Linda’s blog: New year resolutions
So, we’ve got through January. I am one of those people who actually likes the reflection and resolutions that the first month of the year brings. After December’s hectic combination of school performances and work Christmas parties, it’s a relief that the diary is clear and there are fewer pressures on the work/school juggle.
Having said that, my resolution to use the month to get our house in order hasn’t quite (or at all) been pulled off. The back of our sitting room which houses the majority of the children’s toys is my major bug bear and something I was determined to tackle. Naturally the children’s idea of tidying up is to shove things in a pile or stuff them randomly into bags or boxes. It doesn’t matter how many times I re-organise the storage unit so everything has its own home, they mix everything up and fail to see that it would be easier to find things if they were always stored in the same place!
Every time I look over at that end of the room I shudder. With the influx of a few new toys at Christmas (mercifully few thanks to a small family and people who give experiences instead of things), the need to have a sort out has become more urgent. I promise myself each weekend that I will go through everything and sort it out but in the meantime the children play and I want to maximise the time they can do that. What with daily wrap around care at school, they have little opportunity to play in the house during the week and for so long as the toys remain largely contained in “their” half of the room, I can kind of ignore the mess.
When the children were really young it was easy: there was less stuff and it could easily be gathered up into the relevant cupboard or basket. When people gave presents that were too big/noisy/plastic, they were tactically put away and taken to the charity shop. Now it’s harder: the toys are bigger, many don't fit in the storage unit and they have more of them. Whilst the children are (generally) reasonably happy to engage in a sort out, there are inevitably two outcomes. Either they re-discover something they declare they absolutely love and can’t possibly give away (cue child walking off to immediately play with said item) or they do admit the toy is too young for them, happily put it in a bag but then have a complete melt down when it comes to the actual handover. Doing it without them isn't possible, not just because they need to have some responsibility for tidying up but also because their idea of what is valuable (small toy included in party bag received 6 months ago), is somewhat different to mine!
So what to do? As we both work full time, we try to fill the weekends with family activities and don’t prioritise the sort out. I feel guilty if I spend too much time tidying/sorting when the children are awake and have no interest in doing it when they're asleep - it's not my idea of quality time with my husband!
After several weeks of reflection I have promised myself that we will do the sort out this weekend and will shamelessly motivate the children by telling them we'll do something they love afterwards. I have also reminded myself to be grateful: the days when they want to push chairs around the kitchen pretending they're buggies; create a den from the sofa or sit on a mountain of cushions surrounded by soft toys because they're on a journey, will not last forever. Before I know it, the hormones will kick in and they'll spend the whole time in their room, rather than downstairs. Also, whilst I might occasionally hanker after our minimalist home from life before children, I know we took no joy in it because we were struggling to conceive. And finally, the time for a neatly ordered house with everything in its place will come again when they leave home. I am sure that at that point I’ll be sad about my tidy but empty nest and wistful for the simple joy young children bring.
Linda is a lawyer who has two children aged 4 and 7. She and her husband work full time and juggle the school run and everything else between them.