Rethinking Clutter to Handle the Stress of Kid’s Mess with Tara Stewart

Feb 20, 2023

Show Notes (see transcript below)

Parenting, mess and children  all seem to go together and sometimes the combination is fueling our stress.

Today I'm joined by Tara Stewart to tackle a conversation about:

1) What defines clutter?

2) One of the most common topics we are asked about when it comes to children and toy organization is...what to do about stuffies?

3) Playroom organization tips and tools.

A little bit about Tara Stewart:

Tara is a professional home organizer and educator who helps families declutter without feeling overwhelmed and, without the side of guilt that comes with letting go of items you don't want.

Her passion is showing affordable, practical and functional organizing solutions that are easy for everyone in your family to maintain. She knows organizing is not "one size fits all" and how you organize your space and what you consider "clutter" should be as unique as you are.

If you loved this conversation and want to dig into another layer about crafts and LEGOS, be sure to check out Facebook Live HERE

For more information about the BRTK bundle click HERE

For all things related to the Raising Resilient Children with Tara Podcast click here! You can submit comments or ask questions that I might select for my monthly Q&A episode.


Note: The transcript below may not be exactly the same as the podcast because it has not been edited for accuracy


Tara Gratto, Tara Stewart


Tara Gratto  00:00

Today I'm talking to Tara Stewart. She is a professional declutter and educator. And I love the things she has to say. And I'm really excited to share this episode with you today. Hello, and welcome. I'm Tara, the founder of raising resilient children. As a longtime educator, former preschool owner and parent, I have been working with caring adults and children for over 20 years. In that time, I've been asked a lot of questions and provided a lot of support and feedback. Through this, I built a system for navigating the hard and messy parts of parenting with clear paths that will support you and your unique family's needs. My expertise is in social emotional well being and I'm a big fan of using picture books. I even wrote one to support teaching children about emotional regulation called The Adventures of teen brain. I know there is no cookie cutter approach to parenting, and the information can be overwhelming. Let's tackle some of this, we're having some important conversations and digging into some different topics. Today, I am super excited, I have a special guest. Now I have been working with Tara, the last two weeks. So you might notice that we've got a bit of a thing going because we discovered, I'm gonna tell you, I was not expecting this, because I was following her on Instagram. And she's part of a group that I belong to. And one of the things I noticed is that her messaging was similar to the idea of like, you can't define everything a certain way. When you're a parent, you have to approach things, you know, differently and uniquely. And so when we started talking, we realized that what we do actually complements each other so well. And it's funny because I talk a lot about play and independent play. And one of the things I'm always telling parents is you need to get rid of some stuff, right? Because we live in a consumers world where everybody's telling us to get new toys, this and that, and crafts and all the things. And one of the things that people say to me all the time is, I can't get my kids to play by themselves. I can't get my kids to like we have all these great things that I've invested all this money in. So it's funny because I never would have thought how important this sort of conversation and connection would be. So today I'm talking to Tara Stewart. She is a professional declutter and educator. And I love the things she has to say. And I'm really excited to share this episode with you today. So welcome, Tara, how are you today?


Tara Stewart  02:24

Hello, I am fantastic. How are you doing?


Tara Gratto  02:27

I'm good. It snowed last night. It is. Alright, we're gonna jump right in. Because you and I are doing a bunch of stuff. We're gonna be on Instagram together. We're gonna be on Facebook, so you can find us and a whole bunch of different ways over the next couple of months. But


Tara Stewart  02:46

yeah, absolutely. It's gonna be awesome.


Tara Gratto  02:49

But I did want to have this conversation on my podcast cuz I have different audiences in different spaces. So one of the things that so so so resonates about what you do and sort of really stands out to me is that you don't define clutter. The same way as other organizers that I've seen, or even other mantras. I mean, we all share the like, here's the perfectly folded drawer. And here's what the countertop should exactly look like, right? And that's not how you define clutter. And I think it really sort of like struck me as a really big aha moment. So how do you define clutter? And why do you define it that way?


Tara Stewart  03:25

Well, personally, I even learned this the hard way working with clients write what I might think is clutter to me isn't to them, say and vice versa. For example, I have a lot of books, I love my books, we're readers, we have a lot of books to most people, they look at that. And that's clutter to them. But to me, it's wonderful. But for example, I had done a little video about don't buy the souvenir cup at the sporting event at the thing because that's clutter. Well, when you know, people came at me going, that's my favorite thing. We only drink out of the souvenir cups. We don't own glass, because we have small kids. And it was like, Oh my goodness. Right, right. And I just did to them what they did to me. So it was very eye opening. And I think not enough of a say we're all different people. We all have different things that are important to us. We have different ways of living like I have no problem with my toaster on the counter, it's fine with every day, some people will tell you it needs to be completely clean. So I think we have to show ourselves grace and remember that we all have different levels of what is fine, and then be okay with that and say no, like, own it. This is this to me bothers me. This to me doesn't and I'm not you.


Tara Gratto  04:39

Right. I think that's amazing. I mean, I'm not gonna lie. There's like a memory of a very famous, really cool, but like super minimalist organizer, and she's like, You shouldn't have more than 30 bucks. And I'm like, I love the meme. I love the MANET that's like, on your nightstand. Right, right. Yeah.


