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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Playing Games

Day 3 of a Georgia snow-in made me swiftly move forward with my self-imposed New Year's organization challenge inspired by the Better Homes and Gardens January 2011 issue. Using the article, Cool, Calm and Decluttered: 25 Ways to Pare Down and Get Organized for a Fresh New Year, I'm honoring my time-tested, but never achieved, yearly resolution, To get more organized. I guess I've never known exactly how until now.

Tip 13: Make clutter-busting a family game. Write tasks on ping-pong balls. Each person chooses a ball, completes the task, then chooses another one. After 30 minutes, whoever has the most balls gets a prize - like a no-chores day or control of the TV remote. (submitted to BH&G by Alicia Rockmore and Sarah Welch, authors of Pretty Neat: Get Organized and Let Go of Perfection)

I admit skepticism, and icy roads, kept me from following Tip 13 to a tee. Buying a billion ping pong balls would just result in bringing in more stuff for a less than enthusiastic brood to bounce around the hallways of my house. I would win the game every time because I would be the one picking up all of the ping pong balls.

BUT, because I couldn't take another day of kids loafing around making messes for me to clean up, we did play a game loosely based on this suggestion. It was a contest. I set a timer. It did involve rewards (money and my sanity). It had rules. And it resulted in decluttering. And I know it was really a game to all involved because kids were calling each other cheater and going to great lengths to win.

The goal of the game was for each child to try to collect, in 20 minutes, the most items to donate to the Salvation Army.

The rules:
  • A child could only collect items over which he or she had decision-making jurisdiction.
  • Any child who did not participate could not win a prize (this will become clearer when I list the prizes).
  • No school books or supplies could be donated.

The prizes:
  • $5 to the child with the most items collected.
  • $4 to the child with 2nd most items to donate.
  • $3 to the child with the 3rd most items.
  • $2 to the child with the least items (but items had to be collected to win this prize. No participation = No prize.).
I can't say whether it was the money or the thrill of competition that activated their adrenalin, but when I said go, kids were throwing elbows and giving out war hoops heading up the stairs. Then one-by-one they raced up and down, piling stuffed animals, bouncy balls and outgrown baseball hats in the middle of the living room floor. "How much time?" each would shout, lunging back toward the stairs.

My enthusiastic 11 year-old brought all of his underwear and church clothes and dumped those in the floor. He figured he could go without for five bucks. Other than that, however, my children were willingly agreeing to get rid of stuff that had I gone to their rooms and tried to confiscate it, I would have been stopped by arguments as to why it was necessary to that child's existence.

Plus, even amongst subversive plots to remove items from large piles and put them in small piles and confusion over ownership of various submissions and some outright, flagrant attempts to donate other people's belongings, we had FUN. We LAUGHED. We shook off out winter blues. Two large garbage bags of donations later, not a single child had any regrets or remorse.

Tip 13 is a lot luckier than it sounds!

Lucy Adams is the author of two books:Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run and If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny.


Katherine said...

I'm doing this--I think we're going to have another snow day on Friday.

Lucy Adams said...

I'm wishing for winter to pass swiftly for y'all. At this rate, your kids will be making up snow days until July.

On the game, I must be honest and reveal that two days later, right after we dropped everything off at the Salvation Army donation site, Duncan, who was the $2 loser, lamented some of the stuff he got rid of. AND he tried to blame it on me, saying, "I only donated it because I thought you wanted me to."

I was the one, taking things out of piles, saying, "Are you sure you want to get rid of this?"