A field guide to children’s stuff

There is a mom I know who is so perfect that I sometimes imagine kneeling at her feet while she told me – and it wouldn’t just be me, because I’m not the only one who has noticed how good she is – how on earth she gets it done.

This woman – lets call her Trina – has five impeccably dressed children, one long haired dog, an immaculate house and is probably a size double zero. I want to go to the church of Trina, but that doesn’t exist.

I could make a joke and say that it must be she doesn’t sleep (she doesn’t) or that she either needs or has found some sort of medication (the jury’s out on that one). But she has let slip a few gems, and in trying to be like Trina, I’ve learned a few myself. I’d like to share

Anything blue will stain – Play Doh, markers, paint, sometimes even construction paper. Be really careful with it! I don’t know why – maybe it is because blue dyes were originally from the indigo plant, which washes out easily, so the dye is transferring (kind of like with jeans). Do not leave a toddler with blue Play Doh, or you will have blue handprints all over the house

Beware the boasting of many pieces. You would think that toys – puzzles, Legos, rainbow looms and the like – would downplay the fact that they have so many pieces in their packaging. Maybe you need to be Trina to know that if you have 1000 rubber bands, there will be one bracelet and 950 rubber bands floating around the house ad-nauseum. Whenever I see a little oval on the front of a package that says “Over (insert three or four digit number here) pieces,” I have a Pavlovian reaction and put it down. I won’t even buy multi-piece sets for friends. Of course, there are your Lego sets and such, which really do revolve around having lots of pieces, and for those you need a special system. But why not just buy those etch a sketch type self contained one piece toys instead

A place for everything and everything in it’s place. Duh! But it can’t be said enough how much easier it is to keep things clean when they have a place to go. Bins, bins and more bins I say. Keep like things together and explain to your kids that if they keep all their Littlest Pet Shops together, they’ll have more fun playing with them next time. Then look away as they roll their eyes

Storage. Sing it like the Sega jingle

Clothes – As kids outgrow their clothes, or when the seasons begin to change, it is really helpful to have a bin in their closet to put clothes that are not in use. Then you can cycle those clothes out and you don’t have a big job organizing hand-me-downs by size. I used to fantasize that I would have an attic full of dressers and just store the clothes in drawers until they were needed again. If you have the space and inclination to do that, I would love to see those pictures!

Stuffed Animals – How I dither about stuffed animals! I absolutely loved them when I was a kid and had maybe 30 of my own. I remember my mom complaining about them and being mystified. But now I have four children who each have at least 50, and we are overrun. I do gather up the ones they don’t seem to particularly care about periodically and put them in a big garbage bag in the basement for a holding period. And if I don’t hear about Mr. Stuffy or blue parrot for a few weeks, I donate them to my pediatrician or the local hospital or anywhere that will take them. If I didn’t, I imagine we’d be physically ejected from the house by the sheer mass of stuffed animals. We tried to stop getting them, but the given a choice of anything they could have, they will always go for the stuffed animal. They are truly lottery-winner-level thrilled when we win one on the boardwalk, and they do have a big collection that they really love and play with. Anyway, I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a stuffed animal at Trina’s, but here is what we do with them: I have a net that was supposed to cover stuff and keep it in place in the back of my car. I got that and hung it on two hangers and voila – out of sight stuffed animal holder. I have seen similar ideas marketed as hammocks for stuffed animals in stores. A bin will also work for a smaller collection.

This post originally appeared at The Ill-Prepared Housewife.