Meeting Recap April 21, 2017 - Kids + Organization = Damage Control

I’ve been writing about and helping people with home organizing and decorating on a budget for over ten years. When I first started out, I thought the trade was mostly about how to make things look pretty and had not quite embraced the importance of efficiency and functionality. Then I had kids and the daily clutter quickly compounded.

Living in that reality, I began to experience the importance of working to stay organized. It was vital to my survival and to a certain degree, my success as a mom. Keeping my home organized has a direct impact on my state of mind. Throughout this time of growing and learning, I’ve realized that organizing and decorating are more than mere interests or passions, they are gifts, they are my calling.

I live in a small 1920’s West Bremerton charmer. Despite its age, space constraints and quirks, I’ve managed to make it function well for my family of four. My two children,Thomas 6, and Lucy, 2, couldn’t be more different. Thomas is an observer; cautious and neat. Lucy is an explorer; reckless and messy. As their personalities develop, I’ve come to understand that they each have different organizing needs. I’ve started tailoring how I organize their belongings based on their habits, interests and quirks.

Basement art space

One of my daughter’s nicknames is Hurricane Lucy. Though she is still a toddler, she has the force and capacity to completely destroy all of my organizing efforts in just one morning. Somedays it literally makes me cry. *My organizing trick with her is to keep out a smaller selection of toys and rotate them more frequently. That way I have less to pick up. Less toys = easy clean-up. Still trying to keep ahead of this challenge.

My six-year old Thomas is a collector. He curates little troves of all kinds of treasure, all over his room. He collects rocks, and pinecones, art supplies and little scraps of paper that others would consider trash. He likes collecting toys and books from a series, like all of the planes from the Planes movie, all of the Bob books, and those darn Happy Meal toys. You get the idea. I think he might just be a hoarder in training.*My organizing trick with him is to designate certain areas for collections. When they start exceeding that, it’s time to purge.Sometimes I do this while he is at school. I have also changed my own behavior to preemptively keep things from coming home- no more Happy Meals, no more collectable coins from the Naval Museum, less stuff on his Amazon birthday and Christmas lists.

 My 10 favorite ways to manage the chaos kid clutter

 #1 Create zones within your play space or your child’s bedroom, like a kindergarten classroom. 

This principle can be applied to any room in your house! Possible zones include:

  • Dressing Area - Dresser or days of the week clothes organization
  • Game Space - Board games or dress up clothes
  • Collection Zone - Having a finite and designated area for collections of things helps keep it under control. Maybe it’s one or two specific shelves, drawers or bins.
  • Toys Area- Putting toys in labeled bins or clear containers helps with cleanup and locating it
  • Book Space - Keep all of your kids books together in one spot.
  • Art Zone - Keep art supplies in small drawers or clear shoe boxes,near a drawing surface if Possible. Manage artwork clutter with a rotating display system.
Book and toy storage

#2 Do a pre- and post-party purge.

Purge rooms of unused or unwanted toys or clothes before birthdays and holidays, in anticipation of new items entering the house. Purge a few weeks after the party too. By then you’ll know which of your child’s new gifts are being played with or used.

#3 Toys on rotation.

Keep a limited amount of toys out at a time. The fewer toys you have on hand, the easier clean-up will be. Tuck others away in a bin, and switch them out every so often so things feel fresh. Teach your kids to do it for themselves. Thomas now does this on his own- brings out a toy from the bin in the basement and puts one from his room, in it’s place.

#4 Keep a save/donate/give away bin in each kid’s closet or by the laundry area.

The rapid rate at which kids outgrow their clothing and toys is insane. To keep up with the wasted stuff they produce, I have a bin in Lucy’s room and one by the laundry area to throw used clothing and toys into. When it’s full, I put in a garbage bag and toss it in the trunk of the car. Next time I am near a Goodwill I can off- load it. The same applies if you are saving used clothing for future children or friends who want your cast offs. In that case, label your bins by size of clothing for ease of reference.

#4 Create hobby specific storage/space solutions.

For your LEGO kid, make space for an underbed, wheeled LEGO table or install wall shelves for LEGO creation display. For your little artist, create an art studio in basement or other empty space

Under bed LEGO storage

#6 Designate coat and shoe storage.

Hooks for each kid's coats and bags. A dresser with a drawer for each person’s shoes and for hats and gloves. A designated space cuts down on misplacing shoes and hats/gloves, although this does occasionally still happen. It also creates a good habit for the kids to get into of keeping track of their belongings.

#7 Deal with schoolwork ASAP.

