Cut the Clutter: A Simple Organization Plan for a Clean and Tidy Home
Contain, corral and control
Toy boxes and open shelves are no place to store children's possessions, particularly those involving many tiny parts. To organize toys, think "contain, corral and control."
Contain toys and other belongings before you store. Use plastic shoebox containers for smaller toys (Barbie clothes, Happy Meal give-aways), larger lidded bins for blocks, trucks and cars, light-weight cardboard records boxes for stuffed animals. Use specialty organizers to corral magazines and comic books, video games, or CDs and cassette tapes.
A bonus: containers help parents control the number of toys out at any one time: "Sure, you can play with the farm set, just as soon as the Matchbox cars go back into their home!"
Make it easier to put away, harder to get out
The premier rule for efficient children's storage? Make it easier to put something away than it is to get it out.
For example, store picture books as a flip-file, standing upright in a plastic dishpan. The child flips through the books, makes his selection, and tosses the book in the front of the dishpan when he's done.
Compare a traditional bookcase, where little fingers can pull down a whole shelf faster than they can replace one book. Build the effort into the getting out, not the putting away.
Organize bottom to top
Befitting a child's shorter stature, start organizing from the bottom of the room, and work to the top. Most used toys and belongings should live on lower shelves, in lower drawers, or on the floor. Higher levels are designated for less-frequently-used possessions.
Working bottom to top, the best-loved teddy bear sits in a small rocker on the floor, while the extensive Grandma-driven bear collection is displayed on a shelf built 6 feet up the wall.
Label, label, label
When it comes to keeping kids' rooms organized for the long haul, labels save the day!
Use a computer printer to make simple graphic labels for young children. Pictures of socks, shirts, dolls or blocks help remind the child where these items belong. Enhance reading skills for older children by using large-type word labels.
Slap labels everywhere: inside and outside of drawers, on shelf edges and on the plastic shoebox storage containers that belong there, on boxes and bookcases and filing cubes.
Playing "match the label" can be fun--and turns toy pickup into a game.
Build a maintenance routine
The usual peaks and valleys approach to room cleaning can vex and frustrate children. Their room is clean, they play, and suddenly, their room is back to messy normal.
Help children stop the cycle by building maintenance routines into the family's day.
"Morning Pickup" straightens the comforter, returns the pillow to the bed, and gets yesterday's clothing to the laundry hamper.
"Evening Pickup" precedes dressing for bed, and involves putting away the day's toys.
Building routines into the family's schedule will keep disorder from becoming overwhelming. Tap them today in your organized home!