Categorized | FAQs, Kids, Organizing Solutions

5 tips for Staying Organized with Little Children

Posted on 29 September 2010

I received this question recently from a reader and wanted to answer it timely since keeping an organized home with young kids can often feel exasperating! You may feel like you are picking up litter off of the floor every hour and believe you me, you are not alone!

Hi There,
I like your organizing ideas, however I do have a question? I think I am an organized person, but its really tricky being organized with little children. Do you have any tips? Especially tips for keeping their rooms tidy. My 8 year old and 6 year old girls share a room and they have so many knicknacks which they love to display and I don’t want to interfere with their personal goodies, but their room is such a clutter. Do you have any suggestions for this? Also any info for organizing the garage with all the bicycles lying around as well as dolly prams would be helpful. Thanks again for a great site. Have great day! Genevieve

Genevieve, Thanks for your question. It can definitely be a challenge to keep a house organized with little children running around and with their toys and knicknacks.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Tip #1Notice what your kids are REALLY playing with. My kids are 7 and 5 1/2 and one of my most favorite things to do with them is to sit and watch them play. They are so creative and they play with each other so well (most of the time).

One thing they love to do is take stuffed animals and pretend they are in an animal shelter or a school and my favorite part is when they talk in these high pitched voices and give names to their little animals. (Cocoa and Cocalina are my two favs 🙂

So, when I think about organizing my house and especially the toys, I know that I don’t even want to TOUCH the stuffed animals because those promote so much imaginative play at this point. Who knows? In 3 years maybe I’ll be donating them all since they probably won’t be “into” them at that point, but I don’t mind.

So Tip #1 is to decide what’s important to keep based on what your kids actually use.  Most likely you know by now what it is your kids are really playing with.

Then, don’t worry about those toys- just come up with a really good home for the toys they actually play with. Believe it or not, the stuffed animals are currently in my main living room hiding behind my sofa! I’ve got a sofa with about a foot of space in back of it for the A/C vent to have room and many, many animals are just lying there on the floor, unseen by anyone else!

They like to play with them there and you know what? That foot of floor space behind the couch is also a great puppet theatre 🙂 I’ll take a picture of them doing a puppet show for you at some point soon.

2. Tip #2- Ask your kids what they want to keep. This tip kind of goes along with the one prior to it, and what I like about it is that your kids will learn organizational skills as well as other problem solving skills. I often ask my kids a few days after they come home with a pile of schoolwork or artwork from school, “Is this a project that is really special to you? Do you want to keep this? Where do you think we should put it?”

Many times my kids will surprise me with a very emphatic “Yes I want to keep it” for a project that to me doesn’t look like it was very involved for them and a “Nah, I don’t care about that one”, for a project which was that of an artist’s talent! (Maybe because the teacher did it for them or something 🙂

Your kids will start learning very quickly how to decide what’s important, how to actually part with clutter, and solutions for how to organize their stuff. All very good values to start teaching at an early age!

(Genevieve, it’s possible those knickknacks your girls love to display really aren’t important to them at all and perhaps they’d have no problem parting with some of them at this point)

3. Tip #3- Be Specific! When I find myself exasperated sometimes saying things like, “The cleaning lady just came today, can we please keep the house clean?”, I realize that my kids probably don’t see what I see. They are too young and the words “the house is a mess” is just too vague for them to understand.

We need to be specific in our directions to them regarding cleanliness and organizing. A much more specific direction would be, “I see socks on the floor that belong in the hamper.” You’ll have a much better response rate when you are specific about what you see and where it belongs. In this case, my kids absolutely know where the hamper is, otherwise it would NOT work. Be very clear about where the “homes” are in your house for things and keep practicing putting items back into their ‘homes”. It isn’t going to happen overnight.

4. Tip #4- Do Establish good homes for storing items. We need to constantly assess whether or not the storage we are setting aside for different categories is child-friendly, age appropriate, and sets up our kids for success. If you’ve got a shoe rack that is too small for kids shoes, and you insist that the kids put their shoes on this shoe rack, only to have the shoes fall off everyday, both you and the kids will feel frustrated and unsuccessful.

There are many times I’ve setup what I thought to be a GREAT storage solution only to have it backfire for us. I often reassess what is working for us and what is NOT working for us.

A great rule of thumb for coming up with storage solutions is the 4 storage options that exist. You can always refer to these storage principles and cover pretty much just about any idea for organizing products that exist.

  • Hang it up
  • Store it in a drawer
  • Store it on a shelf
  • Store it on the floor

There are no other options besides these, just try and stump me! All organizing containers and products you see out there fit into at least one of these categories. So if your art supplies are currently stuffed into a drawer and that doesn’t work for little fingers, try another alternative, like putting them in a 4 drawer rolling storage bin on the floor, or up in baskets on  shelves, or in wall pocket hanging organizer.

There is no right or wrong answer and I would recommend you go over your selected storage option after 6 months to make sure it is still working effectively for your family.

5. Tip #5-What to do with larger toys- Unfortunately, the larger toys like strollers and bicycles are a bit more challenging to deal with. If you don’t have room for these items, you may want to consider outdoor storage like on a deck or porch or some garage organizing solutions. You can also put marking tape on the floor to help your kids identify whose bike goes where. I often will recycle these larger toys the minute my kids grow out of them, bringing them to a consignment shop or lending them out to a younger child until the next baby is ready to use the toy!

2 Responses to “5 tips for Staying Organized with Little Children”

  1. Lisa says:

    Three more tips:

    *Consider rotating toys out so that only half are in play at one time. The other half can be stored (in proper homes, of course) and rotated back into active status periodically to add new life and interest to the children’s surroundings without costing you anything.

    *Consider purchasing ‘consumables’ instead of ‘stuff’ for your children. A day at the zoo or at the movies, a day bowling or at an amusement park, a trip out of town are all examples of consumables that create happy memories and don’t clutter up the house.

    *Consider donating items that your children have outgrown. Do this on an ongoing basis to keep the clutter at bay. A variation on this suggestion is the ‘one in, two out rule:’ To reduce or eliminate clutter tell your children that for every new toy purchased two old ones will go to those who need them. Your kids get to decide whether it’s worth it to purchase new toys when they have to get rid of old ones. But if you try this you’ll need to stick to it, because kids are smart and they’ll quickly learn that the ‘two out’ rule doesn’t apply if you don’t.

  2. Pam Korsover says:

    * When my children came home from kindergarten on Friday, they always had tons of pictures and art work they did over the week. We would sit down with them and pick the nicest one (the one that they liked best) and hang it on the fridge until next week’s batch. All the others would go in the trash, and my child disposed of them. They liked picking out which one would go on display for the week!

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