunting and challenging but it’s absolutely necessary to figure out what you are going to keep and what can go.
The three main questions to ask include:
Do we love it?
Do we need it?
Do we use it?
Do one category at a time to avoid feeling too overwhelmed and to ascertain exactly how many items you have for each category. For example, take out ALL of the books and go through them together.
Tip: For kids’ items, the top five things that most often need to be purged are plush toys, plastic thingamajigs, missing toys & puzzle pieces, broken stuff, and artwork.
It’s important to take breaks and assign yourself rewards throughout the process. Personally, I give myself a little chocolate and coffee.
During the purging process, your belongings will go into one of three categories: keep, donate and recycle.
For most of us, knowing that our items will have a second life and enjoyed by others makes it easier to move them along.
Ideas for where to donate your items include:
If none of those options work here is a list of places to donate in Montreal.
For recycling, here is a comprehensive list of what you can recycle in Montreal.
One of the main tenants of organizing is to create clear and distinct zones or homes for items. Make sure that everything has a place and that it makes sense. You hear this all the time but organize like with like.
Try to keep similar things organized together—a bin for stuffed animals, one for puzzles, one for cars & trucks, and another for sports stuff. This makes it easier to remember where things go as well as avoids the duplication of zones all over the house. Now whenever anyone finds the headless Playmobil or a piece of a light saber in the entryway they will know exactly where it goes.
BINS & LABELS
When it comes to a quicker and more efficient clean-up, the key is to make it easy for everyone to return items to their zones or homes. That’s why I love containers and labels.
I especially like transparent bins with tight fitting tops where you can clearly identify the contents or open white plastic bins such as the PLUGGIS line at IKEA. Label each bin, with the type of stuff that belongs there (blocks, stuffed animals, Legos, music toys, etc.). If your child can’t read, use picture or photo labels. Even better, have your child create the label!
THINK LIKE A DAYCARE
There are a lot of helpful organizing lessons that can be transferred from a daycare to your own home environment.
Rotate Toys & Books
Store extra toys and books in bins or closets (and yes, label them!) and every few months bring out the new and store away the old. It’s easier to tidy up a small mess than deal with all of the toys in your home.
Deal with Art Supplies
Store messy art supplies in high to reach places or in drawers (until your child is old enough to use them him/herself). Keep paper and crayons in reach so kids can do this on their own but if you’re doing beading, glue gunning, using playdoh or doing big painting projects, it’s wise to keep these items somewhere separately.
Your Child’s Art
Organize your child’s artwork by creating a (rotating) gallery wall in a specific area of your home.
Involve your children in the clean up of toys and books to their homes.
USE ALL OF YOUR WALLS
Get creative in your spaces! Storage comes in all shapes and sizes: bookcases, shelves, toy boxes, storage containers, wall hooks, closets, crates and trays. Figure out what works best for your space and your kids.
Favourite and most used toys belong on lower shelves, in lower drawers, or on the floor. Higher levels and shelves are designated for less-frequently-used possessions. It’s important to make your storage child-friendly and organize things at eye-level.
INSTIGATE FUN MAINTENANCE ROUTINES
Decluttering and organizing is the equivalent of indoor gardening. It’s something that needs to happen regularly or your home can feel like an overgrown rainforest! The key here is to make it fun and to involve your kids.
I like the 12-12-12 challenge (via becomingmininimalist) as it’s a creative and fun way to make some progress at home together. The goal is for each person is to find
12 items to donate;
12 items to recycle;
12 items to return to their original home
Put on the music, start the timer and make it a fun activity! You can combine de-cluttering with organization and make the process less overwhelming. Adjust this process to the age of your kids so everyone can participate.
Thank you Tinka!
Tinka Markham Piper started Solve My Space 4 years ago and works as a “chaos counselor” in peoples’ homes and offices. She loves design websites, stationery stores, flea markets, storage containers, bright colors and snowy days.
(Photo credits: Headers, Sort It and Create Zones care of Vivian Doan Photography, for the rest thank-you to JB and MR)