Yes, sometimes it seems like an impossible task to maintain an organized home when you have kids. Teaching your children how to keep a neat home is an important part of growing up. The habits they learn from organizing with you will stick with them throughout their life! Many of our clients tell me that their Mom used to throw their stuff out for them. Those clients never learned how to let go of things. Organizing is a learned skill. Your kids won’t be perfect at it the first few times they try to let go of things. Keep at it!
These are the strategies I use when organizing with my kids. Organizing with kids can seem chaotic, but using the acronym I CARE helps keep everyone on task!
Start with setting goals together. Everyone is unique and has their own ideas of what being “organized” means. Take the time to ask your kids questions and find out what they think!
Do they want more space to play? Do they want to be able to see all the toys they love, instead of having to dig through a bin full of toys they like and toys they don’t? If your kids understand why they’re organizing, it will be easier to motivate them.
Look at the items you have, and divide them into “Let go of” and “Keep” categories.
Let go of clothing that your kids have outgrown, and toys they don’t play with anymore.
Finding and letting go of clothes that don’t fit anymore is pretty simple, but toys are a bit more complicated. It’s a good time to teach your kids about using resources wisely and not being wasteful. Show them that toys that aren’t broken can be donated. They often have an easier time letting go of old toys if they know someone else will play with them and take care of them.
If you’re having difficulty deciding when to let go of toys, make a place for things you know your child isn’t playing with regularly. Suggest to them that if they haven’t played with a toy again by the next time you go through their toys, then someone else could use it.
Keep things that are still useful or well-loved. Toys that are played with, clothes that fit, and items that are necessary for schoolwork are all worth keeping.
Children have different organizational needs from adults. They’re short, and not very strong, so it’s best to keep things that they need access to lower to the ground, and in smaller containers. That way they can grab what they need by themselves (and return it later!)
Keep like with like—books with books, cereal with cereal, and so on. I always advocate using labels, especially on containers that aren’t see-through. For kids, these can be written labels, or pictures for younger ones.
To keep things simple, it’s a good idea to rotate toys for younger children. Rotating should be between different types of toys. Instead of having three tricycles, you could have a tricycle, a ball, and a hula hoop that they rotate through. This cuts down on duplicate toys, and encourages development of different motor skills!
I recommend keeping toys in their bedrooms. That way they have access to what they need easily, and you can have some grownup space at the end of the day.
Be realistic about the space you have and how much can really fit in your home. At the end of the day, kids don’t need more stuff, they need love and attention!
Easy to Maintain
When it comes to organizing with children, Maria Montessori had it right: have one home that is in easy reach for each item. This makes it easy to take out, and easy to put back. The simpler it is to clean up, the more likely your child will enjoy doing it. Use vertical space and shelving that’s easy for them to access.
At the end of the day use a basket to collect toys and put them back where they belong (in your child’s bedroom), so you can have space for yourself after the kids are in bed.