Clean up your room! What a mess! Often, this can be the chorus of a parent. I can’t find my markers; I can’t find my shoe – that can be the chorus of kids.
After 25 years of running a playroom, I’ve stepped on my share of action figures and rounded up my fair share of shoes. The key I’ve found is to be as organized as possible. Yeah, no kidding you say – already knew that. Tell me something I didn’t know. Being organized is only the first part of teaching a child to organize his/her space. With school starting back up, I've rounded up my top 10 tips on rounding up the clutter and helping kids be more organized.
Find a parking place. Just telling kids to go clean up their room or pick up their mess might be an incredibly daunting task with no clear place for the items to belong. It pays to spend some time with them figuring out where all the stuff belongs and give it a parking place. This way, when they are looking for the barn toy, they can go to where you’ve decided it belongs “it’s parking place” and find it. Start with the big items in the room and find out where those items can fit. Do they need a shelf or tub? Do they live in the closet or in a cabinet? Decide with your kids where each big item should go and make a list they can keep in there room. You can laminate the list and keep it taped to the back of their door. Then when it’s time to put it away, they can look at their list.
Corral the little stuff. Anyone who’s ever been to the Container Store knows that there is a beautiful wonderful magical way to store almost anything. There is also a price tag for those spiffy containers. If you're like me, you are on a budget and can’t necessarily afford to go crazy at a store like that. But don’t worry,
corralling your eight thousand Legos or Barbies, blocks or barn animals doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Taking a trip to the Dollar store can net a bunch of handy containers at a low cost. Shoot for squared off containers that can be stacked as opposed to rounded containers that leave dead unusable space between containers. You can also recycle shoe boxes or make containers out of cleaned out plastic milk jugs. Cut off the spout side and you can corral a variety of things. Don’t overlook: the back of your door – hanging a cloth shoe tree can store tons of Barbies for example. There’s also under the bed storage tubs or shelving.
Label it. Labeling your containers can be a huge time saver. For younger kids who can’t read yet, taking a quick photo of what belongs in the container laminate it and attaching it with tape to the side allows them to help clean up and builds word recognition with those items. You can also make sorting toys a game. Matching toys with the label pictures.
Separate your everyday items from treasures and keepsakes. Set up a special treasure box for the super special items that you don’t want to get lost in the room. It could stay on a dresser or bedside table. There kids could store things like unused gift cards or friendship bracelets, etc. Have a shelf in the room where decorative things like trophies, awards or china dolls could be. You can also include a small box for things like birthday cards, if your kids collect them. They are not used or handled every day and can be up out of the main room space.
Keep school and play separate. If your kids are in school, keep an area where school supplies can be located. It can be as simple as a desk or table. If they use a backpack, include a hook to hang it up or a designated parking space for that.
Keep weekly items in a tote or easy to grab bag. If your kids are in a sports league or go to a swim class, etc. Keep a tote or gym bag specifically for their activity packed with whatever gear they need so when it’s time to go, they can grab their bag and get going. Make sure to decide on a parking space for it.
Set a time limit on when play stops and when it’s time to clean up. For younger kids, it’s important to place a stopping point on when play stops and tidying starts. If your kids are home all day, you could break the day into quarters and every few hours take time to put away a few things so messes don’t get out of hand. Here in our playroom, my rule is, you can take out whatever you like but, you can’t go on to another activity until you put away what you are done with.
Know when to say goodbye- if you don’t use it, loose it. That includes being able to toss out broken toys, wrappers and clutter. Toys that you don’t play with anymore can be handed down or donated. Check out this handy tip to revive markers on our Tip Hero Page
Know your tolerance level for clutter- at least once a week clear the clutter. Get rid of old flyers, old homework, etc.
Reevaluate every 6 months – have a secondary location to rotate toys/seasonal items. Kids often get new items that need a storage location or, need to clear out seasonal items. Try packing up seasonal items and storing them in a secondary location like a shed or garage so that they aren’t clogging your living space. For example, a Santa toy can be packed up after Christmas and brought out closer to the holiday season.
Those are my tips. Teaching kids the skills to organize their space is a huge skill and translates into adulthood. It will allow them to use these skills later in school and also as they get jobs and their own home. It also builds a sense of empowerment and control in their world.