Calling all moms and dads! Who feels overwhelmed with the chaos that is parenthood? As a mother of five, I have, at times, been desperate to find order in the court, so to speak. Everywhere I turned it seemed that my kids had gotten the better of me and I was barely able to stay on top of my house. I need organizing help…and fast!
Kids can take a perfectly wonderful home and trash it in 5 seconds flat. Since I can’t stand the stress of living in a space that looks like a tornado touched down, I had to create a strategy to rein the mess in.
So, I put my head down and figured out a simple, but effective method to keep things under control while sharing my space with my sweet little, but quite messy, children.
First, I put limits on how many items that my kids could accumulate, stash, and store. This means that I sat them down and explained that we aren’t hoarders and can’t be hoarders…for mommy’s sake. That means that they had some serious decisions to make, but that I would help them.
So with that in mind, we partitioned off their bedroom, their playroom, and the schoolroom/craft area (we homeschool, so yes, that’s a whole room!). In each space, we designated a pile for the keepers (Yeah!), a pile to pass on (Double Yeah!), a pile for the attic, and a big ole trash can for the rest.
Piece by piece we inspected, discussed, reminisced (if necessary), and made decisions. Keep it, donate it, sell it, store it, throw it out. It was hard, but it was necessary. There was no way we were going to make any progress until we brought it down to a manageable level. Sometimes I had to bargain with my daughter, because she is so attached to everything!
Slowly, but surely we worked our way through the piles in each room. Slowly, but surely you can do this, too. Occasionally you may need to set something aside and come back to it later. Prepare for tears, as they can happen.
Toys, clothing, shoes, gifts, games, puzzles, craft supplies, books, etc… no category goes untouched in this process.
2. Bins, Bins and Bins
Second, I knew that even though we had decluttered so much in step one, that without a solid plan in place for the remaining items, we would soon be swimming in stuff all over the house again if we didn’t implement some major organization!
So with that in mind, I went to the local dollar store and picked up multiple plastic bins with lids. Nothing fancy, mind you, but adequate for the task at hand. I recommend that you use both large and small bins, so that you have some choice depending on what items you need to organize.
It was super important to me that I explained to my kids that since they had chosen to keep more toys than any of us wanted to pick up on a daily basis, that we would be using a rotation system.
This means that certain categories of toys were placed in bins and relegated to the attic. By doing this, not only did we keep only a reasonable amount of toys in play, but when it came time to do the switch-a-roo, it was as if they had all new toys to play with!
I recommend a span of 3-6 months for the attic rotation for toys. You can also store clothing in the attic that you children aren’t using due to season or size. Just make sure you clearly mark all the bins so that everything is easy to find when you need it again!
3. Designated Bins
Third, with limited items left in our living spaces and designated bins for everything to go in, all we needed to truly finish getting in order was to implement an easy method for organizing what remained. What I realized is that each of my kids were at different stages of ability.
My toddler pretty much needs to be able to put all her things in one large bin, without regard to separating different items. My older children, however, find that it is easier for them to keep track of their belongings if they are neatly categorized.
With this mind, they like the idea that every type of thing has a specific place meant just for it. This helps them to know where to put each item when it is time to clean up. This is important because when you have items that don’t have a designated bin or other spot, they have a tendency to not get put away at all.
We found that anything related to their schoolwork, any arts and crafts projects, games, puzzles, and books are best stored neatly in our office space. This helps keep them separated from regular toys and creates a nice definition to the space. Since this is the room where these items are most often used, it seemed logical to store them there…larger items on the shelves and smaller items in smaller plastic drawers.
For everything else, we made space in their bedroom/play area. Most toys can easily be binned according to type and this makes them easy to take out and put away. This works really great for blocks, legos, cars, dolls, and other such sets that have lots of small parts. Larger items, such as stuffed animals tend to work best in hanging nets or in baskets.
With clothing, I found that my kids liked the idea of having 1 hanging rod for dresses and button-downs, plus 3 drawers each, one for underclothes and pjs, one for shirts, and the last for pants, skirts, and shorts. I allow them the freedom to hang their own items and organize these drawers in a way that they choose. This helps them maintain a certain amount of control of their own space and frees me up to not worry about it. Try not to micromanage this area, as it is good practice for kids to learn to handle this alone.
Periodically, it is prudent to purge clothing that is stained, ripped, or too small, which is something that they will likely need help doing.
Whatever system you choose for storage of clothing and toys, make it simple and don’t create too many options. It can quickly become overwhelming to keep up with and the goal is to maintain order, not give up in despair.
4. The Basket Method
Fourth, one of the greatest ideas to use with kids is the “basket method.” This is actually for keeping clutter at bay throughout the house.
In this method, you have a centrally-placed open basket that is available for quick collection of items that are found misplaced around the house throughout the day. This can be used for anything really, such as toys, dirty socks, sippy cups, a random crayon, etc… When the basket is full or at the end of the day, the basket is then carried around to the rooms where the items need to be put away. It is simple, fast, and is an easy assignment even for a younger child.
Altogether, this 4-step decluttering and organizing method for parents to implement with their children is easily adaptable to most families, simple enough for kids to become involved with, and effective for keeping your home from being overwhelmed with a tornado-style disaster.
Don’t overthink it. The important thing is to involve your kids in the process so that it is collaborative effort. This will help train them, as well as motivate them to learn to keep their areas neat and in order as they grow older.