I really DO love to organize, but my kids rooms are a complete EXCEPTION! There is always a mess and rarely does it stay clean more than about 3 days on average. Why? It took me awhile to figure it out, but after reading several GREAT books, my favorite being Julie Morgenstern’s “Organizing from the Inside Out”, I figured out what it was.
The first step is to view the world as your child see’s it. In their room, adult storage methods are NOT going to work! You also need to get your child involved in the process. By teaching them proper storage techniques, not only does it help keep the room clean, but it also prepares them for a life of more organized living! I assure you these techniques work, if you apply them properly and consistantly! (no shouting allowed!)
Begin with the simple “S” strategy! Sort, Store and Simplify.
Since a child’s room is usually small, often shared, and just in general lacks built-in storage, you have to “modify” their world. A child just cannot stay organized if the closet is crammed full, and drawers are stuffed. And what about the toys and other play things all over the room. I know there’s carpet in there somewhere!!
So what’s the solution? The Simple S Strategy – Sort, Store and Simplify.
So where to begin? Easy! Start with the clothes first! Step 1 – Sort it. Create piles. Be objective! My favorite piles are “Keep, Store Elsewhere, Donate/Sell and Toss”
Keep – simply clothes that are in season and work frequently.
Store Elsewhere – clothes that are out of season but are still wearble (put them in boxes or containers and store in the basement or garage).
Donate/Sell – self explanatory but I will explain anyway – anything that is still in GREAT condition, might be off season, but won’t fit the next year, etc. Blankets, Sheets and other bedding items that are no longer used can go in this pile! (keep in mind your child does NOT need 15 novelty t-shirts from every traveled location grandma and grandpa have been! – those go here too!)
Toss – This is anything that has holes, missing buttons you don’t plan to ever repair, stains that won’t come out, or any other defect. Just throw it away! Chances are you probably aren’t using it!
Ok, so you’ve gotten this far – GREAT. Now, Place the KEEP clothes back into the drawers and closet. Place the STORE ELSEWHERE clothes – ELSEWHERE. LOL Place the DONATE clothes in the back seat of your car and the SELL clothes either in the back seat of your car if you plan to hit a consignment shop or if you are an ebayer – then place them near the computer and get on that as soon as humanely possible! Place the TOSS pile in your trash can! Now! Do it! Before you change your mind! This is a great activity to do the night before trash day.
Ok clothes are organized. Whew! What a task! What’s next?
Toys. The most complicated feature ever! If you’re lucky like me, most of your children’s toys are kept in a separate room (for us the basement), however after umpteen years of apartment living and living in states that don’t HAVE basements – there had to be alternatives.
So, organizing toys in a child’s room has to be accessible to the child, practical and easy to use!
Many people purchase a toy box for storing items, and this can work, however keep in mind, finding the toys in a great big box can be hard for a young child. Also it is home to many the crumb and dirt & dust that collects in the bottom! Yuck! Perhaps consider only storing large, seldom used toys in a toybox. You might even move this box to an out of the way area and occasionally pluck a new toy from the box and give to your child to play with. It’s a nice rotation method for all the toys that children are abundantly blessed with! LOL
You can also purchase very inexpensive storage for the closet, and this can be very easy to keep items. Purchase a hanging shoe box shelf (usually fabric or plastic). You can store clear plastic shoebox storage containers in them that can hold pieces to a game, legos, Fast Food Toys, etc. These storage containers make it easy to see the contents. So not everything should wind up everywhere when trying to locate something. (of course this still happens – they are children after all!)
Ok, containers – Use plastic shoebox containers for smaller toys (Barbie clothes & accessories, Fast Food Happy Meal toys, smaller game pieces, puzzles), larger lidded containers for legos, blocks, cars and trucks, and cardboard file boxes stack nicely on the closet floor for stuffed animals & artwork. Purchase an inexpensive bookshelf for older children to contain books, CD’s, Video Games, Magazines, Comic Books, WHATEVER! For smaller children, use a dishpan to place books in. They can flip through the books, make their selection and replace the book in the front. Which brings me to a handy little trick.
I learned a terribly useful trick, from all my research in organization – Make it EASIER to put away and HARDER to get out. I promise, it works! Keep this is mind as you are organizing your child’s room. Think about storage placement in regards to ease of putting it away. If it’s easy to put away, a child is more apt to do it. Consider that you need to start from the bottom of the room and work your way up. Children are smaller than us adults, so storing on a closet shelf that they cannot reach, is really not practical at all! Because think of all the extra work when you hear “Mom I cannot reach my lego container way up on the shelf” – you then have to stop what you’re doing and go retreive the out of reach item. So remember that rule. There is absolutely nothing wrong with storing items on the floor of a child’s bedroom. If their closet it big enough, you can utilize the storage space there and keep it behind “closed doors” so to speak. I purchased some inexpensive stands to place in my daughter’s closet – they have 3 drawers each and she can store items in these drawers. We separate items by placing boxes inside to organize (as drawer dividers). Which brings me to another important trick.
LABEL EVERYTHING. Yes, I understand a small child cannot READ. I was faced with that problem several years ago. It’s actually an easy solution – first if you’re a good artist – draw pictures of the items that go inside the containers or drawers. If not, there’s another easy way – start cutting up those catalogs. Even if you have to request some catalogs from companies you don’t shop with, do it – keep packaging from toys, etc. What do you do with all this stuff? Cut out photos of the items to be stored. They don’t have to be specific, just be sure to show your child that the photo of the blocks you but out, might not look exactly like the one’s picture, but they still are the same. Obviously for children at reading ages, you can label these containers with actual words! This really DID help with clean up!
The last tip I’ll give you is a key! First, be sure you are following your OWN organizing methods; children learn by seeing other’s – so if you make an effort to keep your own areas clean and organized, your child will often follow by example. But since this is not always the case, set aside some time. Maybe 15 minutes before bedtime. Have EVERYONE in the house, spend 10-15 minutes cleaning up and putting everything back in it’s home. I know bedtime can be chaotic, but if you set this into your nightly routine, not only will your home remain organized but it will be an expected part of the day(and your kids might actually find cleaning up during the daytime as they play is MUCH better than doing it right before bed!)
Best of luck to you in your organizing endeavors!!