Tara Stewart  04:57

And those are just the one of them getting ready to read this


Tara Gratto  05:02

Yeah, yeah, but it is so true because you like you sort of look and like millions of copies of the book sold, you know, award winning documentaries, minimalist lifestyle, and you're like, oh, like, it's, it's so unattainable, but it was like, so far


Tara Stewart  05:17

one direction, right. And I feel like I have


Tara Gratto  05:20

weren't terrible about balance in our society, really ever probably



far one direction. So for a lot of my clients, like you said, decluttering is our passion. And then what remains, we are good about organizing in a functional way. So you can maintain it decluttering has to come first. So if you've read sedbuk, and you're like, Oh, I'm only allowed to own, you know, four pairs of underwear? I do. That's not a new Oh, 862. It's right. It doesn't feel attainable. So I want this to know for sure. Bite Size steps, and your comfort level. And that's


Tara Gratto  05:54

something like, I talk a lot about why, like, why do we own 100 things? Like, why is that a saint? Why is that happening? How is that happening? Because there's a lot of consumerism and capitalism underlying what you're doing, and you're not aware of it. And you're not aware of how you're avoiding some emotional, you know, challenges like your kids boredom, or whatever. So, that's one of the things we're gonna be exploring more, but like, don't feel like if you're one of those people, it's like, you suddenly have a bunch of stuff, there's actually, like, it's not entirely your fault, either, like you are living in a world that tells you that giving gifts is, you know, you have to give a physical thing to show love, right? We got grandparents and all those things that those things. So once you have this idea of like, no two kinds of clutter are the same, right? What's one thing you tell people to get started to help them define their clutter? Like, what is something you? I mean, I just did your boot camp? And for me, I was like, oh, yeah, these are the things that are and it's funny, because again, even within my own house, right, my the four of us who lived together have completely different even concepts of our own mess, right? Like, I have, like the piles of books on my desk that need to be there, because they remind me to do certain things. But if I had that same pile on the kitchen counter, I'm like, right, where my husband comes in, and he's the one that's like, the counters should be perfectly clean. And that's the kitchen stuff, right? Yeah, exactly. So how do you help people? What's one step? Let's get people that are listening. So one thing they can do to help them define their difference between clutter and functional stuff? Well, first of



all, it usually depends on the visceral reaction you have to things right. So for example, I might be talking through someone and I'm working, let's say in their bathroom, and I'm like, wow, like, you must really like makeup. And they're like, oh my god, I love makeup. It's my hobby. I buy all the makeup. And if I was like, Oh, well, maybe we should look at maybe doing purging. They will like physically like the Over my dead body, right? Conversations. And then I might be like, oh, did you realize you still have these pacifiers in here for you and your child's 13? Right. It's been? Yeah, let's just clean out that cabinet. It's the ones that when you have a visceral, please don't take it, I will destroy it, it strikes a chord, okay, that's not your clutter. It's this if like shoes are your jam, and they, they you love, you wear them, and you enjoy them. And that's your jam, that's not clutter. You're like, Oh, my lifestyle has changed. We used to have a lot of people over we had all this Glassware, it was really fancy. We don't do that anymore. I don't really want that you'll know, like, you'll know, like, oh, that door isn't a big deal. That kind of sort of big deal. The bootcamp you're referring to, we always start with the drop zone, which would be anything where your stuff lands, like the I need to go through or the shoes, the keys, the wallet, because more of that is about habit change throughout the day. And even like the other day, we talked about mail, right? So you might have piles and piles and bags of mail that you need to tackle and it's filling me with anxiety, right? Like a minute. And let's just change your routine today when you grab the mail, so you can festival today with today's mail, take a deep breath, and then we'll go back and we'll tackle that part that you're not through. But you're just trying to and again, we're we're overwhelmed, right? We're overwhelmed. We're tired. So just getting through, okay, today, let me just do the daily pick up the daily tidy up the 10 Minute with my family at the end of the day. And that's block time for the bigger projects, right? Like, you know, if you have small humans, maybe they go to bed early and you and your spouse at the end of the day spend 30 minutes together tidying up, right. If they're a little bit older, maybe you get them involved. Maybe we sing a song, like all those things. So that's and it's talking through and you can if you know I'm not sitting in your failure I'm talking this through you can do this even with a friend you can do this with your spouse with your kid. It's just the conversations to start making you think I don't even really use that. Why is this sitting here or I was going to like the lot to a lot of times in the drops and especially for parents of small All children is the toy where the batteries died. And you're like, Yeah, I'm gonna go get new batteries. But then you discover the batteries cost more than the toy did. I pull it off and put it off and put it off? Just it goes in the trash. Like, you know what I mean? Like little things like that when you can finally be like, you know, they have 800 other toys that they don't even know. I don't even know need this one. Yeah, some of the things we talk through typically.


