In the Basket

We are terrible about picking up. Mostly because it never ends, so there isn’t much of a payoff. At least when you load the dishwasher and run it, you end up with clean dishes. When you pick up after a three year old you end up just picking up more after a three year old. Then some more after that. There is no satisfaction of clean anything. Or if there is, it’s only because she is asleep. Or at school. This is what three year olds do. It’s their job.

Last week I came up with a new system for picking up. And it’s working. And it’s working so well, that Roozle is actually HELPING with putting her stuff away a tiny bit more often. Or she helps by playing with everything while I am putting it away. Like how she’s wearing her birthday crown while I am sorting the basket and she’s wildly claiming everything from it. See? Helping.

The solution is: a basket. A small basket. This part is key. If it’s too big, it’s too overwhelming and can get too full requiring too much work to put everything away. I allow myself to fill it without putting anything away. JUST picking it up and putting it in. Oddly, almost everything in the basket is from Roozle’s room, so it all just goes back there, which is easy enough. But when you’re picking up after her fifty thousand times a day, it doesn’t seem as easy. So I just put it in the basket, then go back to drinking coffee while sitting on the couch. Until the basket is full, then I put it all away.

Yesterday I emptied the basket (by putting everything away) then used it for a project, to go through some bins in Roozle’s room that I hadn’t dealt with in a while. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the project, I just filled the basket, sorted it, filled it again, sorted it again, and was done with the project. It ruled.

When I was a kid, my parents used this technique by putting stuff on the stairs. Each kid had a stair and they would make a little pile of our stuff on our stair that we had to bring up to our rooms when we walked by. It gave them a place to put our stuff and still be able to pick up without having to take a million trips to our rooms. It also helped teach us to put our own stuff away.

Do you have a system for picking up?

Pictured above: Roozle helping sort the basket.
Pictured below: An overflowing disaster basket about to be sorted.


Author: Casey

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  1. I always have a rule that you can’t take out more toys till you put the ones you are playing with away. I actually learned that when I worked at a Montessori school as an assistant teacher based on the “mat” where kids only play with one thing on their mat.

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    • That works great for toys around here too when it’s toys but the basket usually has an amazing mix of items: stray socks, underwear, markers, a ball, shoes that made their way into the house, a birthday hat etc.

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  2. I’m going to try this. I have been working with my TA to pick up stuff with me, but I’m like you – there will be toys all over the place and I’m too overwhelmed to do anything about it. Off to look for a small basket… (Or drink more coffee – it’s 5am and I have to get ready for work!)

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  3. We don’t have much of a system yet, but then our kiddo is only 9 months old. Currently he has one basket of toys downstairs that we refill for him to dump throughout the day. We use the stair method for ourselves. When we’re cleaning up the downstairs we pile stuff at the bottom of the stairs that needs to go up and then with every trip up the stairs we grab something and put it away. Admittedly my wife is MUCH better at this than I am.

    We’re trying hard to find a permanent place for toys in our living room so it looks like grown ups live there but Felix still has easy access to his downstairs toys. I assume this will be a never ending battle….

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