Tired of tripping over stray Legos and Wiffle Ball bats? Keeping your home organized when you have kids may seem like a never-ending task, but whether it’s their clothing or sports equipment or artwork, there are ways to keep the clutter at bay and make everything seem more manageable. How, you ask? Here are some creative tips straight from the frontlines (i.e. from local professional organizers who have “tamed” hundreds of Manhattan apartments).
Chances are that between holidays and birthdays, your child has acquired a few too many toys. For most parents, it’s a constant struggle to figure out where to put them all. Organizational expert Ann Sullivan advises that the first step is to pare down. You and your kids should start by organizing toys into categories, such as games, dolls, and cars. Then, decide what’s never used, what’s simply broken, and what your kids have long outgrown. Whatever toys you don’t end up keeping, consider donating to charity. To organize toys, Sullivan recommends using clear, stackable pull-out drawers that are available in multiple colors. Label each one according to what’s inside, or, if your child can’t yet read, take a picture of the contents and stick it to the container. For a truly out of the ordinary storage solution, Sullivan says to try a hammock – they’re great for keeping items like stuffed animals visible, yet out of the way. %uFFFD %uFFFD
Every piece of clothing has a place, and, much as kids don’t like it, it’s not over the back of a chair or on the closet floor. A Proper Place’s Barbara Brock’s guiding principle is that parents need to organize closet space at kids’ eye level, so they can easily reach a closet rod, hook or shelves. If you’re using a dresser, consider cardboard separators inside the drawers to compartmentalize space. (But, keep it simple by never putting more than two categories of clothing into each drawer.) Store clothing that’s off-season in space bags or large plastic bins on wheels. Brock also likes to use large totes, which are lightweight, portable and can be hung on hooks.
The average closet has a rod and a shelf, both of which are usually too high for kids to use easily. For parents who are willing to completely overhaul the space, Lisa Zaslow of Gotham Organizers suggests the Elfa Kids’ Reach-In Closet kit, which can be added upon over the years. Other handy devices include closet rod doublers, which include a second rod that’s lower to the ground and readily accessible to kids. Another great option is over-the-door shelving, which takes advantage of typically unused space. You can get kids excited about using it by having them decorate shelves differently according to the day of the week, then lay outfits out in advance. Zaslow also recommends eye-level hooks and baskets, such as the Zia line of Lucite baskets, which have handles, are lightweight, and are available in multiple sizes.
Whether its Rollerblades, hockey sticks or tennis rackets, sporting goods can be awkward in size and take up valuable closet space. Mary Mobley of Spaceworks recommends getting a locker for kids to use however they see fit. Alternatively, baskets are a lightweight, eye-catching option for smaller items like balls, caps and gloves – not to mention easy for kids to simply reach inside. If you’ve got it in your head to hang a large piece of sports equipment (like a bike) on the wall, Mobley advises decorating the hook or cord that’s supporting it to avoid having your home feel garage-like!
This presents a big challenge given the volume of paintings and projects kids complete over the year. For stowing art, Ilene Drexler of The Organizing Wiz suggests a clear underbed storage bin on wheels. (A great one to check out is Schoolfolio’s The Single, a portable artwork case.) To organize your kids’ artwork yet keep it on display, try Pottery Barn’s Star Art Cable System, a wire that stretches across the wall and comes with decorative clips for hanging. If your child paints a lot at home, Drexler recommends looking into Childcraft’s wall-mounted drying rack, which comes appointed with sixteen shelves. Finally, Drexler suggests that kids periodically go through their art collection and pick out their favorite project to keep. Parents can take a photograph of whatever they’re not holding onto and make a photo album. Sullivan likes the idea of making photos of artwork into posters, which you can use to decorate your home.
Most parents have more photos of their family than they know what to do with – whether they’re digital or the old-fashioned kind. Whatever kind of archivist you are, there are special steps you can take to make sure photos are preserved correctly. Ann Goldenthal of Album Arts warns against buying an album with adhesive pages, which can eat away at photos over the years. Instead, try photo sleeves made from polypropylene, which are specially made to preserve prints. (Purchase them at photo and art supply stores, such as AI Friedman.) Goldenthal also discourages clients from writing on the backs of photos, as the ink can bleed through. As an alternative, try using Post-Its instead. If you use a digital camera, chances are your photos are stored on the computer without any backup. Avoid a potential disaster by burning photos onto CDs, which will serve as a collection of “negatives” that can be printed.
Getting kids involved with storage solutions helps, too. Even if it’s just plastering stickers onto the front of a bin – the more fun something is to use, the more likely they’ll be to use it!
Need More Help? Check Out This Book
In “Babyspace Idea Book,” author Suzonne Stirling provides dozens of tips for organizing kids’ spaces. The best part is that the book is loaded with colorful photographs, making it easy to incorporate her ideas into your own home. Whether it’s storing baby gear, tackling your child’s toy collection, or making your entryway kid-friendly, Stirling delivers solutions that are creative and stylish. (Published by The Taunton Press in 2005.)