Tara Gratto  10:21

Okay. So, I mean, that's I mean, that's, I'm guilty of that, right? This thing can be fixed. And that's my like, eco heart, right? Like, I know, real sustainable peace to me. And I think one of the things that you said, Yeah, I can't remember where maybe it's Instagram in our conversation. But one of the things you said that really resonated as like schedule it, which is interesting, because those of you who are listening a couple of weeks ago, I did a podcast about finding the time you didn't think you had and how I found my time. And what I did very recently, again, this was a very recent habit change. But that in conjunction with a conversation like this can be motivating enough, right, just as having this conversation. listeners can then be like, oh, right, like I finally tackled my water bottles. I saw you do a real about it. In I think it was early December. Yeah. Right. And I joined the bootcamp, and I finally went to the water bottle. I was like, because I was I was doing the Drop Zone task I was, you know, why do I have all these things sitting here? And some of these things need a home, right? It's like, you know how to make the edge of your counter? Or at least I do. I just edited my counter. That was like things that needed a home, right? Yes. Find a home for them.



I don't have any space. I don't have enough space? Yes. Because your space is filled with stuff you don't use.


Tara Gratto  11:33

Exactly. So that's what that's what the conversation got me doing was it actually got me to remove some water bottles to make space for the things that are being used regularly. Right. So it's just that sort of making that connection. But I think really resonating is this idea that like, no two clusters are the same. And so make space for the things that are working for your family. And, and get rid of the things that that aren't right. There's some emotional stuff there that's really doing that we're going to be doing together, right, dig into that we are going to dig into that we're gonna get there, especially about the relationships around like consumerism, and why why do we have 10,000 water bottles? Like what's happening there? Right, right. We think we're doing better for the planet. But we're gonna have all the stuff that's in the cupboard. Yes. Really? We're not actually. Right. Right. So it's an interesting, you know, process there. All right. So one of the things that I also sort of what I my goal of my podcast is actionable tools. That's Yes. What I try to do, in my conversations, especially with experts is like, here's this takeaway thing. So let's talk kids, my audience have kids in between daycare little, and preteen teen, I have a few. Um, but as I said to you, and we've talked many times, in different spaces about the idea that like, a lot of people come to me, extremely overwhelmed of the clutter of of mess and the relationship of their play rooms, and trying to find time, right. So on my side, I do a lot of work with parents trying to foster independent play, trying to get away from using screens so much, right, trying to make some space for social emotional tools like craft supplies. Yeah, craft supplies make a great social emotional tool. There's lots of awesome things in my program. I show parents how to use craft supplies to do different things. Now, I also know a lot of parents are like that craft supplies are not usable, not functional. Like it requires me to be there. I have to always be there. Yeah. What's so? So tell me, what have you figured it out? I know you go into lots of playgrounds, you work with tons of families. I everybody has some form of craft supply. Oh, absolutely.



I always say it's not gender exclusive. I feel like crap. I mean, I have three boys. Yeah, they're older now. I've got one turn 16. Well, by the time this is aired, probably I have a 13 and a 10 year old. So and I am a crafter. I love crafts. So I have a new we're big crafters when they were really little. So part of what I ran into and what I feel like the women that I help run into, no, I don't help them run into it, what we're running into. They do want to run away from it. They they do want the kids to craft and they bought Well, one they buy all the craft supplies, right? So they buy all the craft supplies. And they store and let's say they decided they saw on Pinterest. There's this great little craft station. It's in the back of the house. It's in a different room. But maybe that child wants to craft at the kitchen table, why their dinner and they want to be your mom. And so every time they pull all this stuff out and so it doesn't get put away and then it's all on the drop so we can't figure out why it's not going back to its right. So one of the things I work through and I think this would probably be helpful your fruit helpful for your listeners is figuring out where your child wants to craft that they enjoy and finding a location near that area. to store it for multiple reasons, and I will get back to Yes, you'll probably have to make some space. For most people. It's at the kitchen counter or kitchen island, because we don't want played on the carpet. We don't want to edit sand all over the house. So it's designated air. So let's pretend for you. It's the kitchen table. Right? So one pickle is I can't get it back to its home. Well, let's see if we can find a cabinets a low cabinet, right, the lower cabinets that we could store their favorite craft items that they are that are age appropriate that they can do by themselves. Now, if you're listening, and you're like, but I don't have a lower cabinet, you probably do back to Tara's example of the water bottles. I bet there's a lower cabinet. I could be wrong, but it might be filled with Tupperware, right? Tons and tons and tons and tons of Tupperware. And that's fine. Absolutely no judgment. But I bet you anything, you could pare down the amount of Tupperware even if you didn't do the whole cabinet. Even if you did the left side, right, you pare down the Tupperware to only where it needs just the right side for Tupperware and now you have the left side that your child can store their crafts, right. And you're gonna have one bent per type, and it's age appropriate crafts for them. Right, you've got a small human and they just had their fourth birthday, and they got a jewelry making kit. And you're like, oh, Megan, it's not right for them yet right


