Back to articles Conquer Your Kid's Clutter

Categories: Parenting

November and December are by far the busiest months for most families. If your kids' rooms, closets and playrooms are already bursting at the seams, the overflow of Christmas treasures will only increase your need for the perfect organizational solutions for their space. Here are our favourite kid-friendly tips and strategies:

Tip #1: Have a goal for getting organized. 
"Mommy's losing her mind with all this clutter" isn't a terribly compelling motivation to clean up for a six-year old. Create a goal your child can understand and relate to. For many kids, helping other children is very motivating. When you set out to tackle your kid's room or closet, call charities in your area to see if they'll pick up your items;  a pick-up deadline may fuel their motivation even further. Also, consider adding an incentive for your child by promising a special treat like a trip to the ice cream shop or a movie rental.

Tip #2: Use a simple sorting system.
One by one, pick up items off the floor and clear out the closet. Hold up each thing and simply ask your kids "yes or no?" The "yes" items went into a keep pile, sorted by type. (Cars together, dolls together, etc.) Put "no" toys, books and clothes into a bag for charity. With your child, set a target number of "no" items. Get really excited when your child hits the magic number. Remember to keep the enthusiasm going during the process by saying things like "just ten more and we've reached our goal!"

Tip #3: Tackle the project in steps.
If your child's room looks overwhelming, you might be tempted to tackle it all at once....or not at all, in which case give us a call!  Unless you're willing to do a lot of the work yourself (or your child is an organizer in training), consider spreading the project out over several days. You might start with the floor on day one, the book shelf on day two, and one shelf of the closet on day three, and so on. Whether you organize your child's room in one step or over a series of days, be sure to take lots of fun-filled breaks with your little one. Play with some of those long lost toys you've found under the bed or have a nutritious snack to fuel your energy.

Tip #4: Keep your child involved and let them do the tasks they enjoy most.
If your child is learning how to write, have him make his own labels for his bins. Resist the temptation of "perfect" labels and instead let your child make them. Involving your child in favorite tasks is another way to give him ownership in the process.

Tip #5: Focus on progress.
Make a big deal out of all the progress you make along the way. Try really hard not to focus on how much there is left to go through or do. Comment often on how much is done, all the great decisions your child has made and so on. You can also encourage him or her by saying things like "look what we found" or "look how much we've gotten done already." Keep it upbeat and fun!

Tip #6: Keep large items in the toy box.
Putting only larger items in your child's toy box prevents smaller toys from sinking to the bottom (a.k.a. never-never land.) Another option is to group smaller toys together in containers before storing in the toy box. Toy boxes seem great in theory, until you have to go on a hunt for your daughter's missing pink Barbie shoe. We can guarantee you it will be on the very bottom of the box. (And when you do finally find it, the shoe will be the only item left in the toy box.)

Tip #7: Label, label, label!
Once everything has a home, use labels to show where everything goes. We'd like to say that this will make clean up a breeze, but we are talking about kids and cleaning bedrooms.... We will say this: by labeling where toys and clothes belong, it will disarm your child of the classic "I don't know where anything goes" excuse. Have you heard that one before? 

Tip #8: Store toys strategically.
Keep favorite toys in reach, allowing your child easy access for play and clean up. On top shelves (those out of your child's reach), store things you'd like to supervise your child while using, such as:
- Games or puzzles requiring adult assembly.
- Fragile or keepsake items like china tea sets and collectible books.
- Toys with lots of tiny pieces you would rather not have mixed with other toys with tiny pieces.

Tip #9: Make sure your child understands the system.
If organizing isn't exactly your child's thing, you may end up doing a lot of their room on your own. Not the best case scenario, however this makes it even more important for you to tell your child exactly how you had organized everything and show them where things go. If he or she can't read, label the toy containers using packaging from her toys, or with pictures from catalogues. Show them the labels and asked what they thought went in each bin or drawer. By going through this process with them, they now knows exactly what goes where.


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