This is the bane of my organizing existence. So much paper comes home, it’s insane. My trick, a medium sized bin for it to all go in. Stack it up for the week, then try to purge before it goes into the bin. Final purge at the end of the year. I also keep a School File on my desk for notes from the teacher, field trip and fundraiser information, the school calendar and the latest PTA newsletter.

#8 Use clear bins.

These help so much with clean-up. These are great in the kids’ rooms or in closets/storage areas.

#9 Choose storage to fit your decor.

That being said (#8), if you are like me and your living room doubles as a play space, get baskets and bins that complement your decor and conceal the toys. You might as well enjoy looking at the toy storage.

#10 Make a command center.

I put a chalkboard calendar on my door. It is large format for easy reference. Plus it’s fun! I also have Chore charts, a wall calendar and bill sorter near by.

Back of door command center

The Big Take Aways

Purge as you go and do it often

I used to think that I had to do purging in big chunks of time, taking a whole weekend to tackle a room or section of the house. Marie Kondo challenges readers to purge by category, not by room. Like pulling all of the books out from every corner of the house and then sorting through them all in the same day. While I love the idea of doing a huge flush like that, it is unrealistic and anxiety inducing for me to find blocks of time to do it, which keeps me from dealing with it.

So, now I baby step it. I try to frequently purge small areas of my home at a time. A couple of weeks ago, I went through all of the products in my bathroom, and Lucy’s dresser while the kids were watching tv and got rid of two big garbage bags of stuff. I felt so accomplished, and it only took me 15 minutes. This week, I went through a couple of boxes of momentos.

I Heart Organization / Kathi Lipp / Minimalist Parenting /
Becoming Minimalist

Find your organizing style

I am a visual learner and think of things in spatial terms, so I struggle with things like meal planning and budgeting, since they are not staring me in the face at all times. It is sort of hilarious that some afternoons, I find myself saying, “Oh, yeah, I have to make dinner tonight.” Knowing this, I try to write down meal ideas on my chalkboard door, so that I have a loose framework for how to shop for the week. I use my Cozi list and calendar app to keep track of groceries I need. I also write down a bill’s due date as soon as it arrives so that when I consult my calendar, it’s there as a reminder.

What things in your home, present the largest challenge for you to keep organized? Is it toys, jackets and shoes, or clothes? Now, is there an area of your life you feel most on-top of? Is it meal planning or budgeting? Maybe your kitchen storage is well thought out, but the playroom is a disaster. What is it that works about the areas you are winning at? See how you might be able to adjust those systems to address your organization needs in other areas of your home.

Concealed shoe storage

Change your systems frequently

It is probably unrealistic to expect you will ever hit on the perfect organizing system. The gorgeous closets and playrooms we see on Pinterest are inspirational, but may be unattainable. That’s okay! As quickly as our kids change interests and sizes, we must adapt the organizing infrastructure to fit those needs. So, just go with the flow, and routinely revisit your habits and storage needs and tweak them when necessary.

It’s okay to save the sentimental stuff

Chances are, you have already singled out some of your favorite art work or notes by hanging them on the fridge, framing them or pinning them to the bulletin board. If your kid is a prolific producer of artwork, stick them all in a bin and purge at a later time. If there are lots that you love, take photos of them and make a little flip book.

As far as digital photos are concerned, I’m not the best at this, but I have them in folders by date on my computer and backed up on a hard-drive. I use snapfish to make photo books and prints to frame.

Clutter Free / Clutter Free with Kids / The Life-Changing Magic of Tiding Up /
New Order:A Decluttering Handbook for Creative Folks 

Organizing as Stewardship

While going back and forth about topics I would cover with this talk, Bethany put a question to me, that in all honesty I had never considered: Is there a spiritual aspect to taking care of the spaces you inhabit? Perhaps the idea of stewardship? Boom.

Boy did that hit me right at my core. Why had I never thought of these actions in this light? As I pondered this notion here are some personal revelations I encountered, as seen through the lens of stewardship. By working to keep my home tidy, I am:
  1. Honoring my god-given passion and talent for spatial arranging.
  2. Taking care of my family’s belongings and our home.
  3. Showing appreciation and gratitude for what we’ve been blessed with, both the necessities and the luxuries.
  4. Teaching my children to honor their surroundings and respect their belongings.
  5. Finding joy and peace through the act of organizing the things that mean the most to me, not in the pursuit of obtaining more things. 
And that is larger context in which to put all of this stuff… because after all, that is all it is!

Betsy Kornelis is a local writer and decorator. Find her at