Famed comedienne Phyllis Diller once said, "Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing." Many parents realize that having children means their homes will be filled with a vast assortment of toys, clothing and other items that seemingly spend more time scattered across the family room floor than in children's bedrooms.
Homes where young children lay their heads at night may not be as tidy as the photos lining home decorating magazine spreads. But while lived-in family homes may never be spotless, they do not have to be overrun with clutter, either. It's possible to find a happy balance with the right strategy and by investing in a few organizational products.
• Work one room at a time. Cleaning up cluttered homes can seem like a monumental effort when looking at clutter as a whole. But parents can do themselves a favor by choosing a starting point and tackling the project one room at a time. Find the room that needs the most work or a space where clutter causes the biggest headaches. Once you clean such rooms, you may discover extra motivation to move on to the others.
• Resist the urge to wander. One of the obstacles many people face when attempting to declutter a home is the tendency to remove an item from one room only to add it to the existing clutter in another room. For example, if a child's toy is in the living room, you may walk that toy up to the bedroom and get involved in tidying up the bedroom, leaving the mess behind in the living room. When organizing a home, stay in a particular room until that room is clean. Have designated bins or bags for items that need to be carried into another room, but only transfer such containers after a room has been cleaned.
• Cull twice a year. Children accumulate the greatest number of new toys on birthdays and holidays. Set a schedule to go through existing toys prior to these events and sort out the broken, old or seldom-used items. Donate these toys to preschools, afterschool programs, family support centers, or babysitting centers at your office or gym. Whatever can't be salvaged should be put into the trash or recycling bins.
• Invest in storage cubes and bins. Toys that are easily accessible and seen are easier to find and put away. Develop a storage system that works for your family. Labeling bins with words (or pictures for children who can't yet read) helps children identify where things belong. Find a system that will have long-term functionality and grow with the family. Many stores sell storage bookcases that blend with home décor.
• Tame the toys. Making too many items available at any given time can become overwhelming to children. Rotate toys rather than always buying new ones so that items will be fresh and interesting. Toys out of the rotation can be stored in a basement or attic. Belongings that are not requested or missed can be given away. Another idea is to create wishlists for birthdays and holidays. This way friends and relatives only buy what kids want, rather than an array of toys that may just end up taking up space.
• Get items off of the floor. Any organizational system that can move items vertically is beneficial. Children will become accustomed to hanging things up rather than leaving belongings on the floor. Hooks, hangers and shelving mounted on walls, will free up precious floor space.
• Choose furniture that serves double duty. Beds with drawers underneath or a toy chest that doubles as a bench can work well in spaces that need some clutter control.
• Establish a school memory box. Parents can give each of their children a plastic bin where they can store memorable items from school. Not every assignment or drawing sent home needs to be kept. Reserve the memory box for those special things that have the most meaning.
Kids and clutter often go hand in hand. However, there are ways to keep the mess under control.