Organizing can be seem overwhelming for a host of reasons like lack of time, not knowing where to start and when you throw children into the equation, I know that it might sound and seem impossible. You’ve probably heard me say it before, but I stand by the belief that homes do not (and very likely will not) always be neat, but they can always be organized. And, organization with kids is possible.
Have you felt motivated to get your home more organized but in the back of your mind think “what’s the point?”. Maybe you worry that your children will mess up the time that you put into creating (what you thought was) the perfect system, or worse...you actually spend the time to get organized and the aforementioned scene actually plays out? This is a very common situation that I am faced with often.
My daughters and I have been on Good Morning Washington to discuss the top problem areas that I hear about from my clients when it comes to organizing with kids (toys, paper, homework/art, and food) and we shared what works in our home. Even as a professional organizer I’ve had to figure out what systems work best for my family (through trial and error in some cases) and these systems have worked for us over the years because they are flexible and adaptable, which is perfect for kids because their skills, interests, and independence are constantly expanding.
Creating an assigned space for toys makes it easier for kids to know where to find what they're looking for and also where to put it back when they’re done. I recommend using open-top bins so that it’s easy to reach inside and also makes cleanup a breeze. To help get the kids involved with the process, have them create labels for their bins (either by writing out the words or drawing pictures of the category) to add to the outside of the bin, and if you are going to purchase a new bin consider having them get involved in the decision-making process to make it a bit more personal and interesting to them.
I treat my kids paperwork like the daily mail: I go through the papers with my daughters to identify what is (1) TO DO (permission slips or forms) (2) TO READ (a note from the school or an assignment that they were graded on), and (3) TO FILE (items to be added to their “save” box). Now that my daughters are 10 years old and we’ve been practicing this routine for years, they have actually taken over this task which not only makes it easy on me, but also gives them some added responsibility. Once the “To File” folder gets full we do a once-over to make sure that they still want to keep what they’ve included inside the folder, and then I transfer the contents over to each of the girls’ “Save” boxes.
The kitchen is the heart of the home for our family, and where my daughters do their homework each evening. When they were younger, this is the spot that they would spent their afternoons coloring and creating their latest masterpiece, and it’s always been helpful to corral supplies for easy accessibility. It’s important to us to have their frequently used supplies like pencils, scissors, and scrap paper in a central location that is easy to transport so that when they’re done--or it’s time to clear the table for a meal--cleaning up takes only a minute or two.
When it comes to food, it’s all about keeping it accessible for the child. Use storage bins in the pantry and fridge to keep like items together and make it easy to see what's inside (and when it’s time to restock a certain item). In order for kids to make lunches on their own or grab their own after school snack, all foods need to be easily accessible. Move snacks in the pantry to a lower shelf that the kids can reach without asking for help. Likewise, in the fridge keep the options at eye-level or lower to make it easy for the kids to identify what should go in their bag.
All in all, organization for us as a family means that our routines and the products that aid our routines are easy to use and grow with our needs over time. For us, I have seen firsthand how being in control of my family’s routine has made the unexpected and out-of-control situations easier to manage.