Here are my 5 tips for keeping your home organized when you have kids:
1. Say NO to more stuff. Contrary to what your child tells you, they will NOT die if they don’t get the really cool toy that the neighbor kid has. Start now, teaching your kids that keeping up with the Jones’ isn’t necessary. Keep the toy-buying to only holidays and birthdays, and if your child does get a new toy, then follow the “one item in, one item out” rule and have them choose something they no longer use to donate. In our family, we reassess all of the toys in the house at Christmas and birthday times, clearing out the things they’ve outgrown or no longer love to make room for the new things they’ve received as gifts. Which brings us to our next tip…
2. Quality over quantity. It’s not how many toys your kids have, it’s the quality of those toys! Your kids will get more “play value” with open-ended toys which allow them to use their imagination. Steer clear of that electronic beeping toy that only does one thing… your child will be bored with it in a month’s time. Instead, opt for things like blocks, dolls, vehicles, dramatic play items, etc… toys that can be used multiple ways and for many years (and encourage well-meaning relatives to do the same)
3. A place for everything, and everything in its place. To store toys and other kid paraphernalia, find baskets or bins to separate toys by type, and then label the baskets. For pre-readers, it’s helpful to have pictures on the labels, as well. This makes clean-up time easier for the little ones, as they will soon learn where each item belongs. Inexpensive bins are readily available from places like IKEA, Target or even your local dollar store.
4. Encourage regular “clean ups” throughout the day. Yeah, this tip is a little trickier to follow through on, but try to encourage your kids to tidy up regularly. In our family, we have regular “clean up” times at certain times of the day: before we go out, before lunch and before dinner. We also encourage the concept of putting away one item before taking out another. This doesn’t always work, but we try!
5. Lead by example. Remember that old saying “Do as I say, not as I do?” Yeah, well it doesn’t work. Your kids are watching you, and learning from your behavior. Clean up your own messes as you expect them to clean theirs. When you get a new item for your home, get rid of one item, to keep your own clutter in check.
Now, if you are currently swamped under way too much stuff, give yourself a little time to work through the clutter. Maybe start by helping your kids choose one item per day to give away, and one piece “junk” to throw away (I’m talking about those little party favor toys that make their way into your home, or broken toys, or things with missing pieces) In time, you will have things pared down enough that it will be easy to organize and maintain.
Next post, I will show you some pictures of our home’s toy and craft storage areas, so you can see how we implement some of the above tips!