Lego Wars

Occasionally, I receive questions from my delightful readers seeking advice.

Much like Dear Abby, I am asked about relationships “My husband insists on leaving his dirty socks just outside of the hamper. Should I pick them up for him, or put them all under his pillow?” and job etiquette “My coworkers found my breast-pumping equipment under my desk; now what?” and shady conduct “My teenaged son and his friend were rummaging through the kitchen asking if we had any sulfur in the house; should I worry?”

I’m eager to help.

“Not to worry,” I replied, “unless his grades are falling drastically, this is only a 9th grade phase. Remind him that – whatever it is – it’s an outside activity.”

I attached an internet connection for the best deal on sulfur (Costco).

Recently, an avid reader was having troubles with her only child.

The trouble: her only child loves Lego.

“I’ve been trying to figure out how to organize and manage all our Legos. Any advice?”

Only Child has approximately a million little Lego pieces that mom has been trying to corral for years, Pinterest style, into tubs, cubbies, bags and bins.

She saved all the boxed sets together and kept all the boxes.

I have five kids.

I’ve had Legos in my house plants for over 20 years.

My over-six-foot-tall kids still beg for more.

“Yes,” I answered, “we keep them all in a closet and if the door shuts, we win! Seriously, just put a bed sheet out on the floor, dump the Legos on it to play, and when you’re done, dump them back into the tub and put them away.”

I considered the girlfriend I was talking to and added, “Most of the fun of Legos is digging through the heaps and discovering little bits of treasure.”

I didn’t mention that some of the treasure is actually fuzzy lollipop sticks and Barbie shoes and old melty Jolly Ranchers and occasional toenails.

I could feel her frowning in disbelief that I, the Queen of Chaos Control, would recommend such reckless abandon.

So I sent her a real-time photo. Straight out of my den.

“I think I like your bed sheet idea,” she said after a moment.

“I kept them in sets but Only Child keeps pulling out various pieces to make her own thing. I guess that’s what it’s all about – getting creative.”

I wanted to tell her that The Hokey Pokey is what it’s all about, but instead I replied, “Exactly so. Kiss all the money you spent on sets goodbye and embrace the total mayhem.”

And I sent her another picture.

“Obviously ours aren’t even in the closet, so at present…we aren’t even winning that.”

“You’re very very liberating!” she said, “I think I’m going to go for it! Trying to organize them all is just making me nutso.”

“I’m very sure you’re entertaining when you’re nutso,” said I, “I want a picture if it happens.”

“Many have witnessed it,” said she, “but rarely is it documented.”

I could feel her courage building.

Then she found all the boxes.

“Take a photo, it’ll last longer.”

“I still have the booklets for assembly. Maybe I’ll just save those and recycle these dumb boxes.”

I just love purging parties.

She got a large tub.

And one by one, dumped the household Legos into it.

“Stiff upper lip!” she declared, as she found more and more Legos in hiding.

Slowly the tub filled. The sets dissolved into one large teeming mass of colored bits.

“I’m way out of my comfort zone,” she said, starting to hyperventilate.

“Learn to get comfy. Stick your hands in and swirl it up. Feel the freedom! You’ve got to embrace your inner slob!”

“I just freed up 50 ziplock baggies!” she cried in victory.

“You could gently release them into the wild, or save them for the next compulsive organization project. Your call.”

“Truth be told, this is so much easier,” she sighed, “Only Child is totally on board, and Hubby will be the most grateful to you! I save everything, so this is a big step. Feels great! Thank you Jolie!”

“You’re welcome. The therapy bill is in the mail.”

I really shouldn’t get the credit, though.

We live a short drive from the best theme park in the world: Legoland.

You know how they store the play area pieces?

Giant mosh pits.

Only factory robots can put the right pieces together into the right sets.

But then they permanently seal them and make people pay to open them.

So clever.

Culling Your Chaos

If there’s one thing I know, it’s how to de-clutter, organize and clean.

It’s not work to me, it’s a lifestyle. You, too, could train yourself to do it by having five kids and living in a tiny house that you are not allowed to leave. You either will drown in Happy Meal toys or you will take a shovel and send everything not nailed down flying out the door.

If you can’t see the forest for the trees, it’s time to buy a chainsaw.

Empty space is gorgeous.

It’s not empty at all.

It’s a literal and deliberate expansion of your horizons.

Procrastination is a popular and exhilarating way to do anything, which is why your resolutions list had on it, somewhere near to the bottom, “get organized”.

You couldn’t possibly.

It was on last year’s list too, right? How’d that work out for you? Do you know what the missing link is? That’s right. The trash man. Remember my little happy song to him last month? Not a coincidence.

I want you to stop putting stuff into boxes with cute little labels and sticking them away somewhere.

It’s time for some radical house therapy.

Every day for the next four weeks, take one drawer, one shelf, or one corner, and get rid of every single thing you don’t need, use or love to pieces. And I do mean passionately.

Set a timer for 15 minutes. Set a trashcan on your left. Set an empty trash bag for donations on your right. Take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves and push the start button.

Remove everything from the space. Momentarily enjoy the view. If you put nothing back at all, would this space feel nice? Think about it.

Now take each item and ask it the three questions.

You really only need and use one set of bowls. So keep the set that makes you happy and donate all the others.

Half of your tupperware is missing lids. They’ve been around the block a few times. Keep what you can actually use and toss everything else.

The sweater you kept because your mom gave it to you but it never fit quite right and you shoved in the back of your closet? You don’t love it and you won’t use it. Donate. Along with all the clothes that don’t fit you right now, even if you love them.

Because you can’t use them. So you don’t need them.

Only tackle a small enough space that when your timer goes off you can wrap it up and walk away. Everything landed back in the space or in the trash or the bag.

Take the trash out immediately to your large outside receptacle. Seal up the donations bag, put it in your car and drop it off the next time you pass a charity drop. Under no circumstances should you open either bag again, or leave it in the house.

And unless you are a very releasing family, never have a garage sale. Nothing plays with your head worse than a stranger offering a quarter for what you know you just paid $50 for.

Everything makes you feel a certain way. These feelings are what’s at the heart of your home. If that groovy purple velvet jacket fits you and you wear it and you love it, guess what? Every time you see it hanging in the closet, you will feel happy.

If your mother gave it to you and it fits but it’s not your style and you are uncomfortable every time you put it on, then it needs to go. You feel guilty every time you see it. You are donating a piece of laundry, not your mother or her love.

And now you are free of that negative feeling, too.

By the end of the month you should see a significant shift in the feel of your home and your head. You will be surrounded only by things that you handle regularly and bring you great joy.

You know that you are only committing to 15 or 20 minutes a day, tops.

Less things to clean and easier to find what you do have means you will redeem those minutes in hours of free time!

You might even be able to park in your garage again.


Yes, this is adorable.  But there will be chaos at playtime and tears at “clean your room” time.

How many toys do you need? One. At a time. Try it.