4 tips for organizing kiddos

When I was a kid, one of four in my house who were in a race to see how quickly our parents could go nuts, my mother had an interesting approach to organizing our clutter.

She’d pick it up, walk calmly to the front door, and toss it all out on the lawn.

Shoes, back packs, books, toys – she would stop at nothing. We’d think it was hilarious, run out after our stuff, bring it back inside and drop it right where it was before… by the front door daring our dad to enter without breaking his neck.

Our parents eventually gave in to living in a perpetual state of disarray, and now that I do my family’s dishes and my family’s laundry and get my family’s mail and coordinate my family’s schedules, I can sort of grasp why giving up is easier than keeping up.
If only my mom had met the Organizing Junkie.

Laura, author of the uber-popular blog I’m an Organizing Junkie, has a peace of mind and bits of organizational wisdom that can turn madhouses into places of calm and tranquility – as far as the stuff in them is concerned.

Unlike Martha Stewart, who is so organized it’s artful, Laura gets that life happens, that personalities come with their own ideas, and that, despite it all, the clutter must be contained.

“I try not to be too uptight about it,” she said. “When you have three kids, you have to have a little give and take. I try to set up my systems so that they’re all user friendly for everybody and so that they can all take part in it without it being too high maintenance.”

Laura has a few secrets up her sleeve when it comes to containing kiddie clutter.

Adopt the “Toy Room Rule.”

Designate rooms for toys, and make sure your kids don’t cart their entertainment from room to room. Living room toys stay in the living room, playroom toys stay in the play room. Laura says you’ll be amazed at how this little rule helps you get a handle on little mess-makers.

Create a “Closet Library.”

Kids clothes aren’t usually long enough to fill the bottom of the closet, so make use of this space by adding a bookcase and storing their books.

Corral with containers.
Create easy homes for things in bedrooms, bathrooms, anywhere with containers. Containers teach kids that there are limits and boundaries and teach them how to make difficult decisions and prioritize their wants.

Keep it easy and accessible.
Create storage for things that are accessible to your children and won’t set them up for failure. If they can’t get easily follow the system, they won’t, and then they won’t understand the value of being organized.

Living an organized life means accepting that organization, like life, is a never ending process.

Take Laura’s backpack station, for example. As the year shifts from summer to back to school, she is constantly updating her front door corral to meet her family’s needs. As summer fades to fall and into a Canadian winter, space dedicated to shoes goes through seasons as well.

“I no sooner get things set up, and I have to rework it,” Laura said. “But once you taste that sense of accomplishment and experience having that organized drawer, that’s really powerful and that feeling is what I’m addicted to. That sense of accomplishment from one project will inspire you to do other projects.”

For Laura, being organized at home makes her life much more manageable. She said her family is able to function better when it’s operating in a place of order, and that helps her feel calm during even the most chaotic storms.

Feeling like you need more of an organizing fix? Check out Laura’s I’m an Organizing Junkie blog!


Keep it Off the Floor!
At the Lillian Vernon online home store, you can buy cute yet functional organizing accessories for the kids’ room.

Crafty—But Clean
At Family Fun, you can find tons of family craft projects that double as storage and organizing pieces, like a pocket wall organizer made from plain curtains!

Regain Your Sanity With NAPO
Contact the National Association of Professional Organizers to find a specialist who’ll help you get your life back in order!

Neat or Not?
HGTV organizing guide will help you control your clutter, once and for all.

Crazy Adventures in Parenting
A blog about raising 6 children living in the military

Is organizing a gateway drug to happiness?

We’re all addicted to something. We might as well admit it.

Some of us are addicted to sweets, some of us are addicted to attention, some of us are addicted to shoes, and some of us are addicted to television.

Whatever your vice, wouldn’t it be nice if you could get your fix and organize your junk drawer at the same time?

That’s how it is for Laura, a self-diagnosed Organizing Junkie.

A mother of three, Laura wasn’t always an order addict. In fact when she was growing up she admits to being a bit of a clutter bug. But necessity is the mother of, well, in this case, organization.

“It’s very calming for me to organize,” she said. “If I was having a bad day or something, I would just want to close the door, dump a drawer and focus in. I know that sounds crazy, but being able to focus in on sorting and purging, I could forget about everything else. I felt so much better afterwards.”

Like any good junkie, Laura helps others who share her condition (and some who wish they did) get a fix with her blog, I’m an Organizing Junkie. Started as a way to connect with other adults when her youngest son was 6 months old, the blog has become an online haven for those looking for the next must-have container or backpack station solutions.

“I had no idea what I was going to blog about,” she said. “I mean, my life is just not that exciting. But I went with what I’m so passionate about, and after a couple months, I realized what an amazing community of women bloggers are out there and it was exciting to see that they were responding to what I was saying about organizing. It really motivated me to do more.”

Laura implemented events on Organizing Junkie to inspire other mothers contain the madness that is life. She’s run 30-day organizational challenges to help women tackle specific areas of their homes and hosted basket carnivals to share new and interesting storage ideas.

Most popular of all her events, however, is Menu Plan Monday, a web-wide collection of more than 300 weekly answers to the ever-pressing question, “What’s for dinner?”

