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!

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

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

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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

Containerize.
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.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

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.

Tips for keeping school clutter in check

Cindy is a professional designer and organizational genius. And above that, she knows how stressful trying to get kids to do their homework can be. But she has a theory, well not just a theory… she has put it to the test and it works!

The truth is… Kids like routines and they like organization. They thrive in structured environments. If you can provide that for them, you’ll be helping them be successful. Teaching kids how to be organized is really important because it teaches them a lot of good habits that they’ll use throughout their life.

(Plus, it just makes getting to school in the morning run a whole lot smoother if you don’t have to spend an hour looking for that test that they needed you to sign or the math homework they swear they did.)

1. Throw away things they don’t need.

It’s a good idea to go through your child’s backpack every day after school. It lets you see if there is any correspondence from the teacher or grades you should be aware of. Kids are not always going to remember, and they’re not always going to throw out the stuff they don’t need. By purging the junk, you’ll also be lightening their load, so take five minutes every night to clean out the backpack.

2. Set up a simple file system.

If they are always searching for their papers that they brought home from school, it takes away from homework time. A lot of time kids like to hold on their tests, or letters, or photos – it doesn’t have to be all school stuff – but they won’t have any place to put them. When you set up a simple file system for them, or even designate certain drawers for certain things, kids get in the habit of putting things away.

3. Give them a place to study.

If a child has a place to do their homework, they’ll be more likely to focus when they’re in that environment. Make sure they have a desk or a table to work at. Make sure it’s a quiet space where they can concentrate. And make sure they have appropriate task lighting.

4. Stick to the necessities.

Shopping for school supplies is an important ritual, for the parent and for the child. Some schools will give you a list of things to buy, but other times you do it on your own. It’s important to sit down with your child before you go shopping and make a list even if the school provides one for you. Go over what you’ve got that you can use from last year, and what are the new things that you’re going to get. A little planning will go a long way.

See Cindy in action on her website Details, Etc. and check out these other resources for more ideas!

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!

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

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!

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

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.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

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.