Life is messy. Having children is messy…literally and figuratively. For me, maintaining an organized space helps with the chaos of life. Those who know me, know that I am obsessed with The Container Store. Honestly, nothing makes me happier than putting things back in their place, and knowing that everything has a specific place to go. Funny enough, this past Monday (the second Monday in January) was National Clean Off Your Desk Day. Ok, so I’m not really talking about cleaning off your desk, but cleaning your child’s play area is basically their desk, so I’m going to go with it.

Raising children is wonderful…and frustrating, and hard, and exhausting, and yes, messy. Children, especially toddlers, are like tornadoes – they take everything out of its container and leave the room looking like the toy box exploded. And if not addressed, it only gets worse. I have vivid memories of one childhood friend that would help me make a complete and utter mess and then leave the moment her parents came to get her. And not once did her parents say, “Have you helped Lisa clean up? No? Well go help her.” They just swooped her up and away she went. And I was left to clean it all. Honestly, this is something that occurred over 30 years ago and I can still remember it. Think it had an impact?

As a therapist I have always maintained that cleaning up is an essential part of therapy. Not only does it work on fine motor, gross motor, visual motor, etc., but it teaches a child that it is respectful to leave a space the way you found it. It’s not my job to clean up after a child, rather it’s our job together to clean up after an activity. If a child is an active participant in the activity, then they should be an active participant in cleaning up. The same goes for my own child. Yes there are nights when it looks like the toddler tornado has once again rummaged through our living room, but more times than not I am sitting on the living room floor with my daughter singing the Clean Up song. And at 18-months she knows that when the Clean Up song starts, she should pick up something and put it back in the basket/bucket/container. I’m not asking her to clean up the entire mess, but she is learning that when it’s time to clean up, things need to go back into their place.

Look, I don’t want you to feel like you need specific containers for each individual toy and that everything needs to be color coordinated and labeled. Think about it…how many times have you stepped on that random plastic toy? Just having 1 designated toy container in each room can be extremely helpful. At the end of playtime, everything goes back. And be honest, who doesn’t love the Clean Up song?