Ways to organize children’s spaces and get your kids involved
Are you constantly struggling with how to organize your child’s belongings? Are you overwhelmed by all of the toys, clothes, books and seemingly endless items he appears to own? Today, even toddlers seem to have a clutter problem. Really, how do such little people acquire so much stuff? That, my friends, is a whole other bottle of worms.
No matter what age your child is, the odds are high that at some point you’ve walked into your child’s bedroom and either tripped over something that he’s left discarded on the floor or felt that if you put anything down in his room you would certainly never see it again. If you’re worried about losing track of items (not to mention your mind) whenever you step into your child’s personal space, then it’s time to take some control over the situation and hand over some of that control to your kids.
Signs Your Child Might Need a Clutter Intervention:
- She sleeps on top of a huge pile of laundry.
- You swear you can touch the ceiling when you’re in her room because you end up standing on top of two feet of junk.
- He always wears two different socks (or none at all), and it’s not by choice.
- He always wears two different shoes.
- The dresser drawers have not been able to close in years.
- You’re pretty sure your child has a bed, you just haven’t seen it for a while. You suspect it’s under that huge pile of laundry.
- You’ve lost the family pet several times in your child’s room.
- It’s impossible for your child to get ready quickly, she needs about an hour just to brush her teeth.
- Your child’s teacher has told you several times that your child is often missing assignments and is often late for class.
- You avoid opening your child’s closet at all costs, it will just cause an avalanche.
So, are you starting to think you’re doomed to a life of wading through piles of toys and clothes until your child moves out? Do you start having panic attacks whenever you think about your child’s bedroom? Do you find yourself dreaming of the day your child goes off to college and you can turn the room into your own sanctuary? Well, just take some deep breaths because it’s going to be okay. But push up your sleeves, too, because it’s going to take some work.
First things first, you need a plan. It saves a lot of time and money in the long-run. Depending on your child’s age, there are different things you can do with her to get her involved in the process. And you definitely want her to be involved, because this is the only way you are going to have any hope of your child keeping things in order when all is said and done.
Younger children will, of course, need more assistance in the beginning. If you start teaching them the basics early, they will be more likely to develop good organizational habits as they get older.
Before we look at what children of different ages can do to help keep their spaces clutter-free, it’s important to go over some organizing basics. So, here’s a few things to keep in mind for any organization project if you want it to be truly successful:
- Take everything out – That’s right, everything. Whatever space you’re working on, the first step is to clean it out. So, if you’re doing a closet, every single thing comes out, including empty hangers. This is the only way you’re going to be able to properly go through all of your items plus you’ll have a blank slate to work with (and give a good cleaning, too).
Some people may think this step is a waste of time, but it’s a waste of time to NOT do it. You’re not sorting or deciding what goes and stays in this step, you’re just emptying contents. It really doesn’t take long to just pull stuff out, but if you try to organize around the mess, you’ll get burnt out before you even begin.
- Sort It – Once everything is out, then you can start the second step, which is usually the longest one. Start to sort all of the items into piles that you will “Keep,” “Sell/Donate,” or “Trash.” Try and go through it pretty quickly at first, even if the majority of items end up in the keep pile. Make sure you have enough space to work in so you don’t feel cramped, take scheduled mini breaks, and always have water available.
Once you are done, throw out the trash, move the items to be sold/donated to another location and then look at your keep pile. You are going to repeat this step with your kept items. You will be surprised at how many more things end up getting tossed. A quick tip to save time: As you find items that belong elsewhere, do NOT go and put them away. Instead, create an “elsewhere box,” and toss these items in it as you come across them. That way you can just spend about ten minutes when your project is complete returning items to their correct homes.
- Clean, Plan and Place – Once you can see what you will actually keep, you can get a better idea of what you need to do to store it all. This is when you look at your empty space, give it a good cleaning, and decide how you will organize your items. Think about how often you use things, what system will work with your (or your child’s) personality and take measurements. This is the step where you will purchase any types of organizing bins you might need, etc. (To buy them at the beginning would be a waste of money because you don’t even know yet what you’re going to keep).
When you have your plan and your materials, then it’s time to start placing items in their new home. Label bins to make things easy to find and try out your system for a couple of weeks to tweak as needed. Admire your work and give yourself a pat on the back!
So, now you have the basics of how to organize any space, but this is about your kids! You don’t want to always be picking up their stuff, so it’s important to involve them! You need to make sure that they are invested in the process and will want to keep it up over time.
What can your kids do to help? Here are a few age-appropriate suggestions to get your children involved, so that they will want to get organized and stay that way:
- Since your toddler probably isn’t reading yet, print out picture labels for bins and let him color the pictures
- Involve your child in the sorting process, don’t just toss toys without asking. This will help him to develop important decision-making skills, and he will realize early on that he doesn’t need to keep everything
- Have your child take a few moments before your nighttime routine to put toys away. Show him how to match toys to the picture on the bin. Let it become a big matching/sorting game.
- Your child can’t help pick up if things are placed too high. Make sure bins and toy shelves are within reach if you want your child to be able to put his items away.
- Encourage your child to make his own bed, but don’t expect it to be perfect. It’s about setting up good habits.
- Your child can help make written labels or picture labels for his bins. Give him a choice. Let him apply the labels.
- This age group can also help sort items, and older children should understand better about getting rid of items they no longer use or need. You will need to do it with them to serve as a guide, but let them make the decisions.
- Let your child help clean the space and plan out how it will be set up and used.
- Have your child pick out the storage items for the room (set a budget first)
- If your child is a teenager, she should get most of the control over the organization project.
- She can clear everything out of the space and sort it on her own. If she really needs a hand or is struggling to let go of items, then you can step in and offer support. If she is getting ready to head off to college, that’s a great opportunity to pare down.
- Your teen can clean her space and make her bed. She may not want to, but she’s definitely capable. Help her develop a sense of pride in her space so she wants to keep it clean.
- Let your teen decide how she wants to set up her new space and let her put things up where she wants them to go.
- If she wants to paint her room a new color, let her do it! This helps her feel more in control of her space and that it is truly hers.
- She can design and create her labels, pick out her storage items and have the freedom to adapt the system as she sees fit.
These suggestions are great ways to set up good organization habits that can last a lifetime. By starting young, children develop the skills that they need to properly take care of their space. The added benefit of an organized space is an organized life. You can start to say good-bye to the days of missed homework assignments, forgotten projects, and lost backpacks. You can start to breathe easier when you are able to get your children out of the door on time in the morning instead of always making a frantic exit.
Organizing doesn’t just declutter your space, it declutters your mind.
An organized home affects a lot more than the physical space. It reduces stress, saves time and money and in general just makes you happier. You won’t have to scramble around for an hour the next time your kid needs his math workbook. You won’t go out and buy a new pair of tennis shoes because your kid swears he lost his (and later finds them under the bed). You won’t want to scream every time you come home because it just feels too chaotic. You will be calmer and your kids will feel the difference. Believe it or not, the mess affects them, too, even if it doesn’t seem like it on the surface.
If you’re ready to jump in and get to work, then put these tips to use! You and your kids will be on your way to a more organized space in no time! Remember to get your kids involved in the process.
Take the time to have your kids be a part of the project from start to finish. If you do, you just might save yourself from still picking up his underwear for him when he’s 18. Your future self will thank you a thousand times over (and so will your son’s future wife.)