Along with the joy of having children comes the challenge of managing all the stuff that arrives with them. From toys to sports equipment to endless artwork masterpieces, parents can easily feel buried under it all and struggle to keep it organized.
Here are eight ways to start conquering the clutter today according to organizational experts Sarah Giller Nelson of Less is More Organizing Services Inc. and Monica Friel of Chaos to Order.
Outerwear and shoes
From the moment your kids step inside the house, have a specific place for their outer gear. “Assign each member of the family bins and hooks for their coats, shoes and gear,” says Giller Nelson.
Friel agrees that you can never have too many hooks. “Hooks are much better than hangers and you can place them at easy-to-reach heights for any age,” she says.
When it comes to sports equipment, it’s better to have a plan, not just a dumping ground.
“Containers designed to store umbrellas can be used to corral long, skinny sporting equipment like hockey sticks, bats and tennis rackets,” says Giller Nelson. “It is helpful to store gear in a `kit’ that includes everything your child needs. For instance, hang a tote bag pre-packed with goggles, swimsuit, a change of clothes and a towel so that it is ready to grab when it is time to go to swim class.”
Don’t drown in the paperwork sent home from school, which is particularly important as the kids begin the new year.
“I keep a file for each of my children with a label for the grade that they are in,” Friel says. “Important papers that come home from school go into this folder. At the end of the year, my child and I go through the folder together to determine what papers should be kept and what can go.”
Remember that your child is likely not the next Picasso.
“Artwork is the trickiest of all papers to organize because it doesn’t usually fit into a file folder or box,” Friel says. “Sometimes artwork can be forced to fit by trimming the picture and saving only the best section. Another way is to take a photo of the artwork and keep it in the current year’s file. The artwork can also be stored digitally or made into a keepsake book. Keeping artwork on display, within reason, helps your child to know their work is appreciated, but keeping too much can cause clutter and chaos.”
Don’t just use large baskets as dumping grounds for toys.
“Big storage bins encourage clutter,” Friel says. “You really need to keep toys contained in bins by type and use. Save toy chests for large items like trucks, blocks and balls and put small toys in small containers. Having the right containers and storage systems makes a big difference not only in maintaining organization, but also in keeping your kids knowing and interested in what they have.”
Rotate, rotate, rotate. “Manage toy overload by using a rotation system,” Giller Nelson says. “Store a selection of toys in a lidded bin in an out-of-the way place. If the kids get bored, bring the bin down and swap out the toys. If they never ask for the toys in the bin again, those toys can easily be donated.”
Be like Queen Elsa and “let it go” when it comes to clothes your kids outgrow.
“Keep a donation bin in everyone’s closets so you can purge outgrown clothes as you discover them,” Friel says. Visit Chaos to Order for a great list of places in the Chicago area accepting donations.
Shop with intention
Giller Nelson advises you to think before you get out that credit card.
“Before you buy, ask yourself, `Do I really need this?,’ `Would I still buy it if it were not on sale?’ and `If I bring this into my home, do I have a place to store it?’ If the answer to any of these questions is `no,’ it’s best to walk away. The less you own, the less you have to take care of.”