Kids Clutter: Organizing at Every Age

Our children are probably the biggest clutter creators we have in our homes -- even more so than the dreaded paper flow. It starts out innocently, when we find out we are expecting; then the purchasing frenzy swings into high gear and does not let up until, well, let's just say many years down the road.

The clutter begins on the highly anticipated homecoming day when our countertops fill quickly with samples and instructions from the hospital. The bottles of formula, diapers, blankets and wipes all begin to take root on the counters and any and all other flat surfaces. You can kiss that nesting mode goodbye and say hello to survival mode!

Stage 1 Infant Organization

Obviously, organizing for an infant is the sole responsibility of the parent. The main areas for infant organization are:

  • the changing table
  • the diaper bag

The nursery's changing table is a great place to start with simple organizing techniques. Divide the shelves below the changing surface with baskets; fill one with diapers and wipes, one with crib bedding and blankets, one with onesies and socks, etc. Baskets are a great accessory for the nursery because they are portable, lightweight and decorative. They are also readily available everywhere from discount stores to high-end decorating stores.

Next, the diaper bag can be your best friend when stocked and organized properly. Take some time before your next outing and take inventory of your contents. Diaper bags today have all these great little dividers and compartments for storing all your stuff. Upon returning from your outing re-stock and refresh your bag, so you will be ready for the next time you go visiting.

Stage 2 Toddler-Preschool Organization

Organizing this active group can be a challenge, but there are several organizing exercises in which you can involve your child, including putting away:

  • books
  • videos
  • toys

The clear plastic containers that you can find all over these days are great kid-friendly storage solutions. Try labeling each one with a picture of its contents to make for easy cleanup for those little non-readers (store advertisements and catalogs are a great picture source, as well as printing pictures from internet sites).

Baskets are also great for storing their favorite books and videotapes, though you might want to store them out of reach to prevent them from constantly being dumped out on the floor! Little hands can manipulate a basket with much more confidence than a tightly stuffed bookshelf.

Lastly, designate an area in your home for the toys. It is important for your child to understand that their toys have a place and need to make their way back there before bedtime.

Stage 3 School Age Organization

By this time, your kids are busy with many of their own activities and all the required "stuff" that goes with it. As frustrating as it may be the tenth time you have to remind your child to put away their belongings or straighten up their shelves, do not give in to the temptation to just do it yourself. This is a critical time period for developing life-long habit and you will both gain from a little patience and consistency.

Encourage your children to keep a calendar of their activities and after school commitments. Display a master family calendar, so everyone is informed and no one is left ride-less or out of the loop.

Laundry at this stage of parenting can become quite an overwhelming task. Invest in basket-sorter hampers for the kids' laundry; your kids are quite capable at this age of sorting their dirty clothes by color. The pre-sort saves you time on laundry day.

Stage 4 High School and Beyond

Keep up the encouragement -- these young adults have a lot on their minds and schedules. This can be an extremely stressful time with the college applications, spring break plans, graduations, not to mention a full course load and endless extra-curricular activities. Good time management skills are critical to maintaining these over-extended calendars. Paired with time management skills, organizational skills will help create a smooth transition to whatever path your children choose (restocking the diaper bag now seems like a cinch, doesn't it?).

Rest assured that all your hard work building a good organizing foundation will remain with your children throughout their adult life. Who knows -- maybe they will win the lottery one day and know exactly where they filed their winning ticket because they were raised in a home that stressed organization, and to show their gratitude share the prize with mom and dad.

Copyright 2004 Bridget Messino

About the author: Bridget Messino is a Professional Organizer and co-owner of Clutter Free Living, Inc. Her work frequently appears on many Internet sites and on her own organizing site Clutter Free Living as well as in her monthly Home Organizing Newsletter How to Be Clutter Free. Subscribe to the FREE monthly e-newsletter by sending a blank e-mail to [email protected] com

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