Tara Gratto  16:22

so that their fine motor skills are not developed. I'm just gonna jump in super quick here. Yeah. With a with a quick tip real quick, because I know one of the things that people are probably thinking right now is the No, I don't want it at the kitchen table. No, no, I already know. And here's what they need to share. Independent play does not mean isolated play. Oh, so a lot of parents will say to me, my child won't play independently. And when we have a little bit of a dig into that conversation, what they actually mean is my child won't play in the playground by themselves, my child won't go over to the craps table by themselves. Yes, that is 100%. Like common people, in general have a lot of different ages don't like to be by by themselves. So independent play doesn't mean your child has to be in another room. They could be and if they have an age appropriate care, which you make such a great point about at the kitchen table, they will probably play without bothering you. If you set up that relationship, there is some ground boundaries you gotta create. But they will actually probably play much longer in your presence without you having to be present in guiding directing all the things, they just don't want to be



in your sphere, they just want to be near you, especially if you've gotten ones that maybe have started kindergarten or first grade. Yeah, we've been gone from you all day, one of my children was like this, they don't want, they just want to be where you are. And they would play but for me personally, right, they would play but they just wanted to know you weren't close, and do whatever I was doing. And they could do what they were doing. But the other thing is having it and I understand that if if the goal is for your child to tidy up by themselves, easier, you can make it. So if it's more likely they'll do it three steps to the cabinet, they will do it. And the less you get out, like let's say kinetic sand, like you get out the kinetic sand, the the Kinetic Sand sits at the table, because it's easier to clean up with a vacuum real quick. And you put the kinetic sand on, it makes tidying up easier, versus let's pretend you had it far away. And they're like, oh my gosh, we gotta go. We've got you know, music lessons. And so it stays out. And then you come back and it's in the drop zone. So just be open. I think if we all could just be open to some different ideas, possibly instead of digging our heels into I want my child to be back there, you know, right? It's give and take and meeting in the middle that makes your fighting more functional.


Tara Gratto  18:49

Yeah. And I think you make such a great point there like my kinetic sand and my preschool was in a closable container. Yeah. And my role is actually the display on the floor because most kids like to stand and I don't know if this is a tip you want to share. But standing on a standard, you know, those like Rubbermaid bins. I never bought fancy stuff for that stuff. I mean, I did have some fancy things. If you read my word by preschool, you're like, wait a second draw. Yeah. I did in like, like large scale fancy stuff like, like play tables, right? In terms of like water. I never bought a water table, right ever bought a sand table. They were in Rubbermaid bins, and they were on the floor. And here's the cool thing, you stack too. And you actually have a standing table height, just as a little tip. But I mean, one of the things that's really important that you're you're making, sort of you have to have kids be able to do things themselves. And in the part of that as you help reinforce that, and how do you help reinforce that is by making it manageable, you know, if they if if you create systems that rely on you. Yeah, I work with up to 910 11 year old parents who are still relying on because that's the system that was created versus helping step by step by step. So I think that was that was such a great point. I think your other point that I want to tackle more is this idea of age appropriate. And I want to talk from the educator side, right? Absolutely. And the mom side have a guilty guilty guilty here of seeing the name number on the box. And being like, my kid can do it. Oh, yeah. My kid can't write Lego, we'll have another conversation about LEGO. But the idea that like, you know, you use the example of the four year old with the with the beating, this is not okay. So let's, let's put the caveat out there. Every child is different. But it is okay. It is okay. Okay. Okay. If your child can't be by themselves, when they're alone,



you cater and I have a hard time beating by myself. Five Year Old Woman.


Tara Gratto  20:56

So right, I just depends on your fine motor and stuff like that. Yeah, but just,



you know, even the, you don't have to open and keep every gift your child's given. Right? You can put some away, they I guarantee in this four year old example that we just made up this imaginary four year old girl received poor child therapy therapy. So she has received a lot of birthday gifts, let's say, yeah, and maybe her birthday is right after Christmas, right. So she's received a lot of toys, she probably doesn't even realize she got the beaded set. And if you don't want to give it away, because maybe grandma gave it and so you have some builder, which again for another topic, but maybe you just put it away for now. And that's only because she has plenty to play with. So again, you personally might not be ready to like re gift it or send it out the door. And that's okay. So that you need to figure out what you're comfortable with. But realize, maybe you are having to help. And again, you're the educated you would know more about this than me, but you're having help because it's something they can't do. Like they can't rate well,


Tara Gratto  21:59

that was going to be my sort of tip on your tip. And that is if you're having to help so in the example that they're sitting at the table J crafts and you're having to help them do it. Don't feel bad that you're like, and it is okay to say to kids, you know what, I think we're gonna put this away for a while and we're gonna focus on this, like, we're so afraid that kids are gonna think all these things if we we introduce or reintroduce when they're actually ready for them. And that's, it's okay. Kids should not have everything. Kids need to sit with some disappointment. Sometimes kids need to sit with patients it is we live in a world where patients is something we have to foster intentionally because phones go with us everywhere. Netflix doesn't make you have to wait till next week for the next show. Like there are so many places that society used to help us with our frustration tolerance, and all those things are gone. Right? Right. So we have kids who have very low frustration, thought tolerance, low patience tolerance. And that results in a lot of big feelings that parents can't handle. And that's what we actually have to look at, we'd be like, Oh, it's not the thing. It's actually the frustration tolerance. And I need to build my thresholds for that. That's like a different conversation. But the message I want to put out there is what is currently defined as age appropriate is usually too old for your child. And if you're finding yourself there, and you're getting exhausted, and you're trying to facilitate play, I'm giving you permission to put it away till later. There's nothing wrong, your child does not make your child less intelligent. There's all the things right, all the things that we're layering into worrying about, am I gonna be doing some other topics on this? How do we understand that what the trajectories look like, I'm gonna be talking to some other educators about this. But like in terms of like the clutter and like, you know, setting up play and crafts and things like that, do not stress if your child isn't ready for something, it is. Okay. Now, on the sort of topic of of now we have like, the understanding that we can set up some spaces and craft supplies and making them more functional. Right? Same thing for Lego right? You can do the same thing. Same idea, make sure it's at level my little like I used to have like a two cupboards one was the left side was like the things they could do at the table while they were waiting for dinner. And the right side was actually their their plates and stuff. Oh, yeah, it was at their level to like set the table



and stuff away always like we call them the kids station. So basically, we wanted them to get their own cups and stuff. And so yeah, I agree. Absolutely.


