Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Keeping Your House Organized with Kids

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A few months ago I shared about a book I was reading called Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker. I've been trying to apply some of the things I've learned from the book along with tips from other resources I've discovered... and I am slowly making changes in my house that are making it feel like a happier and more organized place. 

Today I'm going to show you a few of my favorite spots in my house that feel like they are working well on the "I'm organized scale..."  

I am not going to show you my garage, laundry room, or my craft cupboard... because I haven't gotten to them yet and they are apalling. Baby steps... 

Two things from Joshua's book, Clutterfree with Kids, that I keep repeating in my head as I work my way through my house are...

"Don’t Just Declutter, De-Own."

"There is more joy to be found in owning less than can ever be found in organizing more."

I've systematically been going through each area of our house to try and de-own items and also look at the function of different spaces and try and make them work better. As you scroll down, check out what has been working for me and what hasn't. I'd love your tips on the areas that aren't working. 

For me a kid space is working well if it is...

  • organized so that each object has a place where it is supposed to go
  • it looks appealing (I love organized spaces that look pretty!)
  • easy to access and the kids don't need very much adult help to get things down/put things up
  • enjoyed or used often by our family

As I have been trying to organize my house better I have spent a lot of time observing the behavior of our family. I've noticed where we spend time and places where things just get stacked up. After observing, I've been trying to put systems/routines in place to help keep things organized. I've also tried to get rid of certain spaces where things tend to just keep stacking up... or put a routine in place to keep them from stacking up. I still have a long ways to go... but there are a few things that ARE working!

Backpack & Coat Storage

Recently I created this little cubby spot for the kids near our garage door. 

Each child has a set of hooks to hang school items on and a bulletin board where artwork and important papers can go. Now every time we enter the house the kids are directed to go and hang up their coats, bags, etc. right away! It is so nice to finally have a place for these items. We didn't have a set spot before, which meant they just got left by the front door or in the kitchen which was so annoying! I also love this cubby idea and this one... for small spaces.

Artwork that comes home gets assessed and things the kids really love get hung, put into a small storage bin for important art, or we just snap a photo and recycle the actual artwork. This artwork display idea by Rebecca at Simple As That is another great idea if you don't want to save everything.

Toy Storage

I just recently went through all of our toys... again. They are stored in several spots in our house. We have a play area downstairs with wicker baskets that hold toys and blocks and then the kids each have a few special items in their rooms. 

Some of my favorite quotes from Joshua's book about toys include... 

"...wise parents think about what foundation is being laid by the toys that are given to their kids." 

" Intentional parents also think about the number of toys that children are given...They understand that fewer toys will actually benefit their children in the long-term."

"Kids learn to be more creative. Too many toys prevent kids from fully developing their gift of imagination." 

We have way too many toys. Each time I go through them I find that it becomes easier and easier to seperate from them and send them along to another child that might enjoy them more. 

There are many days when I just want to give all of our toys away since my kids play with so few of them.

As I have gone through our toys again and again over the past year I've discovered which items we use the most and which ones are unnecessary. Almost 99% of the time the toys that foster creativity win out over the toys with bells and whistles and sounds. Our Melissa & Doug jumbo blocks, puzzles, Magformers, Tinker Toys, LEGO bricks, Little People, and Melissa & Doug cars and trucks are used daily.

Labeling our toys was such a great way to make it easier for the kids to clean up their toys. Now... three years after I wrote this post on Kid-Approved toy storage, my kids now know what goes in each basket so the labels aren't really necessary. 

Still rethinking...

Bedroom Storage

A few years ago we added built in storage (drawers and shelves) to our kid's closets. In my son's room we also added some IKEA storage for his books and toys. This is one space that I am continually analyzing. The top of the expedit shelves never looks like this photo anymore because my son likes to store his newly made LEGO creations on top. He has turned this shelf into a drop zone that then makes his room always look like a disaster.

Do your kids have toys in their rooms? Why/why not?

What do you do with their collections or items they can't bear to part with?

My kids have a daily quiet time in their rooms, so having toys in there has helped immensely... but also adds an additional spot where toys can build up! We have established a daily clean up routine that has helped tame the toys... but they still have too many in there!

I love finding cute hooks for hats and other items that my son collects. He also collects notes and special photos and in the past would leave them all around the room. Now we have a small plastic tub where a few notes and photos can go. If it doesn't fit, it doesn't get to stay. That tub has made a big difference!

