You know the kind of moment I mean, the kind of moment when you know that something simply has to change RIGHT NOW or else you are going to go completely crazy.
I had one of those moments today.
My eldest boy (4.5 years old) has this terrible habit of needing to use the toilet right in the middle of every mealtime. Now, to some extent he can’t help this. He starts to eat, and he needs a poo. Fair enough.
But the thing that is annoying is that he also forgets he needs a wee until he is at the table and then it suddenly becomes urgent. He won’t interrupt playing to use the bathroom, but finds it perfectly acceptable to eat half of his sandwiches while jiggling around so much he almost falls off his chair before heading up for an emergency wee in the middle of lunch.
On the table now, there is a note I’ve written to myself:
Use toilet before eating.
Today I glanced at the paper just as Boy1 took the first bite of his sandwich.
I asked him to pop upstairs for a wee before we had lunch.
After a few minutes he hadn’t reappeared, and I knew exactly what had happened. Again.
Is everything OK? I yell up the stairs.
I’m just getting some clean pants!
My heart sinks.
He comes downstairs with clean pants on (backwards), so I ask if he spilt wee on his old ones. He nods.
I leave both boys eating their lunch and go upstairs.
The bathroom floor is awash with urine. Hours and hours of saved up urine, all released in one massive puddle, splashed everywhere, about a foot away from the toilet. Wet pants and trousers are in a pile on the floor next to it.
With Boy1, it’s not that he can’t use the toilet, it’s that he waits until he is at bursting point before he decides to go, and then he can’t quite control the final landing.
This has been happening more and more often over the last couple of weeks and it’s just horrible to clear up.
I stand there and I unexpectedly burst into tears.
Suddenly it is all too much.
And as if to compound the problem, just to really cement the heart of the issue into my mind, I hear excited chatter from the table downstairs. I return to find that both boys are pulling items out of my sewing kit with their sticky, lunch-covered hands, and playing with the easter chicks I’d left on the table for decorating easter bonnets (yeah, even boys have to do the easter bonnet parade). The neat pile of rubbish I’d left on the table from this morning’s crafts is all over the floor. Along with crumbs and grated cheese and god knows what else. Not only do I permanently have a million housework jobs on my to-do list, but now I have to add Clean Up Wee, Wipe Sewing Stuff, Pick Up Floor Rubbish, and Find (Non-Existent) Safe Place To Tidy Away Easter Bonnet Stuff.
And that is just in two minutes – you can imagine what a day at home is like. Or maybe you can’t. Maybe my children are just tornados in disguise and everyone else has children than can actually sit still and play for more than 5 minutes without without making a mess or breaking something.
Every day my list grows exponentially and I am losing ground. Getting further from the top.
Clearing up is impossible in this house with two small boys causing devastation behind me faster than I can restore order and cleanliness.
But that’s not the real problem.
(I can tell I’m losing you now, because this post is supposed to be about toys, and so far it’s been all about toilet habits, but bear with me.)
The real problem is the toys.
The toys have taken over this house.
They are in every room, on every surface, under every piece of furniture and on every shelf.
I have decluttered and minimalised and at the end of the day I still live in total chaos because there are more toys in this house than all the other things put together.
And right then, today, I realised that most of them have got to go.
Wait! I hear you cry. How did I get from the bathroom disaster to the toy problem?
Well, when I saw the mess on the bathroom floor, I knew it wasn’t really that isolated job that was the problem. It was the fact that I can’t keep up with normal household chores because there are always so many toys everywhere that suck up all my energy and require tidying away constantly. And that having to deal with an accident like today’s just sets me back even further. The wee on the floor meant the knock on effect of a) the lunch-covered sewing set downstairs, and b) lost time that I could have been doing some other useful job – like, er, putting toys away.
Every mess that I have to deal with means “normal” chores (cleaning the sink, washing the floors, putting away clean clothes) get relegated to the back of the list.
Every day almost all of my effort and energy goes into trying to stem the tidal wave of toys from washing us all away.
And before you say it, of course I have tried to get the boys to tidy up with me. Boy2 is willing to throw things in boxes under supervision. Boy1 would rather lay on the floor staring at the ceiling than tidy up and no amount of cajoling will get him to do otherwise.
While I tidy, they tip out toyboxes. While I match up puzzles, they carry lego to far corners of the house. While I pick things up off the floor, they take down coats and bags for adventure games (which eventually get left in odd places, like our bed, or in the garden).
The only successful way to tidy up is when they are in bed, which is what we mainly do. But who wants to spend every evening boxing, packing, sorting and tidying away the equivalent of a small toy store? EVERY evening?!
And my house is falling into a state of filth and disrepair simply because I spend most of my tidying up time picking up after the boys. Not to mention the difficulty in cleaning or tidying anything else because of the sheer amount of toys covering everything.
They just have too much.
I’ve tried to tackle toys before and talked about my difficulty in getting rid of them.
In some ways, I am more attached to their toys than they are. They have things I would have loved when I was a child, and part of me finds it really hard to take that away.
But am I really supporting their learning and their imagination by letting them live in a house where there is so much that each item just gets taken out of it’s box, played with for 4 minutes and then thrown on the floor before moving to the next thing?
There are still boxed up toys in the loft from my previous attempt at reducing them (which basically failed).
We need space to breathe and it isn’t right that the toys in this house own every room.
So there you have it. Today’s defining moment.
The toys have (mostly) got to go.