10 of the Trickiest Ways to Keep Your Kids Organized

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If there is one thing that is certain about kids, it’s that they are fairly messy. We can’t help this; it’s just life. They’re messy and they are fun and they are going to drive you absolutely crazy and insane. Kids will not learn how to become clean and tidy little people and adults if they are not taught. And while I might not be an organizational expert (despite almost 32 years of being an obsessive compulsive neat freak of epic proportions) but I do have a love of organization and a love of my four kids – which means lots of stuff and lots of mess if we are not careful. With this many kids (almost 7, 4, and 1-year-old twins) our house requires organization. I can’t work from home, get two kids to school and have two kids home with me all day long without organization. And this means more than just being organized myself; it means keeping all of my kids organized. The trick is to get them to be more organized without actually letting them know that they’re doing something good. The trick, in my opinion, is to get them to think that this is just habit and that way they never fight it. When something is second nature, it’s easy to practice. So we practice organization with our kids despite their lack of awareness, and it’s good stuff. I’m sharing with you so that you can get your kids more organized, also.

Create a Place for School Stuff

One of the best ways to keep kids organized is to create a designated place for their school supplies. One way to do this is to use an office space or a desk space in their room, a closet space for their backpacks and lunch boxes and their homework or whatever else they use for school. When everything goes into the right space as soon as you get home, it becomes habit and life becomes that much simpler.

Create a To-Do List

This would be a bit less of a to-do list and a bit more of a “responsibilities” list. My kids each have one on their wall and they like to mark it off. They get nothing else for what they do, other than just the thrill of making a big check mark next to the task on the day of. We don’t feel they should be rewarded for putting their clothes in the hamper or making their bed – they should just do it. And this was all the incentive they needed.

Use Photos and Labels

For smaller kids, it’s a great help. When you are putting toys away and teaching small kids to help clean up their mess, label all containers with a photo of the toys that go in the container and a label. Not only does it show them that dolls go in here, it also helps them learn to recognize words. So it’s organization and reading skills all in one. You go, parents.

Make it a Game

Kids love a challenge, so make organization a challenge for them. Challenge them to come up with creative ways to organize and reward them for keeping their rooms and items organized all week. There is nothing wrong with the promise of a Sunday evening ice cream date for the entire family if all can remain organized and on their “A” game.

Let them Help

Kids like to help, so giving them a say is going to make them more inclined to want to. For example, I learned with my almost 7-year-old that she doesn’t like my way of organizing her room because it’s not as functional to her as her own way. We have different ideas of what’s best, but hers works for her and it’s organized, so I let it go. She keeps it clean and organized, and I just let it go at that.

Don’t be Too Organized

I learned this the hard way with my 4-year-old. When you try to over-organize, she doesn’t like it. It’s probably the age and a combination of her personality and her stubborn streak (that could not possibly have come from me being that I’m so laid back and chill…ha!). Instead, I’ve learned that organized is organized with her, but that expecting perfection is a bit much.

Utilize Big Storage Ideas

We love this with our kids. We have decorative baskets in our play room that look gorgeous and chic, but they hold a bunch of toys. We don’t care which toys go in there, just that all the toys end up in some sort of storage bin by the end of the day when it’s time to clean up.

Let Kids make Some Choices of Their Own

Our kids didn’t love our idea of organization, but they do like their own ideas. So we let them choose their own desks and bookshelves and storage bins and baskets and they have really done a good job at keeping things organized in their rooms based on their needs and loves, and that’s good enough for us.

Give them a Timeline Rather than Exact Skills

Something we have learned with 4 kids is that they are not going to clean up everything every second of every day. They are going to, instead, become little monsters about everything. So while we have a rule that their bedrooms have to stay clean and their playroom has to stay clean, we also have a rule that since we can’t see any of those rooms from the main area of the house that they can make all the mess they want as long as it gets cleaned up before school and again before bed. They get it done, and we aren’t constantly yelling at them to do it.

Be a Good Example

This is the slickest and most ingenious way to keep your kids organized. Just be organized yourself. If your kids see you shoving junk into a drawer just because it’s there, they’re going to do the same thing. If you are not organized, they are not going to be organized. Set a good example and they will learn.

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images


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