Tara Gratto  24:27

And then they can also update the dishwasher or the or the dish pit. I call it dish pit because of where the where the where the drying rack if you don't have a dishwasher, right, make it so that they can put them away. Right at their level. Right. So there. There's a whole process there. Yeah. All right. So we got our craft supply tips. Now let's talk about the I've been asked as well as when I went to preschool, I cannot tell you how many times this question came up with Mi Tara, we don't know what to do about all this stuff.



Oh my gosh, I know Tara.


Tara Gratto  25:05

Tara. Yeah. Tara and Tara, were the dynamic duo. I know. So stuffies. It came up. We had an IG live in January talking a little bit about stuffies. Yeah. So I wanted to ask because I know when Pete when people start to define their clutter, and they define the clutter in their kids rooms, nothing I know, an instantaneous light bulb goes off of like, what do I do? How do you organize? stuffies? How do you like so what tips and tricks because I know every house you go, yeah, I know very few people.



And the first thing I always tell my client is, because they're like, I'm sure that this is the comment I get all the time. I'm sure this is the worst. You've seen that? And I'm like, Absolutely not. Because I've seen it all. I've been doing this in homes locally for three years. We've seen it all. And so if you listening right now feel like I'm the only one to do it. No, you're not. You're not. I can, I can promise you 150 families, you are not the only one is a big one. And I think what happens is when clients call me they'll say, like, like exactly what you just said, How do I organize the stuffies? Am I responsive? We don't believe so.


Tara Gratto  26:21

Everyone's gonna take a deep breath, take a deep breath.



But they the what, here's the thing, and I know where this comes from. Because if you go to Amazon right now, there will be systems to organize stuffies one of the most popular ones that my clients do, and that I try to not just encourage and encourage was that word. This it will be edited out.


Tara Gratto  26:45

Discourage, discourage, one of the



things I try to discourage from is they will find these stuffy beanbags. It's a big, big bag, that because you feel like you have too many stuffed animals, and you want to keep them, but you don't know where to store use, then stick all the stuffed animals into this large beanbag your child can sit on it, tada, less stuffies. This is wonderful. Okay, it's not because now you still have the stuffies. And they don't even know it. Right. So now you've basically hidden them. So they don't know they have them. But you didn't have to deal with getting rid of them. So if you're feeling and I'll get to the action, cuz I know this is the thing, if you're feeling overwhelmed by stuffed animals, and you do have something like a stuffed animal beanbag, or maybe you went to your local store got a really big basket with a cover, it's always with the cover, right? Because you don't want to see them. That is the first place to start. Because I guarantee you. No, I shouldn't say I guarantee you. I should never say that. More than likely. Your child doesn't even know what's in there. Some of these little bags have been filled for 234 years. That's the first place you can start that being bad just needs to go that the basket or maybe you have a basket that they do get into but maybe there's pulling the four same stuff pays off the top every time. Yeah, it's not the funds at the bottom. I mean, obviously and the thing is you come by honest, right, Grandma and Grandpa get a stuffy, you donate it to the Humane Society. And they're like, here's a stuffed dog. I mean, like, Yeah, this isn't all your


Tara Gratto  28:14

stuff, the culture. We really go to the



arcade. You want a stuffy? I mean, so, but the thing is more likely than not you know what your child's favorite stuffies are and when we declutter play rooms, and typically with stuffed animals, it's the bedroom. So when we declutter bedrooms, and we never do it with that little small human there, I always say to mom, show me which is the stuffies. They grab, and typically there's one, two, usually one or two. Sometimes it might be three, four, because they might be like, Well, this one they take to camp, this one goes to grandma, but there's never 100 they never Yeah, the mom never points to 100. And they use all the stuffies. The mom is always frustrated going, there's so many she came and get into the bed. But yes, and I hear that all the time to get to the bed. But really, and she's frustrated, because she's trying to find her one loving, and she can't find it. Right there. I'm thinking and again, it's just reframing how I speak to them. It's not. I know, I sounded really violent just now like they all go, but it's not. What's all leaving. It literally is show me which one do you see your child looking for? When they look frustrated when they can't find it? That goes to the stuffies. Those are the lovies those are the ones that really just they want to be with, right? And then other ones, especially if they're hidden, those are the easier wins that need to leave and you can start to and again, it doesn't have to be all in one day. Right? So maybe you the first step, if you're feeling overwhelmed even by this conversation. Maybe the first step is the beanbag stuffy or the basket stuffies. Yeah, those that you know, because you might be listening going, oh my gosh, yeah. Well, we've got we've got a storage bin of stuff. He's under the bed, but it slid under the bed so they don't even know they're there. Maybe that's the one that goes so give yourself some grace and time start there. If you didn't inherit 100, stuffies in a day, so just,


