Hurricane season is quieter than normal, and I know the reason why.
All the power in the Atlantic Ocean and the heavens above have been unleashed in my living room: Hurricane Maiden is hard at work. She simply can’t exist without leaving a wide swath of destruction behind her.
We joke that we sent her to a Montessori school to to make her learn to clean up after herself. So far, although she puts away her activities at school without a fuss, we’ve had little luck here.
Oh, we try. We try asking politely, we try reasoned explanations, we try hyper-organization, everything. “I caaaaaaan’t,” she whines. “I don’t know how.” She picks up one lego piece and lets it idly drop from her limp fingers. “I need heeeeeeeelp.” “Oh, please. You are healthy, robust, and just spent the last ten minutes running around the house, shouting nonstop, and scattering toys to the four winds. You’re hardly dying of consumption. Now you just pick up those legos and put them in that basket right now, and if it’s not done by the time the timer rings I’m telling you, I’m going to take out the vacuum and start vacuuming the living room, and if the legos are not off the floor they are going to get sucked up, and it won’t be my fault, I’m warning you.” Like I said, we try.
Last week she came home with a parent note recommending that parents do their best to imitate some basic Montessori principles in their own homes. One example was order: toys should be organized, rather than thrown in a toybox. Well, I agreed with that, to some extent. We did the toybox thing back in 2008– it was a disaster, since, of course, the Maiden only ever wanted the toys that were underneath all the other toys.
But the organizing thing hadn’t been all that successful, either, honestly. I looked around at the living room, which currently was strewn with the mixed pieces of four different puzzles, all lovingly extracted from the puzzle basket. The food from the play food bin was scattered across the hall. And the princess crowns from the tiara box were everywhere except on the Maiden’s head.
I resisted the urge to sweep the school’s letter, and the toys, into the trash and blame it on a ghost.
“The number of toys should be limited to a few at a time and rotated,” I read further. “No one can choose from too many things.” Well, they definitely had a point. The Maiden has an obscene number of toys. But as I wandered through her playroom looking at the mini-Toys-R-Us, I couldn’t figure out how to work it. She plays with most of these toys on a daily basis, and not being able to access her Mr. Potato Head parts, for example, would feel like a punishment to her.
Then it hit me.
The problem for the Maiden wasn’t necessarily the variety of toys, it was the number of actual items in each group. The Mr. Potato Head bin is overflowing with four bodies and more accessories than a Hollywood fashionista. What if we removed half of the parts and switched them out every week? She’d still be able to play Mr. Potato Head, but she wouldn’t have to rummage through (or dump) quite so many pieces. Cleanup would be less daunting, since there’d be fewer items on the floor. Who knows, she might even play more neatly, or at least be inclined to pick after herself with less of a fuss!
I gave it some thought over the weekend, and decided it was definitely worth a try: I plan to start sorting toys sometime this week. If it’s successful, I’ll post an update. If it’s unsuccessful, I’ll cry, and then post. In the meantime, here’s to a cleaner, neater house!