what’s working :: our one-at-a-time shelf

by eringoodman on January 19, 2009

in at home, nurturing creativity, what's working!

Shortly after Christmas I noticed that I was feeling irritable and uncomfortable in our house. As much as I love the holidays, the influx of new “stuff” often overwhelms me.

We did a good deal of purging before the holidays, and our (wonderful!!!) extended families continue to be extremely considerate of our desire to keep toys simple, battery-free, and at a comfortable level for our small-ish house. 

And yet I still found myself feeling irritated and overwhelmed in the days after Christmas as we all recovered from various illnesses, and spent lots of time at home together (during multiple snowstorms) stepping over – and on – various little pieces and parts.

And I went through waves of feeling guilty for having annoyed feelings when we are so blessed with abundance.

But the truth, for me, and I believe many others, is that I am affected physically, energetically, and emotionally by the “stuff” around me. And when my space is cluttered, I feel uncomfortable, and irritable, and just generally unsettled.

So it is a huge feeling of relief for me when the Christmas items get tucked back into their plastic storage tubs, the tree is moved out onto the deck (where we can still enjoy its lights), and the presents are happily sorted and tucked into new homes.

This year, Lily, who is four-and-a-half, received quite a few presents with lots-o-little-pieces, which are just perfect for her developmental level and interests, but very challenging to manage — especially in a house shared with a two-and-a-half-year old. 

We needed to figure out a way for her to store and enjoy her multi-piece treasures without her little brother making off with important pieces (like the teeny, tiny bone she joyfully feeds to her dogs from this Playmobil set).

And so I decided to expand on the theme of our Rainy Day Closet, and create a special collection of everyday toys, games and puzzles that are enjoyed consciously, gently and one-at-a-time.

Our one-at-a-time shelf is tucked out of our main living space, at the end of a short hall that leads to our basement (which is slowly but steadily being de-cluttered and organized to create additional living space).

Both of the kids understand the one-at-a-time-shelf rules, and Lily loves to proudly explain them to any guests who visit.

And I love how our one-at-time shelf helps us to keep special toys, puzzles and games accessible and in usable condition so we can really appreciate and enjoy them!

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Devon January 20, 2009 at 10:11 am

That. Is. BRILLIANT! I love it!


Leanne January 21, 2009 at 5:38 am

Can you come and organise my house please?

I know how you feel, I get a little ‘distracted’ after Christmas too.


Lindsay January 21, 2009 at 8:29 am

What a great idea! I used to work at a preschool, I know what a pain in the butt it is to sort all those “one at a time” games when it doesn’t happen one at a time!


Kristin January 21, 2009 at 8:45 am

I think my household, without any children, could really benefit from the “one-at-a-time” shelf. We could extend that to the book shelf, too!

Have a Great Day!
Kristin (The Goat)


Blue Castle January 21, 2009 at 8:59 am

This is a fantastic idea! I’m going to try this with my kids. It’s amazing how many toys get taken out all at the same time. Drives me nuts. :)


suzannah January 21, 2009 at 12:17 pm

wonderful idea!


Rachel January 21, 2009 at 12:24 pm

This is a great idea!! Thanks for sharing!


mom2fur January 21, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I think when you have order outside of yourself, your have spiritual order, too. I’m not the neatest person on earth, but I don’t like being surrounded by too much ‘stuff.’ As I get older (I’ll be 53 on Sunday), I find I’m happier with so much less. My mom used to refer to extra stuff as dust collectors…now I know what she meant, LOL!
Your shelf idea is smart, because I think kids need that sense of spiritual order, too!


It Feels Like Chaos January 22, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Great suggestion! I have been trying to enforce the only get one toy out at a time per child and now our playroom stays so much cleaner!


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