“Menu planning is one of the best places to start with the organizing process,” said Laura. “The brain space that menu planning frees up is incredible and incredibly worth it. Not having to have that moment of panic at 4 o’clock every day about what you’re going to cook is amazing. You don’t have to have that stress if you’ve already planned it out on Sunday or Monday. It makes life so much easier.”

While menu planning may seem like a chore, the way Laura approaches it really does make it addictive. She’s built a community of share and tell, and the enthusiasm is enough to get you motivated without making you feel like a loser for avoiding it all this time. You’ll sit down to plan your menu for a week, and the next thing you know you’re organizing your recipes. Then the spice rack catches your eye and you go into “the zone.”

Laura makes organizing as fun for everyone else as it is for her, partly because of her practical approach to it and partly because of her owning up to being borderline freakish in her passion for it. It’s this good humor that keeps you coming back for more — that and the fact that you’ve just discovered the chaos underneath your bathroom sink and you have no idea where to begin.

“Organization is a process,” Laura said. “I no sooner get things set up the way I like them, and I’ll have to rework it.”

Because it is such a process, Laura has devised an acronym (aptly named P-R-O-C-E-S-S) to help aspiring junkies give in to organization.

Plan of attack.
Plan your project – which area(s) do you want to address – make a list – evaluate your present system, what is working, what isn’t working, devise a new system – determine budget – develop timeline .

Remove items.
Start from a clean slate – empty the space completely – remove then sort & purge

Organize into piles.
Donate/toss/sell/keep/relocate – sort like with like – purge excess – the more you purge the less you have to find a home

Find storage solutions – containers establish limits and boundaries – designate a space for items being kept – consolidate.

Evaluate your plan.
How is your system working for you – are you able to work your system? What needs to be modified? A good system should be easy to maintain

Solve/simplify anything that isn’t working for you and revise accordingly

Smile, relax and enjoy your hard work!

Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started, but Laura insists that there is no wrong way to organize.

“There’s no one right system,” she said. “It’s what works for you. Just because I’m showing you how I do something doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Certainly start there and then tweak it as you go along. There’s no way to mess it up really. If it’s working, if you are able to feel that sense of knowing where something is and the calmness that comes with that and it’s being maintained by the family in an easy way, that’s good. Go with it.”

For more from Laura on organizing kids, including staving off your inner organizing junkie fits that come from the messes they make, visit her blog I’m an Organizing Junkie.


Old Habits Die Hard
Figure out how to take your home from disorder to order with this blog by organizing consultant Megan Spears. (Read: FREE HELP!)

Lazy Fixes
Follow the Lazy Organizer as she tries to make sense of the chaos in her home despite a tendency to relax.

Organizing Made Simple
Real Simple magazine arrives in the mailbox and suddenly that endless stack of bills doesn’t seem as powerful. Enjoy these simple solutions from the online version of this way-too-good reading material!

The Queen Bee
South African Marcia Francois proves that organizing isn’t just an American phenomenon with her blog Organizing Queen.

Baby Get Green
One woman’s tips on living a greener and more organized life.

A Woman’s Guide to Saner Living
A site about inspiration and making choices to help live the best possible life.

Getting organized in the face of KID CHAOS

Deborah was at a crossroads in her life. She had been working as a freelance fashion designer, but that work wasn’t satisfying her anymore.

She wanted to find a more family-friendly career, so she thought, “What can I do on a freelance basis and still be a full-time mom for my two boys?”

Deborah had always been an organized person. Finding the perfect, most efficient arrangment for things came naturally to her, and it was a skill she’d honed in her life as a designer. When someone suggested she try pursuing a career as a professional organizer, she was floored.

Not only did she not know that job title existed and that people made money doing it, she didn’t realize her organization gene was exceptional. She assumed that since it came so easy to her, it must be easy for others.

Looking into it a little more deeply, Deborah discovered a whole world of organizationally-challenged people out there who could use her help. She joined NAPO, which is the National Association for Professional Organizers, went to a meeting, and began building her business as a professional organizer.

“Before I started a business of my own, I volunteered and worked for other organizers,” she said. “It was an incredible learning curve. Organizing for yourself is one thing, but making it a profession and organizing for others is something else.”

“When I first talk on the phone with clients, I tell them not to clean up, because that’s not going to help me,” she said. “I have to see what my client has created, in its natural state. At that point, I am able to zero in on what’s bugging them the most. For most people, it’s the piles of mail or their kids’ toys.”

Then she just jumps right into making sense of the madness. She creates a plan based on the six essential steps of organizing:

1. Sort your items.

2. Purge, or get rid of what you don’t need.

3. Assess the situation. Ask yourself questions like, “What is this room going to be used for? Who’s using it? What’s my organizing style?”

4. Contain your items in the places you’ve created for them.

5. Label containers and areas where things are supposed to go.

6. Maintain the organizing system you’re working with.

Deborah insists that what some think is a gift is really just a habit she has.

