Messiness is a normal part of childhood. Most kids grow into neat — or at least neater — adults. But that doesn’t mean you have to give in to clutter if you have children. This is the first part of four posts – each covering how the Sane Spaces Dimensions can be remedied to best support your kids’ sanity! Try these tips to keep kid’s spaces under control.
Set Ground Rules
Put your heads together with your family to discuss some basic rules to reduce clutter. Some rules to consider implementing: Toys must not block doorways; clean clothes that are tried on and rejected must be put back in a drawer and not the dirty-clothes hamper; no toys or personal items should be left in the kitchen or the family areas, or, everything must be put away before bed every night.
When I work with children, one of my most popular problem-resolution questions is: “Where does this item live?”. For many children, out of sight can be out of mind. Giving items an actual location will help ensure your kid’s items stay “zoned”. This concept is most commonly credited to author Julie Morgenstern in Organizing From The Inside, Out. In her book, she introduces the “Kindergarten Concept” and “zoning”. To be successful with your kids, think of each item (or collection they have) as having an address and a place to live.
Even though items may be in plastic bins and labeled on the outside, kids don’t believe it until they see it. In order to see what they have, children will likely dump an entire opaque bin to find out what is inside. Clear, labeled bins allow kids to see what is inside without having to dump it to find what they are looking for.
Clear bins come in different sizes so try to match the bin size to the size of their collections. Clear bins can play a critical role in helping kids pick up their messes.
Location, Location, Location
Kids need storage spaces that are easy to use, functionally located, and placed in accessible areas. Children are much more likely to put items away when they can access them easily. Keep this in mind when designing storage spaces.
Keep it Simple
With spaces, keeping it simpler will always be more successful in the long run. Creating complex spaces with doors, latches, locks, etc. complicates ease of use. Keep all kid spaces easily accessible, functional and orderly will help support kids to do the same.
Unique Kid Storage Ideas
Purchase a suction cup hook and an inexpensive “delicate” laundry bag to corral your children’s toys and keep them from taking over the tub.
A mug rack (available at Target, WalMart or Ikea) – hung low in the child’s room – can hold miscellaneous belts, hats, necklaces, and a robe.
Use a magazine holder to keep the instructions to building toys together. Storing them all together will be easier than storing them with the actual toys. When your child wants to rebuild, he/she can go to the storage rack and retrieve the appropriate instruction booklet.
Support “functional storage” by creating a place to store homework supplies nearest to where your children do homework. Store art supplies nearest to where you children create their artwork. This allows for easy use and cleanup.
IKEA makes some really cool kid-organizing products. Check out their line of kids items here: http://tinyurl.com/627ntzr.
Reuse Old Furniture
A trunk or an old dresser can be used as a storage compartment for seasonal or athletic clothing or toys.
The important behavior you are supporting is to actually pick up the toys. As children age, their abilities to categorize and further sort items will advance, but while they’re young simply designate an area large enough to store their items. Place a bin or a sturdy basket in each of the rooms where your children play. Teach your kids to put their toys there when they are finished with playtime. Your evening cleanup will be simpler and the kids will only need one place in each room to retrieve the toys they’ve played with the day before.
Spaces come in all shapes and sizes. In this case, a space can be as simple as a bag set up to go at a moment’s notice. A “Go Bag” is what I call the kid version of the age-old diaper bag. When children are tiny, parents and caregivers wouldn’t be caught dead without the diaper bag when they’re on the go, just in case baby needs a quick change, something to nibble on, or a little rattle to entertain themselves. Go Bags support kids on the go and can be dedicated to special items needed for certain activities. I’ve always set up bags for each activity my kids are involved in swimming, Tae Kwan Do, Boy Scouts, etc. We also have a go bag that we carry in the car for the beach, and a different one for long restaurant waits.
Taming kids clutter is easy when you create a plan. If you’d like to look at your current level of “organizing health” in your kid’s space, download the Dimensions Workbook and get started!