What to Do When You Are Drowning in Kid Clutter

by Shannon Hembree on March 15, 2011

​You can’t find your car keys – no wait, you know they are in your purse. But where’s your purse? Moms’ lives are full of clutter. In some ways it is inevitable. Kids come with…well, crap…in oh so many different ways. Not only do they bring with them their own kiddie clutter, but when they are old enough, they like to play with your clutter…and when you are not looking…they like to hide it.

Do you need help organizing your life? Are there ways to cut down on the clutter? To answer these questions, we turned to Jill Revitsky, the Secretary on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). She is also the Owner and President of Discover Organizing Inc. NAPO “is a group of about 4,200 professional organizers dedicated to helping individuals and businesses bring order and efficiency to their lives.” You have to love that.

Children can, according to Revitsky, be part of the organizing process (age permitting). “There are a lot of chore/reward programs available to engage the child wholly in the success of organizing their daily routines as well as meeting their parents’ expectations, but I really like the “Accountable Kids” Program. (www.accountablekids.com).”

As many moms know, toys are the biggest enemy when it comes to clutter. Revitsky says that one solution is to “try to avoid larger bins, and use smaller, cube-type bins with labels for your young readers, and photos or pictures for your toddlers to identify the contents. IKEA sells clear square bins for their Expedit system, which I promote for toy and game storage consistently with my clients. This will drive the habit home of taking out only the toys your children want to play with, and putting the bin away to play with something else.”

Why small bins vs. larger ones? Moms everywhere have witnessed the digging and dumping that occurs when the coveted toy is at the bottom of the bin. Says Revitsky, “Smaller, more ‘focused’ bins help the child to have easier access to the activities (and all of their parts). This also adds up to less time mom has to spend sorting it all out again. For the ultra-small pieces, I recommend snack size baggies with labels, and for Legos, I love the Box4Blox (www.box4blox.com); All you have to do is dump the Lego pieces in the top, and it sorts them by size into the right tray!”

Revitsky also asserts that “Taking a picture of how an area should look once organized and tidied goes a long way to help kids meet parents’ expectations of how to maintain their play area or bedrooms.”

For many families, kid clutter may be a big part of the problem, but it is not the only problem. Spouses often do a delicate balancing act when one is more organized than the other. To address this, Revitsky says, “There needs to be effort made on the part of the less organized person to follow some routines and participate in the most IMPORTANT tasks identified by the ‘organized’ spouse, but also some patience and understanding, and respectful communication from the ‘organized’ spouse. Prioritization needs to be done in terms of tasks, household chores, and family management.”

A final recommendation from Revitsky is to hold a family meeting every week. This can be a good way to “engage all family members, even your young ones, on what needs to be done, who is doing what chores this week, and what fun things will be done as a family once all of your ‘housework’ is completed.”

Organization can be especially tricky with young children. After a day filled with chasing them around and caring for them, the last thing anyone wants to do is sit down to sort through the pile of paper on the desk, take care of household chores, and tackle the various other things on the “to-do” list.

If you suffer from unorganized-itis (as I confess, I do), maybe it’s time to try something new. Maybe it’s time to prioritize what needs to be done and take one step at a time toward doing it. If that doesn’t work, and a professional needs to be called in to stop the madness, you can search the Professional Organizer Directory on NAPO’s website for an organizer in your area. It is important to note that there are organizers who specialize in – among other things – working with children with ADHD and working with chronic disorganization issues.

For more information on NAPO, visit (www.napo.net/).
For more information on Jill Revitsky and Discover Organizing Inc., visit (www.discoverorganizing.com)

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