Don't freak out at your child's cluttered disaster of a room. It doesn't mean they are doomed to live a life of unorganized chaos. Just remember, you can help them along with clearly defined organization tools (that happen to be cheap or free). Spend an afternoon teaching them the system and relax for the rest of the week.

Use Totes for Everything

Recycle the boxes the toys came in. Go stock up on cheap totes (I got a bunch for less than a dollar), and use them for games, puzzles, toys, anything and everything. Just remember, label them or clearly define them. You can use a picture for little toddlers, and tape the game directions on the inside of the lid. It makes cleaning a game when there is a specific place for your children's toys. Also, make sure they're stored at a level that your kids can easily access. I use a bookshelf and store lots of happy little totes on the shelves.

Toy Rotation

Take a third or up to half of the toys and put them away. Rotate them every two months. This eliminates toys and encourages them to actually play with what they have. (Obviously, favorite toys are left in their room.) You can bring them out on a rainy day and watch them rediscover their toys with new appreciation.

Only Use a Toy Chest as a Giant Tote

Toy chests are an organizational disaster. The exceptions to this are when the toy chest is used as a place for errant toys in a non-kid room, such as a living room*, or when the toy chest is used as a tote. For example, all stuffed animals go in the toy chest, or all Legos go in the toy chest.

*If toys end up in living areas, have a small basket or storage area to store them until they go back to their rooms at the end of each day. See how you can keep your house clean with small kids.

Don't Put Favorite Books on a Bookshelf

Leave an open dish tub on a shelf and place your child's favorite books in it. That way, they won't rip off every book on the shelf to get to their favorites. You can even swap out books weekly so you're going through different books. This tip will save your sanity if you're struggling with the toddler "throw all the books off the self" phase. Also, you can organize your child's school clutter relatively easily.

Clothes

Lower the tension rod in your child's closet and get child-sized hangers to encourage hanging clothes. Also, get small open containers or totes for things like socks and underwear. They are easier to access than drawers, and therefore easier to put away. Make coat hooks low enough for them to hang coats and hats on.

Teach Them the System

Your children will know what is expected of them. Your rules are your rules. But here are a few you may want to consider to make your life easier:

  • Clean up time before bed.
     
  • Have a trash basket in their room. Start a "no food in the room" policy. But keep the trash can there just the same.
     
  • Keep puzzles and games out of reach or sight. They can only play with these at special times.
     
  • Have a "one toy at a time" policy. Have them put one type of toy away before they get out another one.

To Help Keep Your Storage Costs Low

Save Your Containers

I've used everything from peanut butter jars for doll supplies to animal cracker containers from Costco for miscellaneous "everything" toys. If you like coffee from a can, those are wonderful storage containers. With their metal sides, smooth rims, and snap-top plastic lids, you may be tempted to skip the pricier bagged coffee for a couple months to get a couple of these gems on hand for toys.

It takes such a small amount of effort and very little money to make your child's room feel organized. It may not always look perfect, but at least you and your child will know where a toy is when you need it. And that is nothing short of a miracle.

See Also:

This post was included in the latest Everything Home Blog Carnival.