Three of our four grandchildren have been visiting for the past two weeks. They are six months, two and a half, and almost five. Needless to say, it's been lively. When they are here, the house fairly pulses with energy. Now that they are gone, it feels empty and deflated. It also looks a little like a whirlwind came through.
As a young mother of four, I often found myself feeling overwhelmed by the constant struggle to maintain order. As a grandmother, I find myself joyfully embracing the chaos. The fact that there are toys strewn about and things out of place on all three floors of the house and in practically every room is a source of amusement and cheer. It serves as a reminder that little people are about curiously engaging with and exploring their environment. I'm glad to be able to provide a stimulating space that sparks their imagination.
As an organizer my natural tendency is to get rid of things that no longer serve a purpose in my life, but my husband and I intentionally made one significant exception to this rule. We saved many of our children's toys. We made this decision with our future grandchildren in mind. It meant moving and storing stuff that no one was really using for about ten years, but it was so worth the effort and space.
Now that we have grandchildren, the investment is paying off. When the littles come to visit, they have a blast discovering new things to play with. They refer to the bedroom where they sleep and where the toys are kept as their room, and they love it. Every morning when they wake up, they fill their hands with a selection of toys and wander downstairs to greet the day. They are never bored.
When we purchased our home it had a roughly finished space above the garage which could only be accessed by ducking through a small door at the back of our son's walk-in closet. In our minds, it was always destined to be the playroom, so we dubbed it Narnia. Several years ago we remodeled the second floor, turning the closet into a hallway and reading nook and making Narnia a legitimate bedroom. It's certainly non-traditional, but it's also a really fun space.
An interesting side effect of having a playroom full of toys is that I really don't have to childproof my home. The kiddos are so busy playing with the toys, they rarely get sidetracked by things we wouldn't want them to touch. Although occasionally they do stake a claim to a non-toy item, typically using it in some other way than what it was intended for.
On this particular visit, it was a candle holder shaped like a bird cage. My oldest granddaughter quickly surmised that it was the perfect spot for a little bird puppet to dwell and carried it about with her wherever she went in the house for the first several days she was here. Before long, she was using it to hold all her favorite toys, no doubt in a vain attempt to keep them out of her brother's reach.
For me the lesson in all of this is that sometimes there are legitimate exceptions to the rule. Stuff should serve a purpose in your life. If it doesn't it's clutter, and as such it becomes a burden. If, however, it brings you and others joy, it's worth the space and effort involved in its storage and upkeep. The key is understanding why you're holding onto things and being honest with yourself about the role they play in your life. Are you getting a return on your investment, or is your stuff controlling you?
I recognize that not everyone will understand my choice to go against my inner organizer instincts in this instance. I also realize that not everyone will be in a position to save a whole roomful of toys for their future grandchildren. Most people wouldn't even consider doing such a thing. But for us it has worked out wonderfully, and I am glad we lugged the storage containers full of toys around for a number of years and grateful we had the space to store them.
Watching my grandchildren play has helped me appreciate that all the world can be filled with wonder and that joy can be found in the simplest things. I have also been reminded that old things can serve interesting and surprising new purposes. Most of all, though, I have come to understand that even those of us who love and crave order can benefit from a little chaos every now and then.