Tara Gratto  30:05

ya know, for sure. And I think, yeah, and my audience knows, and I'm gonna do a whole episode on this, this idea that like, choice is we're actually overwhelmed by choice. And when we're overwhelmed by choices, we can't actually make a choice. And I know one of the things that you and I talk about, is like, it's really hard if a kid is there for this process. And so when I'm just going to tag on to this right now, the reason is, right, so if you have all the stuffies, the reason is, they actually don't have any relationship with some of those studies. And you probably know which ones in which if you don't know, those are the ones who leave, those are the ones you like, if I remove a whole bunch of the ones that I know, really don't, then you'll be able to see. But if your kid is there, especially if they're under the age of seven, your kid is there, then that will trigger them to very short period of time. Remember the thing that's happening, but it doesn't help with the overwhelm of choice? It doesn't it actually is making it worse, it's actually creating more anxiety, more stress more, right. So that is part of the reason why when you do this first level, you need to they can't be there. Because yes, of course, did you pull the stuff? Yeah, at the bottom, they'd be like, Yeah,



I've been lucky all my life. My three years. But that's,


Tara Gratto  31:25

that's because in that moment, you isolated down to one, and it no longer became a choice. What you have to imagine is if you're not there, and there's 100 stuffies in front of them, they actually can't pick because their brain is overwhelmed with the number of choices. And when our brains are overwhelmed with choices. You can't decide on one, it's actually brain science. We can't do it. Excuse me, you can't do it. So that's, that's part of that process there. So if you have sort of I know Tara and I talk a lot about that. It's like, you know, I really want my kids to be there. You know what, for the first level, just just go and do it. Have the get it right. And then there's other systems. Tara and I have talked about right, doing some potential toy rotations, which is what that beanbag would do to, right, where it's



like, never get the bank, the baby's back out that I've seen, right? Yeah, exactly. It could have been a stuffy rotation. But in reality, every time I've seen it personally, it's your stuff. He's go to die.


Tara Gratto  32:23

Right. And so but there you have your very clear cut. So if you're feeling overwhelmed right now, and you don't know where to start, and you put a stuffy that you shouldn't have put in the bag, and your kid says it. Well, there it is, right? It's in the bag, and they knew it's there. And everybody knows it's there. And if they don't, well, then you're like, Okay, bye, bye. Vega stuffies. Right. And I don't know about where you live, but where I live, there's a great program, you can donate them to like humane societies for dogs, right? So there's, there's lots of cool stuff you can there



is and there's a program called Safe and it stuffed animals for emergencies. And it's not in every now I'm gonna state but it's not in every state. But if you Google Safe stuff, animals for emergencies, and they send them to, like flood victims. And so I mean, yeah, like places, but it's limited, but just do a quick look, for sure.


Tara Gratto  33:14

And then that's a great example of like a stage two. So let's say you do the stage one, you get rid of everything else. And then the people who say to me, I really want my kids to be involved in this process. That is a great way when you're like second step, right? Yeah, that's the like, Okay, we need to get rid of some stuffies. And we're gonna send them to this specific pace, right? We're not throwing them out. We're not right. So it helps without understanding of



even for my grown women where we were we do this with closets, right? If they know, oh, we have some places here locally that are for women's shelters. If they know that the clothes they have in their closet with the tag. They feel guilty over buying into another story. We are going to women's shelter, they will give it to me all day long. Right? Kids are just the thing if they know oh, there was in Kentucky here we used to we always have plans. Right. So there was a flood they're going to the kids and play. They don't have anything. Oh my that kids want to share? I want they want


Tara Gratto  34:10

to have for sure. Yeah. I mean, there's I mean, there's a whole thing that's happening, right. Like, that's the consumerist element of right. So why are and that's that's another conversation for another day about like, hey, once we get the map, so coming back in so we'll have that conversation for today. We're just focusing on like, how can we get some of your clutter more manageable? Yeah. So the last sort of, you know, formal question I want to ask you as like an actionable is when you go into a play space, and you recently did a therapy office? Yes. So so, so cool. Yeah. But when you go into a play space, so if you have dedicated play rooms, so I work with families, I have a whole range of things because I work with some families who live with extended families. I have some families who live in apartments like there's a whole range of people that I work with, but if you have a dedicated play space A lot of the people that I work with that have dedicated play spaces, they are overrun, right? by, by, by, by the overwhelm of of stuff. What have you seen? What has been your biggest challenge? Like when you go into a play space? What how does that sort of play out? Because I know some people if this is you, I'm being very transparent, I want you to know, you're not alone. As I just said, most of the families I work with who have dedicated play spaces have, they're not functional, right? And that's what comes out of our conversations is like, it's this space that they spent a ton of money on, or, you know, so yeah, what do you see what happened? And how do you start to talk about and typically,



