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  • Five Steps to Conquering Kid Clutter

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    • Clutter Elsewhere
      As most parents know, conquering clutter in the kids' bedroom still leaves piles elsewhere to be dealt with. Kids don't just play, create and hang out in their rooms, after all.

      Those items ...
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      Clutter Elsewhere
      As most parents know, conquering clutter in the kids' bedroom still leaves piles elsewhere to be dealt with. Kids don't just play, create and hang out in their rooms, after all.

      Those items they claim as treasures will ultimately sneak out of the bedroom and down the hall, quickly infiltrating other living areas.

      When bathroom toys take over the tub and sink areas, a hosiery bag will keep toys in one place while allowing them to drip-dry after bath.

      Artwork sent home from school by the pound should be sorted weekly and kept in a designated spot. Weekly works of art can be displayed where desired, but rotated out.

      A basket "per kid" in main areas of the home, such as the family room or kitchen, will give kids a designated spot to return frequently used toys and make cleanup easier.

      Avoid putting piles of laundry on kids' dresser tops or a vacant shelf. If clothes are on hangers, hang them up. In piles? Have a basket in the laundry or bedroom specifically for clean clothes that need to be put away. Kids should have a hamper for dirty clothes in their bedroom and, if space is available, a small basket to discard clothes they try on, but discover no longer fit.

      Most importantly, in seeking a clutter-free zone, don't expect perfection. Teaching kids to keep things tidy is more about habit than results. Besides, much of their mess-making happens during important fun time. And they won't stay little for long.
  • While spring and summer often inspire cleaning and de-cluttering, inspection of most kids rooms any time of year leave parents wanting to run, hide or, at worst, rent an oversize dumpster and start heaving piles of stuff out the largest available window.
    Without basic training and a usable system, kids are often the messiest household members with the fewest cleanup responsibilities. With a little planning, however, kids and parents can conquer the craziest of clutter together.
    Christine Arundell, a professional organizer who spends her time between the Rogue Valley and the rest of the Pacific Northwest, says kids simply need to be taught, just like adults, how to deal with things that accumulate.
    1. CLEAR IT OUT
    First and foremost, Arundell says, get rid of things that don't fit, aren't being played with or have been in the need-to-fix-it pile for six weeks or longer.
    "The biggest reason kids' rooms become so 'Wow!' is they have too much stuff," Arundell says. "The key is to reduce the amount of actual things in the room."
    Involve kids in deciding what to get rid of. Rather than ask which items they like least, ask them to choose three or four out of several similar items. Make kids feel good about getting rid of extras by donating to charity, giving to friends or hosting a yard sale and letting them keep the proceeds.
    2. ROTATE & STORE
    For smaller rooms, Arundell encourages boxing up needed, but out-of-season toys and clothes, and putting them aside when not in use. For example, store snow play gear in a flat tote under the bed during summer.
    3. CONTAINERIZE
    After reducing the sheer mass of stuff, divide remaining toys, books and items into categories. Containerizing is Ashland de-cluttering pro Joan Franklin's favorite step in the process.
    Have a sit-down with the family mess-maker and discuss what kinds of storage units they'd like for various items, such as fashion dolls or building blocks. Choose from wicker baskets, plastic totes, shelves or a combination.
    Franklin suggests clear bins, which allow kids to see items rather than dumping out a box or boxes to find a single item. A step further, open-front stackable bins offer even easier access. For stuffed animals, consider a hammock-type net in one corner of the room. Books should be grouped by size on easy-to-reach shelves and smaller items should be grouped in smaller, shallow baskets. Avoid oversized totes, Arundell warns, or you'll wind up sorting again when they become a catchall.
    4. LABEL
    Once like items have been grouped, determine how containers will be arranged most played with items should be most accessible and how best to identify container contents. Arundell suggests using photos, drawings or other creative mechanisms for labeling containers.
    "Make it like a game for them. You can take pictures or have them draw on the labels to show what's inside each container," she says. Labels work on dressers, too, ensuring kids know where to put clean laundry when the time comes.
    5. KEEP IT UP!
    Finally, with a parent-and-child approved system in place, practice good habits. Remind kids that keeping things in order makes toys easier to find and major room-cleaning events unnecessary. Surprisingly, Franklin says kids rooms are only hard to keep clean when the system for keeping a sense of order was not created by the person who lives in the room.
    "The biggest downfall most parents face is that they don't involve the kids in actually finding a system," says Franklin. So schedule regular room 'checkups' and opt for frequent '10-minute tidies' instead of day-long battles. When cleanup is needed, make it a positive experience.
    "Do something special when they're done," says Franklin. "Tell them, when you're done, you get to do such-and-such or go have your favorite ice cream. Make it positive."
    And just think, once little Johnny or Susie have all those healthy habits for keeping their room clean, maybe they'll help mom and dad get theirs in order!

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