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The Messy Secret on Top of My Fridge

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If you walked into my kitchen and looked at the top of my fridge, you would see an innocent-looking green bin. You’d probably think, “Oh, Rose is a professional organizer. I bet that green bin contains some neatly stacked tea towels or binders full of alphabetized and color-coded weekly meal plans.” If you got really curious and climbed on a step stool to look, you might be surprised to see this:

That’s right, a bona fide hidden mess.

But this is no random “I-don’t-know-where-to-put-this-so-I’ll-put-it-here” kind of mess. This bin actually contains very specific items for a very specific purpose.

I call it Purgatory.

Let me explain. My kids constantly acquire “prizes” from school and sports and the dentist and birthday parties and other kids. These items very quickly add clutter to our house. I’ve observed that my kids consider these prizes awesome for about T minus 2 minutes, at which point they leave said prizes to linger on the kitchen counter like forgotten shipwreck victims.

Purgatory is my approach to this dilemma. (Here’s a quick, probably inaccurate, and hopefully not too offensive explanation of Purgatory for you non-Catholic folks: Purgatory is the afterlife limbo where certain souls–who aren’t good enough to get into Heaven nor bad enough to be sent down below–dwell until they have dealt with their sins.) My fridge Purgatory is very similar: it’s the holding tank for items that aren’t “good” enough to be put into the toy rotation nor “bad” enough to be thrown away immediately. They need a testing ground, a place to prove whether or not they are worthy enough to be remembered. This testing ground is the top of the fridge.

You may have a few questions, such as:

Isn’t this sneaky? Yes, it is. But if you are a parent, you know that our  #1 job is to cleverly, yet harmlessly, deceive our children. (Joking, but not totally joking. Consider the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, Santa, that damn Elf. We do it all the time. This is really no different.)

Can I do this with all the items my child acquires? Nope. Then the jig would be up. Pick your Purgatory items carefully. Think fast food toys, coloring pages, certificates of achievement from online math games. These are the types of items kids forget about quickly.

But Rose, I thought you said we should let kids choose whether or not to keep their stuff? Aren’t you being a bit of a hypocrite here? First of all, thanks for reading all my blog posts! You are right, I do think we should allow kids to make decisions about their own stuff. However, I have found that decision fatigue sets in when we ask kids (or anyone else, for that matter) to make decisions about every little thing they own. Allow your kids to make decisions about bigger, more important items–birthday gifts, crafts that required several days to make, memorabilia they purchased with their own money–but it’s okay to save them (and yourself) the hassle when it comes to the small stuff.

But what if my kid asks about an item in Purgatory and it’s already been sent to, you know, it’s final destination? Again, fall back on your #1 parenting skill: clever but harmless deception. A simple, “I don’t know where that is, honey,” is an honest answer. Do you know where the trash man took last week’s trash? I’m guessing not. And if your kid regularly asks about Purgatory items, you might need to scale back your Purgatory zeal a bit.

What types of items can I put in Purgatory? Items regularly found in our Purgatory include:

  • school prizes
  • items from birthday treat bags
  • drawings my kids give me that aren’t special enough to put in my memorabilia box (Yes, it hurt to write that sentence, but it is true. Not every sticky note with “I love you” gets saved forever and ever. I can’t save everything or nothing is truly special.)
  • prizes from swimming lessons
  • small crafts

Do your kids ever ask why you put stuff on top of the fridge? Never, which actually surprises me. I add stuff to and retrieve stuff from Purgatory right in front of them, and they’ve never asked about it.

How often do your kids ask for items that you’ve put in Purgatory? I’ve observed a 98/2 rule: 98% of Purgatory items are never asked about again. And of the 2% they do ask about, I’m able to produce them 98% of the time. I’m not the President of the United States, but I’d say I’m winning with these stats.

I hope this post has inspired you to join me in deceiving your children. But all joking aside, I hope this has given you a simple, practical way to deal with the little stuff so you can get on with the bigger things in life, like binge-watching those old episodes of Gilmore Girls.

Rose Lounsbury is one of Dayton, Ohio’s top professional organizers and a sought-after public speaker. After blogging about her own journey toward a minimalist lifestyle, Rose was inspired to start Less LLC, a minimalist-minded professional organizing company. Rose is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and has been featured on Good Day Columbus. If you’d like Rose’s help with an organizing project at your home or office, you can contact her at [email protected] or visit her online at OrganizeWithLess.com.

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