I think it goes in phases, and you probably can relate to this completely with working with your clients. But the initial call usually is that oh, I need to declutter, the initial call to ask is usually can you help me organize my toys? Right? So which I'm like, Sure, sidenote, we're probably going to need to maybe narrow it down and have some which they start to have heart palpitations, but I just say, Hold on a second. Because typically, what happens is they're showing me this is the idea that I had in mind. For me, it's usually some pottery barn picture that actually doesn't even exist in real life. Right might be something they saw on Pinterest, maybe it was a Montessori school, but they want that in their home. Like, yes, things. So first off, it's saying, okay, that's not reality, one this children don't even live there. And two, I want to take a look at the picture, if this is the goal, and count the number of toys, you see, because part of what they see is a very minimalist, they don't even want like the brains aren't even registering, like, see how beautiful it looks, but there's a lot fewer toys. So once we have the Okay, so just let's take a deep breath. I can't make this space look like that. It's physically impossible unless we start to purge and narrow down the number of toys that are in here. And again, it's one of those conversations. That's once I'm in this space, and they're open to and again. Yeah, we're listeners know their level of when they're ready to tackle that part. But if you are feeling today, like there's so much on the floor, my kids can't pick it up. I don't know. It's because there's too much. And so it's hard to put away. It's hard to it's hard to do the tidy up routine, because there's just too much. Yeah, it's hard to make it look like what you think it's going to ever because there's too much. So yeah, some of the things that we and again, like you said, you're not alone. This is most people, right? Yeah, there's some of the things that we do. Again, same thing like with the stuffed animals, we usually don't do well actually, I can tell you right now, I've never worked with a child under the age of 13. They're always at school, if I have one older child's room where I'm teaching them at the same time, right? So if I'm working with an older child, or decluttering their clothes or figuring out a new way to to put clothes away, I'm working with the older child, but in these cases, the playrooms they're not there. And at the same conversation, Mom show me what they're always looking for, that they can't find gravitated to. Another one that comes up is there's big the big toys, right? So when I think of, and so mom will say to me, I bought this Barbie Dream House. First of all, it takes up way too much space, right? And it's a fourth space. So you can't even like if you're talking about a smaller home with less space, and you have these tiny rooms, it's taking up half the room. And then they're saying and they're not playing with it. I picked I had envisioned them taking their Barbies and having a party and they were going to use most of the people. It was like


Tara Gratto  38:39

an 80s commercial. Yeah. Right. Like, that's literally what I grew up



with. Like, and this is the conversations again, and you can have this with your spouse like later in the evening. What do you see them carrying around, watch your child at the end of the day. They're not going to possibly again, this isn't everybody, but they're maybe not going to the dream house but they're taking Barbie to the doctor with them or the Barbies going into the water like in the bath. And Barbara's always freaking naked. I have no idea. But like for me,


Tara Gratto  39:11

I know. I know why? Because putting clothes is very difficult. Oh, there



we go. So yeah, fine. Even right. So the the Barbie, and it's just the Barbie. So also thinking and again, if you're panicking, because I'm not telling you to get rid of your dream house, I'm just saying that for a lot of people what they thought they were getting, yeah, what they thought was gonna happen and the picture in their mind, it's not connecting. And so a lot of times when we're there I'll say show me what they play with. And for a lot of our parents that are mentally ready to let go of the dream house that leaves because it frees up a ton of toy space. They're measuring somebody in need that really would use it, you know, that you could give it to those by nothing, you know, sell nothing. It's been that


Tara Gratto  39:55

the site's roofs. Yeah. I mean, I think one of the things that again, looping back to Same as the craft conversation, we, we tend to give children things that are not developmentally appropriate. That's what we, and we are, it's not our fault, we are taught and even like some of the big names are always like kidney choices kids need this kids. And here's the thing. Young children actually don't need a whole lot of choices, it's actually doing exactly the opposite of what you're hoping for. And it's where you got to hold on your chair for a minute. Because I say this in every presentation I do on this topic, the kid only needs like, three or four things available. And then they will be very creative with them, they will be imaginative, they will do all kinds of things. Something like a Barbie Dreamhouse is actually for a much older child. And maybe in today's world that doesn't fit as well sometimes is what I've been finding. But when we think about play, and we think about facilitating play, and what authentic play looks like, typically, we are buying stuff that isn't actually where our kids are at. And this is if I can say this point, over and over and over, it doesn't make your child any less smart. It doesn't mean they're not going to get into the school that you're hoping or whatever. That's another that's another topic. But like we really do, and I feel this deeply when I first started in education, I also thought this way before I worked with a ton of kids and ton of families. I had a very prescribed idea for what play looks like and what, you know, magic kid was behind. Right? We're always thinking about what performance based play is not performance based. It's not something that can be sort of guided into a set routine, which is why when people have dollhouses, a lot of people say to me, it's never used the way it's supposed to be used. And it's like, well, what does that mean? The way we as adults with us the dollhouse, true. When I used to have a doll house here, and the preschoolers were hilarious with it, it was train tracks through it and like right had no rules, there were no rules about right and different kids had different. And that's the whole thing about imaginative play. It's not how we perceive play should be, and quite often, so something like a large dream house, get yourself some Connectix let them build it themselves. And then you can put all the Connectix away and they can build something else. Right? Right. We don't have to create situations for play. We have to give the basics to facilitate play, but one of the most large deterrence is too many things.



