Kids and Clutter

Organizing Kids: Cleaning & Clutter Tips Needed

I have 5 children ranging from 2 years to 13 years old. I work outside the home and I am a single parent. We do 2 loads of laundry a day. The house gets cluttered fast. I need tips on how to keep it clean in the limited time I have and be able to spend time with the kids. Any suggestions?

Organizing Kids: Their Own Space

I have three children myself and have found that a great way to get rid of the clutter is to make sure each child has their own space. For the school aged children I have put double hooks directly inside the door. They hang-up their coats and book bags when they walk in the door. I have a two year-old little girl, in her room we have taken an old shelf shelf (mine when I was a child) that has 9 small compartments. We use tubs that were saved from trips in the hospital that were used for sponge baths, they fit the spaces of the shelf almost exact. She uses a different tub for small things. For example, one for tub toys, one for toy dishes, one for lego's etc. It is nice that she can take out a tub and put it away by herself. We also have built in cubbies on one wall that hold blankets and extra sheets and one for dress-up clothes. In the boys room we have used wall space and hang-up all their sporting equipment. Looks just as sporting as having a poster up. We have a rule in our house that your room must be clean everynight before you go to bed. This works for us (even the 2 year old picks up her own stuff).

Organizing Kids: Places to Store

Wow, you have your hands full! The first thing that I think you need is lots of storage areas. If you have a money crunch, check out yardsales. Look for dressers, shelves, baskets etc. Our houses tend to look less cluttered when things are hiding in other things.

My collection of magazine subscriptions is hiding in an old picnic basket from a sale, $1.00. For just $5.00 I got one of the boys a really nice stereo shelf, big enough to hold not only the stereo, but the cd's and some video games etc. Plastic toolboxes are nice for little collections. I have one for my sewing, one for a lego collection, one for painting supplies. In cupboards (where no one sees) you can use shoe boxes to clean out clutter. Put school supplies in one, househould tools in one, etc. I still have just as much junk as the next person but it doesn't look like it because the clutter is stored in boxes, tins, etc. It's sometimes difficult getting the kids to put stuff back when they are done, but they soon catch on to how nice it is to know where things are!

Laundry...maybe you and some of the older kids can do it and have it sorted and folded so all the little ones need to do is open their drawers to put it away. Mine usually sits on the dining room table where everyone can grab "their pile" has they head past. Doesn't always work, but for the most part it does.

And if your boss ever allows you to go home a couple hours early because of slow work? Resist the temptation to go get the kids. Use the couple hours for some quiet time that you can do what you like.

Organizing Kids: A Variety of Solutions

I have two girls who seem to enjoy living in a cluttered environment. Here are a few ideas which have been helpful.

  • Put away half of their toys. Switch them around every few months.

  • Use boxes with labels on them, milk crates and storage bins to sort out toys and put them away.

  • You can never have too many bookshelves. Use bricks/milk crates and boards or find them at garage sales.

  • Use a timer and make it a game to see how much can be cleaned up in 5 minutes. Have a treat afterwards of reading a book to them or having a snack.

  • Make a rule that there are no toys allowed in the kitchen and/or dining room. When you are feeling overwhelmed, you can retreat to that room and relax!!

  • When someone is coming over, shovel the stuff on the counters off into a box. Throw the box into a cupboard. Sort it out at a later date while watching tv.

  • Give the kids a clean-up roster and make it worthwhile!

  • Have a garage sale and let the kids sell some of their toys, have a koolaid stand, sell cupcakes etc.

  • Let your standards drop a bit. Kids will not remember how tidy the house was, they will remember how much love they received!! You will someday be on your own again and can have the sort of house you dream about!

Ruth in Victoria BC Canada

Organizing Kids: Assign Chores

What we try to do is to allot certain chores to each person in the family. The oldest ones could do laundry...taking turns between the 2 oldest and you. You could do it on the first day, the oldest child on the second day, the next oldest on the third day and then back to you again. (Or however you choose to divide it up.)

We have a dishwasher and one child is always expected to empty it out when it's clean. Another child is always expected to take the trash out 3 times a week. (We live in an apartment complex and have a dumpster...You could also have a child simply collect the trash 3 times a week and put it out whenever.)

Finally, everyone is required to pick up their toys, books, clothes and whatever they might have used for the day. Normally by a certain time in the afternoon/evening, otherwise there is a great chance it ends up in the trash.

Basically, it's child training at it's best. Not to say that that's how it always works here. Children are still in training here and there will be days that you'll wonder if it's worth it, but always remember...Whatever methods you may choose to go with...consistency will win out over everything else.

Organizing Kids: Containers!

I have a one-word solution-containers! When my son was little and his clothes were short on the hangers, my husband built removeable shelves inside and we painted them blue and white. We bought a half-dozen blue and white laundry baskets and that stored his toys. Out of sight is neater, and containers help immensely.

With our youngest just turning 2 1/2, he has a laundry basket in the living room for toys and clutter and it makes things neater. I may not have a place for everything, but I have a container for it!

Organizing Kids: Your Own Cleaning Crew

This person has a cleaning crew in her own house! A chore chart will help to eliminate most of her problems. Yes, she'll have to initiate the whole process, spend some time developing a list, be consistent in her expectations of EVERY child (even the 2 year old), and set some very stiff consequences when chores are not done, i.e. oldest children can't participate in extra-curricular activities until their chores are done, etc. This parent needs to be an organized person. If they are not, they won't be able to help themselves see a way out of this problem. I lived in such a household...two unorganized parents, two unorganized was a frustrating situation for me. My household, to this day, is the only one that is organized.

Each child needs to be told and expected to keep up with their responsibilities. The 2 year old should be required to put away one toy before being allowed to play with another and toys should be restricted to one and ONLY one room of the house.. If necessary, use a locked toy chest. This way the child will have to ask for another toy and have to put back the one toy that is out before a new toy can be issued for play. I'm a believer in allowance for children just because, without any ties to chores, and required to use their own allowance for certain things which are their responsibility. This way, school-aged children are responsible for packing their own lunch. If they do not, they will either have to go hungry or spend their own allowance money for lunch. The parent should NEVER EVER drop what they're doing to run a lunch or lunch money to the school...teach your children that they are directly responsible for these type things in their life. The oldest children can be expected to do everything from laundry to cooking meals. Even the youngest child can be expected to keep their own things, like blankets, etc. put away or face the consequence of not having them.

Get rid of all unnecessary clutter...unused toys, papers, clothes, stuff that junks up a house. Everything should have a place and be expected to in it's place when not in use.

To quote Sarah Ban Breathnach that wrote Simple Abundance:

  1. If you take it out, put it back.

  2. If you open it, close it.

  3. If you throw it down, pick it up.

  4. If you take it off, hang it up.

This parent needs to take a good look at themselves, their organizational skills, and their willingness to be an effective parent in order for this situation to improve.

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