Does the word itself make you tense? Feel like a slob around the more organized people in your life? You know the ones. The ones who you’re pretty sure tidied up the nursery in the hospital after they were born – lined up the lotions, soaps, and diapers for the nurses. Want in on a secret? They’re not any better than you. You’re not inadequate. You’re just wired differently. You can be organized– you just have to think a little harder about it to get started. We’ve broken it down into 7 simple steps, focusing on a playroom/toys, but the principles can be applied to any space.
- DUMP IT ALL OUT. Put all the contents of the room in a single layer on your floor. Some of you may already be halfway there before you even read this, HIGH FIVE! You’re already on the right track!
- Sort into major categories. In a playroom it’s probably something like – books, toys, games, movies, stuffed animals, dress up/pretend play. As you are putting your items in categories, inspect them. Pull out anything that’s broken. Keep it ONLY if you’re planning to fix it in the next day or so. If not, put it in a pile to get rid of. Pull out items that you/and or your kids don’t play with and either put it away (really away, like a bin in your attic or closet) for a while and reintroduce it later. You may want to include your children in this*.
- Once things are sorted into major categories, see if there are any sub groups that jump out at you – (i.e. Legos, Barbies and accessories, Little People, Hot Wheels). Group those things together.
- Assess the groups and then decide what kind of storage will work for you. In our dreamy, perfect world, perfect house imagination, we see lovely color coordinated bins with perfect labels and amazing built in shelving with window seats that also have storage –and then, you’re intimidated all over again. Focus. Keep it simple. Don’t let this project break you – your wallet OR your spirit. Utility shelving is available at most home improvement stores. So are clear plastic bins and drawer units. Your goal is organization, not an interior design masterpiece. Transparent bins are best because it keeps your kids from having to think too hard about cleanup (affiliate). Solid bins all look the same and each one will get opened and dumped while they’re looking for that one blue Lego or Barbie shoe. Choose containers that your kids can open themselves.
- Store often-used (i.e. the kids’ favorite toys) at eye level. Board games and movies can often be put out of sight or on a higher shelf. Stuffed animals can be stored in a laundry basket or clipped to a chain hanging from your ceiling.
- When everything is in its place, invite your family in and orient them to the new system. If everything has a place, cleanup should take 10 minutes or less. Institute a “If you’re not using it, put it away before you get something else out” rule. Little ones will need help, but if you’re specific in your instructions (“Put the stuffed animals in the basket”, “Put the books on the shelf”) they’ll learn how to tidy up. “Clean Up” gets lost in kids’ heads because it feels overwhelming. This is the time for them to learn, step by step, what cleaning up means.
- REVISIT. It’s an ongoing thing. Once the initial work is done, you’ll need to look at what’s working and what can be improved. Lots of disorganized people have organized children, so the work may not be as hard as you think– establishing a system may be all you need to get kids moving. And then down the road, if things get out of hand again? Back to Step 1!
*Avoid throwing away things without discussion. Involving kids builds trust – and NOT involving them kills it. Kids tend to be attached to things you’d never think of as being important.