I am a stay-at-home-mom and also work from home. Marcello does all his office work here as well. For awhile our house looked like a daycare blew up, but because we eat, sleep, play and work all in this one space, we had to simplify and get organized!
On top of spending loads of time at home, our house has a very open floor plan — meaning our living room, dining room, kitchen, office area/playroom is all in one space! It is impossible to relegate kids’ stuff to one area. With three kids ages five and under, it all ends up colliding into one disaster.
Perfect is not my goal, but simple is! The more we simplify our life, the faster we can get to the good stuff — spending time together. There have been so many benefits to getting serious about purging, simplifying and organizing the kid world in our house. Here are a few:
- It makes routines run smoothly — especially school and homework.
- Picking up toys takes half the time with half the toys.
- Laundry can be done in a day with less clothing.
- We can have people over last minute with less clutter.
- A chaotic life with kids feels a little more in check when the space around me makes sense.
The biggest factors in keeping kid stuff from overwhelming the house is to:
Minimize things (toys, clothes, school stuff).
- I went through the toys and donated or gave away about half. I went through them again and even again.
- If there are toys that do not get played with now, they will not be played with in the future.
- If you are constantly picking up the 20 pieces to that one set and trying to keep them together, it’s probably time to say goodbye.
- I let my kids make some choices about what to keep, but for the most part I did my dirty work behind their backs. Shady, I know, but kids are hoarders.
- I donated the clothes that don’t fit or they don’t wear. They have limited wardrobes and now (as for myself as well) I only buy clothes we love. I don’t want to spend time arguing about an “itchy” shirt.
- After all that work I am very conscious of what I bring into our home. I don’t buy a bunch of little plastic toys for Valentine’s, Easter or Christmas that will be played with for two minutes. They always just end up on the floor. Or under the bed. Or under the seats in the van. You get the idea.
- For birthdays, we focus on doing things or a party instead of lots of gifts.
- I organize and edit the toys every few months. It’s a continual task, but gets much easier once you and the kids get the hang of it.
A place for everything.
- I think the number one tip to keeping toys picked up and kids’ rooms clean is to have a place for everything. A place for games, a place for books, a place for toys.
- Show the kids where things go. Expect that they put things back when they’re done with them if they’re old enough.
Stick with neutral colors when you can.
- I didn’t go through our house and throw out anything with color, but I did make a conscious decision to start buying neutral items when things needed to be replaced. I’m talking about things like dishes, baskets, furniture and some toys.
- Most things for kids are sold in bright colors, but I found that with a little bit of searching, there are more neutral options. I don’t have anything against color, it’s just that when I’m bombarded by plastic primary colors all day my eyes hurt.
Minimizing and choosing neutral colors have really made a difference visually in our house. Here’s a tour of how I organize things:
The kids don’t have a lot of toys. Not because I don’t want to give them everything, not because we can’t afford them, but because I believe it’s best for them. Here’s what I would like to teach with fewer toys:
- To use their imaginations.
- Not to value things.
- To appreciate what they have.
- There is space for each toy to have a specific spot to be put away.
- To feel free in a clutter-free environment.
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The place I have the most trouble is in the car. I think until I make a no-eating-or-crayons-or-stickers-or-taking-your-dirty-socks-off-or-bringing-random-toys rule it will remain in some state of chaos. And why do kids love shredding paper so much?
Once you have a game plan, talk about what is expected of the kids and make it a routine. Give some grace if you’re just now beginning. It can take kids some getting used to and friendly reminding. Here are our basic rules around here. They’re not major things, but they help keep things in order.
- No leaving clothes or towels on the floor. Put them in the hamper or on the hook.
- When you get home from school, put your shoes in your basket in the garage and hang your backpack on your hook.
- Bring your plate to the counter when you are finished eating. (But this one is not sinking in around here!)
- If you have toys in the living or dining room, get it back to the toy room when you’re done.
I don’t have a perfect house. I don’t want a perfect house. I want a simple, cozy, lived-in house with lots of people and laughing. I would rather spend time with my kids than cleaning and picking up. Organization helps that happen.
What about your family? Do you have a secret organizing weapon for kid stuff?
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