Banish Kid Clutter with a Weekly Stash Box Challenge

Stash boxesOne of the big drawbacks of a house without a designated toy room is that I’m forced to let my kids keep toys in their bedrooms. Unfortunately, because our entire house is essentially one level, the cars, dolls, trains, and other random plastic objects inevitably make their way from the bedrooms to the common rooms of the house.  For the first few weeks, I would waste tons of time each night gathering up the various toys that had migrated from the bedrooms to the family room, kitchen, and hallways. I needed a quick fix solution that would make my kids more responsible, so I invented this simple game.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I gave each of my kids a ‘stash box’ a few years ago to help them be a little more responsible with their stuff. A few weeks ago we started a new stash box ritual to help keep the toys in check.  We call it the Stash Box Challenge.

I bought a cheap digital watch from WalMart and set the alarm to ring at 5:30 each night. When the alarms sounds, we stop whatever we’re doing and the kids go get their empty stash boxes from their rooms. They line them up on the fireplace and then we start the hunt. We walk through each of the common rooms (i.e. living room, kitchen, hallways, bathrooms, mud room, etc.) and search for random objects that don’t belong. As we find things, we add them to that person’s stash box. For example, if Emily kicked her shoes off and forgot to put them in the shoe caddy they go in her box. If Jack dumped his backpack on the floor instead of hanging it on the hook, it goes in his box.

Once we’ve searched all the rooms, the kids dump their boxes and tally up their scores.  While I add their score to our simple fridge scorecard (you can find the file download below) they take their boxes to their rooms and put everything away. We tally points all week on our chart and then announce the winner (and award the prize) at Family Home Evening on Monday night.

The first week’s scores were pretty pathetic. My oldest daughter had a grand total of 58 items. My youngest won the $1 prize with 24 items. However, each week, the scores get a little lower.  As an added benefit, the kids seem to need my involvement less and less each week.  As soon as they hear the alarm, they grab their boxes and start searching for toys…hoping to catch one of their siblings off guard.  Generally, I just function as the referee and they do all the pick up.

It’s a simple system, but it has made a big difference in how my kids take care of their toys and how our house looks by the end of the day.  I figure that’s a win, win in any Mom’s book.  Just thought I’d pass it on.

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  1. Leslie J., Charleston, SC

    Thanks for the great idea and the chart. Ever since the kids got out of school, my house has been suffering. Hopefully this will help. :)

  2. Love this idea but I have a question. What happens to communal toys, toys they were playing with together, or toys that were played with by someone who was not the owner? I also wondered if they had ever tried to sabotage each other by putting out extra things?

  3. I was wondering the same thing as Brooke above? What happens to the communal toys. I have triplets and they share almost every thing except for the things which we have 3 of. How would it work for triplets? I need all the advice I can as I’m going bonkers with the mess in my house. Yes, I do agree it migrates from room to room.

  4. Sorry Brooke, I didn’t realize I had a question on this post. The vast majority of our toys are ‘communal’ so we face this obstacle a lot. Generally our rule is that if you touched it – it counts.

    For example, yesterday both Emily and Hannah used the crayons at different times of the day. During our challenge hunt Emily claimed that Hannah should put them in her stash box because she used them last. Naturally, Hannah insisted that Emily take them because she got them out first. This is where my job as a referee comes in. Since they both played with the crayons I added one point to each of their scores. Then, the girls played paper, rock, scissors to figure out who would actually put them away. If it’s a big mess I force them all to work together to clean it up but I try to give them different roles to cut down the fighting (ie, Hannah cleans up the papers – Emily cleans up the markers and crayons – Jack puts everything back in the craft box.)

    I hope that answers your question, Brooke (and Laura). Good luck.


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