“Organizing is a learned habit,” she said. “Everybody can learn it, but you have to be dedicated. You have to create a system that works with your personality. If the system works for you, it’s because it’s working with you. ”

Two personality types that Deborah encounters often are pilers and filers. Pilers tend to create little stacks or clusters all over the place, where as filers tend to tuck things away in a special space.

“If a right-brained person loves to pile their paper, you can’t force them to have a filing system,” she said. “For a person like this, we figure out a more open piling system that they’d be able to stick to.”

In addition to working with innate personalities to create organization solutions, Deborah also considers lifestyle — especially when it comes to clients with kids.

As the mom to two boys, Deborah understands the havoc kids can wreak on organizational systems. In fact, the only way she found a way to make hers work was bringing her sons in to help solve the problems.

“I try to include children in the decision making — what to get rid of, where should something live,” she said. “You want them to own and understand the process. You want them to feel like they’re part of it even if they’re just helping you sort. And believe me, they’re big helpers with sorting, because they know their toys very well.”

Creating routines and giving everything a place has helped Deborah’s own family lead a more manageable life and has helped her clients find more time for their own families. A 15 minute clean up before bed each night keeps your weekend free to go on a bike ride with your kiddos. Giving order to the pantry helps you get kids fed and off to school on time. According to Deborah, those little bits of effort go a long way.

“If everything is settled and has a place, your life is no longer about your stuff or your lack of time,” she said. “Your life has purpose, and it becomes about doing the things you want to do.”

For help getting organized, plan a visit with the Organizing Junkie, a WAHM mom to three whose enthusiasm for order is infectious and helfpul. Also, take a look at these links:

Neat or Not?
HGTV organizing guide will help you control your clutter, once and for all.

Regain Your Sanity with NAPO
Contact the National Association of Professional Organizers to find a specialist who’ll help you get your life back in order!

Lillian Lends a Hand
At the Lillian Vernon online home store, you can buy attractive yet functional organizing accessories for all parts of your home.

Thinking inside the Box
Tap into every professional organizers’ handy bag of tricks by taking a tour of the Container Store.

The (not really) Lazy Organizer
Lara Gallagher publicly wages war with a tendency toward laziness and disorganization, and we get to be all the better for it.

Clearing the clutter helped me enjoy my family again

Before Mary got rescued by a professional organizer, she was a self-proclaimed “stuffer.”
“I stuffed everything in closets and then shut the door,” she recalls. “Then every time I had to go to that closet to put something away, I would have feelings of anxiety. It was overwhelming, especially after having kids, because we had just accumulated so much stuff. While my kids were playing, I was always trying to organize, in my ineffective, disorganized way.”

After seeing a TV program about organizing, Mary tried to get organized on her own, but it didn’t take long for her to realize that she needed to have a system that worked for her. So, Mary decided to get a professional organizer to help her get started.

“Deborah, my organizer taught me tips that I had never even thought of,” Mary says. “What she did was go to a closet or cupboard and empty everything out first. This way, we were getting a fresh start, which makes things easier.”

As part of Mary’s new organizing effort, she and Deborah tackled her daughters’ closets, where Mary kept all the stuff was that she thought she needed to save. Deborah asked her questions like, “Do you really need this?” or “Has your daughter worn this in the last six months?” Now, Mary asks herself those questions, and she’s able to get rid of stuff she doesn’t need every six months

“I want my girls to grow up with a sense of organization. It feels so good to give them good habits that I didn’t have at their age,” Mary says. “For example, one of the tools that my older daughter Sophia uses is giving everything important a home. She knows that you don’t have to throw everything in the closet and close the door when company comes over if you stay organized on a daily basis. Sophia’s only six, but she cares about what the house looks like when her friends come over.”

Mary does things to make organizing exciting for her girls. They work together to give toys a new home; for instance, their dollhouse was in the corner before and the girls had a puppet theater that they didn’t use. So, they got rid of the puppet theater and moved the dollhouse to be the center feature of the room, where it’s become a whole new toy for the girls. They also set up stations with bins for dolls, for art, and for books, and the kids love it.

“Getting organized has improved my life by giving me more freedom and time to enjoy my family,” Mary says. “I feel like what I’ve learned is such a gift. My household has become so peaceful, and I’m definitely inspired to keep it up. Now, every six months I go back and reassess everything so that I never have to start from scratch again.”

If you’re wanting an organizational overhaul, take a look at these sites to get some ideas of how to start.


Keep It off the Floor!
At the Lillian Vernon online home store, you can buy cute yet functional organizing accessories for the kids’ room.

Crafty—But Clean
At Family Fun, you can find tons of family craft projects that double as storage and organizing pieces, like a pocket wall organizer made from plain curtains!

Regain Your Sanity With NAPO
Contact the National Association of Professional Organizers to find a specialist who’ll help you get your life back in order!

Neat or Not?
HGTV organizing guide will help you control your clutter, once and for all.

Thinking inside the Box
Tap into every professional organizers’ handy bag of tricks by taking a tour of the Container Store.

Meet the Organizing Junkie
Laura, a mom to three, can barely contain her excitement for organizing, and we’re all the better because of it! Get menu ideas, decluttering insights, and photographic evidence that organizing really works in her blog.