For my daughter's room I am currently trying to find a dress up storage solution that doesn't take up too much space. Right now we keep dress up clothes in a big tub under my daughter's bed, but it isn't that easy for her to access and she can't put the dresses away very well by herself yet... which tells me we need a different idea.

For small books and specific toys we have found storage containers at Target that have been a lifesaver! Each toy in the kid's rooms has a place it is supposed to go. As we find toys that don't have an assigned space (like happy meal toys)... we either assign them one or send them off to a new owner. 

I have also now labeled the kid's clothing drawers using paper tape and a Sharpie. Each drawer has a little colorful piece of tape on it with the name of the item that goes in that drawer and a little hand-drawn picture of that object. These little labels make it easier for other people to be able to help me put away laundry and easier for the kids to choose their clothes each day!

As I've reassessed our house and what we own I keep coming back again and again to Joshua Becker's quote, 

"Life would be better lived if there was less stuff to manage and organize and clean. Not only were my possessions not bringing me joy. They were actually distracting me from the very things that did."

I think about our stuff way too much. One of the most important things I've learned this year regarding how to keep your house organized with kids is to OWN LESS. Owning less will free up more time to do things that you actually want to do... instead of spending weekends sorting through clothes or cleaning out the garage.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. 

How do you keep your house organized with kids? Do you have any tips that are working for you right now? Anything that is NOT working? 

Do you need to own less too? If so, what do you have too much of?


  1. So many great ideas Kristina! Thank you for sharing my kids art collage ideas! :)

  2. This is great!!! I'm a lover of organization too, but can't seem to make it work. Your ideas are great! I agree with the shelving in your sons room--mine does the same thing. Do you have a link for the bin labels you can share?

  3. I totally agree with owning less helps! Every few months I always do a good clear out! I also love those book units :D

  4. I'll look and see if I can still find the pdf file and add it to this post if I do.

  5. This is absolutely brilliant and very inspiring. I've been wondering how to tackle our storage of toys and I think I might now have a clearer idea. That book sounds fabulous too.

  6. I love home organization so much. It's really a wonder why I don't write about it more. We recently moved half way around the world to Japan via a military move and we had a severe weight restriction on our household items. We purged A LOT. Once we got here and all our belongings arrived, I still looked at all of it and wondering why in the world we have so much stuff. My friend Chelsea from Moments a Day had a great post on organization recently. Between both of your posts, I'm definitely inspired. I too fall into the "less is more" category when it comes to all things, especially toys for kids. The book sounds amazing. The list of books I want to read keeps growing and growing. Thanks for sharing!


  7. Awesome post! I'm always in need of some organization inspiration. Love how you organize and label your kids belongings.

  8. Great post! But what do you do with relatives that gift so many gifts that you're overwhelmed? I'm in the less is more and meaningful toys camp, but it's hard to de-own things that relatives have just given you...

    1. At some point we still de-own them :) So we might keep them for a year or so, and then donate them or sell them. We will keep the toys that have been recently given to us and donate/sell older toys that the kids won't use any more.

  9. Love the ideas. I use boxes and containers for storaging toys and kids stuff and we clean up every evening together. I do throw or give away everything that is not used or kids grew out of it. I do not store kids crafts because my son makes tens a day... I like the idea with taking pictures of it, so I am going to adopt it.

  10. Great ideas! I am slightly OCD when it comes to organizing, so we, my son and I have done well together with toy rotation, the only thing the both of us have a hard time parting with are meaningful stuffed animals! Any ideas/comments on organizing or decluttering with these would be AWESOME! I love the coat and bag idea as I just recently did some new organizing ideas and coincidently that was my same go to!

  11. I love the labeled toy shelf. Where did you get the shelf at?

    1. Thanks! My labeled ones are just baskets on a big bookcase I got from Costco.

  12. I definitely believe in "a place for everything and everything in its place" We moved several months ago so we're settling in, but the playroom is the most organized room in our house! I have a toddler and a baby & many people look at me I have horns when I tell them that each toy/book has a place and that our playroom gets picked up (almost) every night. If I didn't have those two "rules" I really believe I would be completely overwhelmed! Nightly pickup takes maybe 5 mins & is a super destresser - seeing all those toys everywhere is a super stressed! I also have toy zones - bedroom toys stay in the bedroom, playroom toys there etc. There are sometimes exceptions (rules are meant to help, not enslave) but that helps cleanup too, knowing everything I see has a place in that room.


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