Kids and Clutter

Get a Handle on Your Family's Stuff

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As families get bigger (and older), the amount of stuff we collect can get overwhelming. Find helpful ideas on how to contain the clutter and get organized.

“A place for everything and everything in its place,” is the hopeful mantra of every parent. Feeling like you’re being overrun with clutter? Here are some helpful tips for storing your stuff and organizing your home.

First Things First

Taking care of the upkeep of the house should not fall on the shoulders of any one family member. Your kids need to learn at an early age that you are all working together, as a team, to keep life in order.

  • “A place for everything” is a nice goal, but if your child has no idea where a toy goes or no space has been allotted for it, how can he put it away? Your first order of business is to figure out in what and where toys and personal objects will reside. 

  • Assess the spaces in your home where toys can be stored. Are the spaces near your child’s play areas? Are they easily accessible (safely) to your children? Is there room to add more toys over time without having to store or get rid of items that are still being used? 

  • When looking around for space, use the “things of a kind” rule to store like items with, or at least near, each other. Create an area for building-type toys, another for CDs, another for snowboarding equipment, dolls, etc. 

  • For young children, put up low shelves that surround the bedroom or a section of the family room so they can take what they want and put it back without you always having to be on guard. Make sure these shelves are safely secured to the walls, especially if your children are very little.

Have You Thought of these Storage Ideas?

Be creative when devising where and how to store toys and other kids’ “stuff.” What overlooked everyday objects would make great containers? Here are some ideas:

  • Does your child love to play dress-up? Store costumes in large, sturdy plastic garbage cans that can be dug into, turned over, or climbed on without getting damaged. 

  • Visit an ice cream store and ask if you can take home the plastic containers when they are done with them. Store-sized ice cream containers are large, deep and round. Hung on a wall, they are perfect to stash art supplies or even socks. 

  • Zippered sandwich bags in a variety of sizes are a great way to store the pieces of a snap-together building toy (Legos, for example) as well as a multitude of other items. They are see-through and easy to open. Pile filled bags on shelves or in drawers. 

  • Find creative uses for other store-bought items sucj as a hamper (bats and balls), a shoe bag (activity and coloring books), a drawstring stuff bag (child-sized “cookware”), a rolling cart (books or CDs), a milk crate (videos), and even a tackle box (beads, trading cards). 

  • Take a stroll through a discount department store and you will find an enormous selection of plastic containers sized from fitting a few toy cars to an entire life-sized stuffed panda bear. Choose those that are clear and have snap-on lids with a sturdy closure. Take your young child along to see if he can unsnap the lids without your help. There are some things you want him to be able to get to by himself, i.e., safe one-piece toys. 

  • Buy a label maker and label shelves, drawers, baskets, and containers so there is no confusion where things go.

Some Other Great Tips for Keeping Your House Organized

  • Make clean-up easy by assigning a basket to each family member and/or room. Odds and ends found all over the house can be dropped into the appropriate baskets. Family members pick up their baskets and put their wayward items where they belong. 

  • Small, single uncategorized items can go into one bucket or container. Mark it “Stuff” and go through it frequently. (I’m often amazed what winds up in ours, including a piece of pizza and my lost car keys.) 

  • To avoid feeling like you are in the business of toy management, keep the clutter down by recycling toys that have been outgrown (and have no sentimental value) or are irreparably damaged. Enlist your kids’ opinions about who should receive the toys. The same rule works for outgrown or outmoded clothing. Perhaps someone else less fortunate can use your child’s in-still-good-condition garments. 

  • Is your house overflowing with the work of your budding artiste? Try these art storage tips:
    • A cheap, vinyl three-ring binder filled with plastic sheet protectors is a perfect way to archive smaller art pieces. You can date and label each book and your child can look at her work anytime.

    • Have your child create his own portfolio out of brown butcher paper to store larger pieces of art. Fold the paper in half to create an envelope, seal the sides with glue or staples, and your child can decorate his portfolio. 

    • Have an ugly wall in your family or play room? Cover the wall with corkboard and let your kids design their own gallery of work.

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