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It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but December's also a time when home organization can go downhill fast. Even the most orderly homes can be left in utter disarray come January.
Amidst the bustle of Christmas shopping and prepping for holiday get togethers, there's far less time for home up keep. It's not even December and our home's beginning to look a lot like a hot mess!
Then, before you can say 'bah humbug,' holiday decor gets added to the mix, gift exchanges begin and more stuff gets piled into your home. If you have kids, I'm willing to bet that the week between Christmas and New Year's is peak disaster in your home!
If you haven't already, check out these posts on simple, clutter-free holiday decor and our minimalist-friendly holiday home tour:
One of the best ways to keep on top of clutter is to control what comes in.
Consider a Secret Santa gift exchange for large, family get togethers. This saves time/money and significantly reduces the amount of useless, unwanted crap that you take home!
My extended family's been doing this for the last few years and it's been working well. We even go so far as to prepare wish lists for our prospective Secret Santas to eliminate any possibility of receiving something unwanted. You might argue that this sucks the fun out of things; if you're the type of person who enjoys receiving tchotchkes and sweaters that don't fit from your great aunt Rita, then carry on!
Another tip for keeping clutter at bay is to make a rule that only children receive gifts. This is actually my preference, but can't get the rest of my extended family to agree to no adult gifts!
In this week's post, I'll share some Christmas gift ideas for kids that won't add too much clutter to your home. Feel free to share this post with friends and grandparents who could use a hint!
1. An Experience Gift
This is the gold standard of clutter-free gifts. Bonus if the gift involves the giver taking your kids off your hands for the day to share in the experience!
Tickets to a live show (i.e. Disney on Ice, monster trucks)
Science centre membership
Indoor playground membership
2. Money for Education
This is every parent's dream gift, hint hint.
Unfortunately, money for education is often overlooked at the holidays. Understandably, grandparents want to see that look of delight on their grandkids' faces as they rabidly tear open that new gizmo. I don't know about you, but my four year old doesn't have the foresight to appreciate a gift that won't come into fruition for fourteen years. Mom and dad sure do, though!
A happy medium might be to affix the cash or cheque to a small, inexpensive toy or treat.
3. Books Instead of Toys
If you read bedtime stories to your kiddos every night, the same books get old pretty quickly. Parents are always grateful for new material.
Also, books take up far less space and are more easily stored than toys. So, they're a win as far as home organization goes!
4. Multifunctional Toys
Okay, some kids only appreciate toy gifts. I get that. My son's at the stage where he'll open a package containing clothes and stare at it with that 'wtf is this?' face.
If you're going to go the toy route, the more functions a particular toy has, the more entertainment value your little one will get for the amount of space it occupies.
These multifunctional activity centres are great for babies and toddlers. Each cube has a different activity on each side; for the price and physical space of one toy, you're getting five different activities.
Hape Activity Cube ($98.90, Amazon.com). This was my son's favourite and it served him well between the six months to two years range.
Tablet-Based, Multi-Game Kits
Now that he's a little older, it's been hard to keep my son away from our phones and tablets. Might as well use this preoccupation with technology for good and keep it educational! After much research, we put the Osmo on my son's wish list for family members this year. While it incorporates your tablet (there are iPad and Fire Tablet compatible versions), the actual activities occur outside of the screen in real life (imagine that!).
The set Owen has includes five games that can be adapted to kids ages 5 to 12, and incorporates puzzles, spelling, math and art. It's also on my list of clutter-free activities for kids.
Osmo Genius Kit for iPad ($69.99, Amazon.com). Also comes in a Fire Tablet compatible version.
5. Toys With Built-In Storage
The golden rule of gift giving: don't buy something for someone else that you wouldn't want in your own home. I'm looking at you, noisy toys that play repetitive songs and toys with 1000 pieces.
Here are some suggestions for anti-clutter toys with their own storage solutions.
A Toy Kitchen
Not only do these serve as storage for toy food and cookware, but they make handy storage for all manner of kid's toys. My son's not big into play cooking, but his Hape toy kitchen remains a useful fixture in his room to store all sorts little toy cars and action figures. I'm also a fan of it's simple design. In general, Hape makes great-looking, minimalist-friendly wooden toys for kids.
When he was younger, we kept this in our kitchen and he pretended to cook alongside us.
Hape Toy Kitchen ($106.89, Amazon.com).
A LEGO Suitcase
How can something that contains over 200 Lego pieces be a suggestion for minimizing clutter, you ask? Well, this set comes with its own storage solution, a portable carrying case.
This is a useful and compact way to store and transport LEGOs. I suggest using this kit not in the home, but as a permanent fixture in the car for entertainment on long car rides and at restaurants while waiting for the food to arrive. Another bonus: the internal compartments allow kids to learn how to sort and organize lego pieces as well as providing them with a place to store their creations.
LEGO Suitcase Building Kit - 213 Pieces ($28.74, Amazon.com).
6. Toys that Promote Cleaning and Organization
These are my favourite types of toys. Not only do they instill an appreciation for cleaning up, but this sort of pretend play can actually result in a tidier home!
Melissa & Doug 6 Piece Cleaning Set ($20.99, Amazon.com).
Dyson Toy Vacuum With Real Suction ($29.99, Amazon.com).
My son loved playing with his toy vacuum, but eventually got frustrated by it's inability to generate heavy-duty suction.
He ended up shifting his attention to our cordless hand vac. Yes, we let him play with real appliances when supervised.
If you've read my post on quick tidy up tricks for when company's coming, you'll know that Owen makes a game of using our dustbuster to chip in when company’s coming by spot cleaning debris and dust bunnies.
Black+Decker Dustbuster Cordless Hand Vacuum ($24.99, Amazon.com).
He’s probably spent more time 'playing' with this thing than his toy vacuum. This may sound a little wacky, but if your kid’s old enough to use a hand vac safely, skip the toy vacuum entirely and go straight to a hand vac. It'll double as as useful appliance for quick clean ups!
He's since graduated to this light-weight Dirt Devil vacuum. It's incredibly light (just over three pounds), easy for small hands to handle and converts into a hand vac. For my son, part of the fun is taking it apart and putting it back together again.
It's no Dyson, but it gets the job done for small messes and costs under $30!
Dirt Devil Bagless 3-In-1 Hand and Stick Vacuum Cleaner ($24.99, Amazon.com).
7. A Time Capsule
Lastly, this gift will occupy your kids without adding any clutter to your home and may actually take things out of your home for posterity! I plan to get something like this for Owen, once he's old enough to write a letter to his future self.
Unbored Time Capsule ($29.95, Amazon.com).
Peaceable Kingdom Time Capsule ($14.95, Amazon.com).
Stainless Steel, Corrosion-Proof Time Capsule Container ($29.95, Amazon.com). If you're thinking much further in the future, this time capsule container is made to survive buried in the ground for up to 200 years! Your kids could come back and retrieve their capsules as seniors to share with their kids and grand kids!