And so there's always this big hot wheel tracks like you can put one on the wall, you're gonna have one go around house, you know, these big garages and whatever. And I bought them, right, like I was like, Ooh, he'll never use them what he would do and this is so funny, because I'm gonna make it listen this podcast, he would line up his cars around the sofa he would take some rocks and cats do Yep, take the couch pillows off and her and he would we had a little toaster oven now wasn't yet dead. Don't report me it wasn't plugged in. He would we would take it off the counter be sitting on the floor not plugged in. And he would pretend to cook his his Hot Wheels. Like it had this little trick. Oh, yeah. Cool. But all he wanted was the hot wheel. So


Tara Gratto  43:21

it's kind of that's all you need. Yeah, it's the vehicle of play that you need. So yeah, I



realized that again, that might be a couple steps too far for what parents are ready to pursue and that's okay. So if you just needed one actionable step into playroom today go straight for that big. I would call it the junk drawer of the playroom that has all the party favors from birthday parties. The little things that come home with treasure been at school, the arcade little winnings, those, okay, now you're now they're gonna have to hold on to their seat for me. They go straight in the trash, right? Well,


Tara Gratto  43:57

they're not. I mean, that's that this is the this is where my ego heartbreaks every day where I'm just like, why do we make this stuff?



Why but why not? And that's the thing. That is another challenge, I think is your personality. A lot of my clients, it's hard because mentally you're like, I can't, but then your playroom becomes the trash bin. Yes. So 2%. So if you're feeling like that, and I totally get it, then something needs to change on the front end to prevent it from coming into your house, which, like you said, is another conversation. But until then, you just what's your first step? Yeah, you just almost have to say I have to go the Trashman. Right and if some of its recyclable, great that some of it's still usable. Great. If your school has a treasure box, you can fit it into your child's school and good luck to the next one. I'm sorry. But the teachers are always usually looking for those things if you've got, you know, but that to say we have to at some point go for my mental health today. I can't worry about what I should have could have would have done Yes. When you know better you do change the past only future. Yeah, for yourself some grace. It can't be like, Well, I wish I wouldn't have bought XYZ, it that that money's gone, that ship has sailed. Show yourself some great Taran I've had, we've had many Lego discussions, it's fine, yes, fine. But today, just do one. And I tell my friends all the time, when they're like, there's too much, there's too much we're playing with, pick one thing, pick one toy category, maybe it's just the stuffies. Maybe it's just the Barbies. Maybe it's just American Girl, maybe it's just the hobbit like pick one category, conquer it, and be ready to fight another day,


Tara Gratto  45:34

for sure. And I think the tip that I'm gonna leave on that note that was helpful for me, because I am the person who's like, I need to make sure the plastics go to the right recycling, I need to make sure that this goes to the right thing. And I can't do that I can't not do that, like I have, at the top of my stairs, four different boxes for the four different places. And I will not throw them out. I know that it would get it out faster. But the tip you gave me that I think and I actually shared it with my husband was like, I'm going to schedule it on my calendar to do it during the day. Because the problem is that it sits there. Because I work during the day. And those places are open during the day. Absolutely. So I'm like I am going to schedule if I'm not willing to throw it out. Right, I'm gonna schedule it into my calendar, yes, to do it. So I think that was a really helpful tip that you had that made me think cuz I was like, I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to get it. And it's such an obvious thing.



And we'll just schedule a teeny tiny thing to add on to that if someone's listening. They're like, I can't do one more thing in my day. Trust me, I feel you, you can farm it out. It doesn't have to be you. That takes it wherever it doesn't have to be you that recycles the battery, other people in your home. Maybe the battery cycle replaces on your husband's way to work. Maybe you also have teenage drivers. And they could be the ones that drop off the plastics at the plastic recycle center. So ask for help. Lock it on somebody else's calendar. You did the heavy lifting of getting it all together. Maybe you say, roommates, this I've already loaded it. Here's the ad twist.


Tara Gratto  47:10

All to do is to not



take all the things.


Tara Gratto  47:15

I think that's a super valid point, right? The idea that like, doesn't have to be on you.



You're the ones that


Tara Gratto  47:23

you're the do.



That would be another conversation.


Tara Gratto  47:27

Awesome. All right, Tara, we have you shared a bunch of tips today. Yeah, you and I are doing a bunch of stuff where people will be able to get even more. Yeah, what is the best place for people to find you? Where? Where is it?



plated Instagram? I guess none of my happy place if you want a lot of tips and tricks and quit. She's hilarious.


Tara Gratto  47:48




It's super easy. It's that simple. And it's Tara T Ara M. Stewart. That's it. It's just my name. Same thing for my websites. It's not as fun as my Instagram. So I but yeah, again, you can go binge watch a little bit of binge watch some reels. We've got a lot of behind the scenes where it's decluttering major spaces and then I've got some really great ideas. Yeah, it's it's fun. Like she said, we'd like to have a good time. I don't want to add another stress onto any of your listeners played at this. I don't want this to be hard. I want this to be like a treasure hunt. What you're gonna find today,


Tara Gratto  48:28

right? What you're gonna find awesome. Love. Thank



you. My pleasure.


Tara Gratto  48:37

Thanks so much for listening. Be sure to subscribe so you'll be notified when future episodes launch. For information on how to connect with me head to Tara Or you can find me on Instagram at raising resilient children. Until next time, thanks again for listening to the raising resilient children podcast with Tara Gratto.

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