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Make Space For Organized Kids

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These kiddos weren’t always organized, but were sure cute

It’s a bit of an oxymoron, Organized Kids, isn’t it? I’m sure there are a few here and there who have some methodical tendencies and like things Just So, but the larger majority of children swim against the tide when mom is desperately trying to keep the house organized. Full disclosure, I do not have a Silver Bullet strategy here – when it comes to kids there is an unpredictability of successful formulas that is completely predictable. What I do have are recommendations based on my experience as a parent of 3 and as a Professional Organizer who has worked with dozens of families with children of all ages. I’m sharing strategies that make it OBVIOUS, EASY and FUN to help you keep their stuff organized. They might not do everything 100% of the time, but in such cases as these 50% compliance is a huge win!

Organizing Toys

Open-top, fabric bins with handles are the easiest for small kids to interact with

Toys are front and center during the preschool and elementary years and they can really clutter up your house. Depending on how many kids you have you are looking at a minimum of 6 years where toys will play a prominent role in your house so having a system in place is important. However, just because you have a system doesn’t mean your kids will comply with it so it’s critical that you think about how to make it easy and obvious for them to put things back when they are done playing. My recommendations of what to include in your system should increase the chances that your kids can keep the toy area neat, or at least easy for you to clean up when they don’t.

My first suggestion is a cubby system. There are plenty out there to choose from, I like this one because it has a more ‘furniture’ feel (vs. Kindergarten classroom) and comes in lots of colors. Kids get cubbies and they are low which makes for easy access. There are also a million choices for bins to fit in the cubbies.

Speaking of bins, the best options for smaller children are fabric. Fabric bins are soft and easy for kids to pull down themselves. No lids necessary, it’s an extra friction point they don’t need to deal with, open is best. I also recommend handles. Any feature that makes it easy for them to interact with the bin is a win. Again, there are a million choices out there to fit your play area – I like this felt option because of the neutral tones and the texture. You can use these Label Clips to label the bins, they hang over the side and are nice and light.

One last tip, leave the top surface of the cubby system clear so you can use it to keep larger items like playhouses, fire trucks or other bulky structures off the floor.

Arts and Crafts

An art cart will keep this situation tamed

When my kids were growing up I was super twitchy about arts & crafts projects because they equalled big effort to bring everything out and set it up and they were a nightmare to clean up. SO I wasn’t a huge supporter of any crafty tendencies they had. If only I had known about one of my favorite and top-used organizing products back then!  All you need for your Arts & Crafts is an Art Cart. It’s portable, has a lot of capacity and paired with the right organizers it merchandises all of the crayons, pens, stickers, stamps, paints and other craft-adjacent items beautifully. I have had multiple clients rave about what a better job their kids did cleaning up after projects because the cart makes everything so easy. You just need a handy closet or corner to keep it tucked away when it’s not in use and you’re all set.

I’ve seen so many people dedicate play rooms to arts & crafts, only to watch their kids bring everything out to the main living area because they want to be near mom in the kitchen or sibs in the family room. The Art Cart is such a brilliant idea because of its portability.


One small bar is all the hanging space you need in a child’s closet, the majority should be shelves and drawers

Most kids’ closets I encounter are a huge waste of storage space because they are set up for hanging clothes. Kids don’t have many clothes that need to be hung plus kids don’t like to hang up clothes anyway. What you want in your kid’s closet is shelves and drawers, which re the easiest for kids to use. There are several ways to accomplish this, the best being an investment in a modular closet system that has some flexibility so you can make adjustments as needs change. I love the Elfa system, available at The Container Store. Maximizing your closet space is one of the best investments you can make in your home and the kids’ closets are a great place to start. Another benefit of an optimized closet system; it usually means you can eliminate some furniture in the room itself. More visual space is good, plus it’s room they can use for blanket forts, book shelves or that enormous Barbie house you don’t want in the family room. Make their closet easy to interact with and they’ll quickly learn it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort when you ask them to clean up their room!

Ritual Purge

Toys taking over? Implement a Ritual Purge and teach your kids the many benefits of decluttering!

As I’ve evangelized before, editing is a lifelong skill so start your kids early. Pick one or two times a year when you expect an influx of gifts (holiday is the easiest example) and a few weeks before that date have a purge party with your kids. Engage them in prioritizing their toys, stuffies, dolls, games and random crap.  The lowest priority stuff gets donated (or trashed?) to make room for the new things that will soon be arriving.  Make the activity fun by playing music or a movie as a backdrop. Keep the kids on track (they will get distracted easily) with a reward at the end of the exercise, I used to take my kids out for Fro Yo (which was big at the time!) after we had run through the Goodwill drive-thru. This ritual was a fun way to teach my kids about prioritizing and letting go of things we don’t need so others can benefit. It was also a great way to spend quality time with them. As they got older it got easier because they understood the purpose and developed some good editing skills – it also worked well for clothes once they had grown out of the toy stage.

These ideas won’t magically turn your kids into neat freaks, but if implemented they will make it easier for them to learn some organizational skills and participate in the systems you set up in your home.

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