Practical Solutions … Boundaries

Setting Boundaries

I am BIG on setting boundaries – for everything! Setting a boundary for our clutter forces us to deal with things, at some point. Make your boundary reasonable, but stick to it! I love baskets and bins! I have baskets for toys, hats & gloves in the mud room, clothes in our closets, papers, pending projects, junk to take to the 2nd floor…  Today I want to share some ways that I have set boundaries in our home.  I have boundaries to prevent us from accumulating too much stuff, and boundaries that make us deal with our messes before they get completely out of hand!


Shortly into the toddler years I began to find that small toys were trying to take over our playroom, living room… house.  A boundary was needed!   I used a basket, but a good option would be to use a plastic shoe box for each child. (or recycle the real cardboard one that came with your shoes) Only allow each child as many random small toys as will fit in that box. Think: happy meal toys, party favor trinkets, Chuck-E-Cheese prizes… the toys that have the potential to drive us crazy!  When the lid won’t fit your kids have to sort and toss.  This allows you to save things for a time, but not let them get out of control.  I also think this is a good lesson for kids to learn to keep what they can reasonably play with and not develop the habit of just keeping everything.



These are some of my favorite products! The black canvas bin is from Michael’s, they also carry them in white. Between black and white, you can make them work in almost any space! They are in the craft storage area and are just like the Closetmaid bins you can get at Target, Walmart… The difference is, if you wait until Miachael’s has their craft storage on sale (which is at least once a month) – you can get them for between $2.50 and $3!

The clear bins are a line from The Container Store of Clear Storage Boxes. They are $1.69 and up – depending on the size. Why I love them: 1) They are semi-transparent so they mask items inside, but you can still see what is in them. 2) They have multiple sizes for various purposes, but still look cohesive when used in the same space. 3) They are reasonably priced, and very durable. I have used these for toys for years – hot wheels, legos… My kids have USED! them, and they are durable.  Costco also has a similar plastic shoe box  by Iris in a bulk pack. (14 for $19)



I use these clear bins to coral things under my bathroom cabinet, keep my tea stash together in the kitchen, and as a handy backing caddy with all of my small baking supplies.  (I actually have many more of them, as you’ll see in future posts!)  When I’m baking I can quickly pull out the whole box with baking powder, vanilla extract, food coloring, chocolate chips…  This helps me keep all of these items under control as well.   It is easy to buy a couple extra food colorings or bags of chocolate chips (just to have on had).  Having a boundary in my cupboard helps me only buy what I really have room for, which also means I can find it and remember that I have it when I need it.


I also use the shoe box size containers in my bathroom to organize my cabinet.  Having this boundary forces me to use my almost empty products and throw them away before getting a new one out – because that’s the only way it all fits in my box.  Setting boundaries helps us use what we have, know where it is, and not accumulate way more than we need.


I think boundaries also help us deal with things quickly when we need to, and then sort and put them away correctly at a later time – without just having piles of junk everywhere!



This is my basket of random toys laying around the lower level. When I do a quick pick up this is the home of the stragglers – think of the inevitable super annoying little stuff that’s always left behind, even after clean up. Instead of taking them to each child’s room, the playroom, the basement …I just toss them in this basket – which is hidden behind closed doors! When the basket is overflowing I know I need to sort and put things away in their proper place. The kids also know if a toy goes missing – this is the first place to look!


I also don’t like making a million trips upstairs every day with all the things I find on the first floor that don’t belong there.  I use the common strategy of “pile it on the stairs”.  It can get a bit out of control – where the pile technically is upstairs, it just starts downstairs!  So, I finally broke down and bought this super functional and cute basket from Ballard Design.



Notice how the basket is made for stairs, and utilizes the full depth of the two stairs to contain stuff.  The big area on the bottom holds books, shoes, clothes….  The smaller, divided compartment above allows me to also safely stash smaller items:  jewelery, hair clips, trading cards… without them being lost or broken from being mixed in with the big stuff.  And yes, my pile does extend waaaaaaay beyond this basket sometimes, but it is working better as a reasonable boundary.  It is a mental check for me that when the basket is overflowing, I’m neglecting a job.



I also use a simple basket to keep a handle on the mass of magazines and catalogs I get.  This basket sits in my main floor bathroom.  It is close by for me to toss them in the basket when they come in the door with the mail.  It is also a place where much of my family likes to find a little “light reading”!  When this basket is full, I don’t start another pile elsewhere.  I force myself to sort through what I have and toss some items to fit the new stuff.  I usually find three versions of the same catalog and at least two magazines that are completely irrelevant – last season’s InStyle, or the Valentine edition of Good Housekeeping…  I also know that if I keep more magazines than this basket can hold, I won’t ever have time to read them all anyway.  I am able to find a good magazine to read when I want one, locate the catalog I’m looking for if I want to order something, and magazines aren’t cluttering up counters and desks.  This boundary helps me use and know what I have.


Something else I tend to accumulate is toiletries – especially the stuff in cute little bottles!  Use a shoe box or ziplock bag for all the small toiletry items you’ve gotten from hotels or stocking-suffers… When the bag or box is full, toss something old or just don’t save anything else until you’ve used some of what you’ve got on hand.  If you just keep saving, it becomes overwhelming and you really won’t ever use it all anyway.


This is a sampling of my boundaries, but what I really want to share is the concept.  Each family needs they’re own boundaries, but I think it is a great place to start if you are feeling overwhelmed.  I  also know it is hard to throw things away or donate them, but sometimes it is actually more responsible and being a better steward of what you have to let some stuff go.   So many of us have a hard time throwing anything away – the result is that what we do have becomes impossible to use or loses its value. Have less, but set out to take care of and use what you do keep!