Kids and small spaces: How to keep toy clutter under control

Kids and small spaces: How to keep toy clutter under control

Small spaces are great until you throw a couple kiddos into the mix. The accompanying baby stuff, toys, and general mayhem can push a small space to its limits.

To successfully meld children with small spaces, start by limiting physical items. Don’t have more toys on hand than your children can easily see and use.  Well-meaning friends and families will tell you (and in some cases, buy you) everything they see as essential.  To keep clutter to a minimum, don’t buy things until you find out if you really will need them.

Just like adult items, toys need to be well-edited to work in a small space. Have your children pick out their favorite toys, and then decide among the rest which ones can be given a second life with someone else.  It may help to explain to children where their toys are going when you donate them, or let them choose a younger cousin or friend who might enjoy items that are too babyish.   Check out this post by Sarah at Early Bird Mom for more great tips on paring down toys.

Once you decide to get rid of something, make it happen as soon as possible.  Left to simmer, the give-away pile can easily take over the front door, or the garage, or the car trunk. (Trust us on this one, we have lots of experience.)  For best results, donate items or give them away within the week.

Once the kids’ belongings are pared down, teach children where their things go. Use bins/buckets for different kinds of toys and attach a photo to the bin so that children know what goes where.  Consider using clear bins or organizers so that kids can easily find and put away their things.  And make sure things are at kid height: Reserve the top shelves for clothes that aren’t worn often, or for toys that require adult supervision.

Institute a clean up party nightly. Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes where everyone works together to see how much they can clean up in a particular room or area.  Keep the goal focused, and make sure adults participate too.

Explain the rewards.  Perhaps having a clean house will allow your children to have friends over more often.   Or maybe you’re making room for new toys that will arrive during the holidays.   Explain why it’s important that your children pare down or clean up.

To gin up enthusiasm, make decluttering into a fun game. We like this idea from the Minimalists, who suggest getting rid of one item on the first day of the month, two on the second, three on the third, etc. Have a reward for each week that you survive the challenge. Play with another household that has children and share your progress to make it more fun.

Give children an age-appropriate job for each day and let them help decide what jobs they want to do.  My nephews like collecting garbage from the bathroom and bedroom, putting cardboard and newspaper recycling into the bin, using a small vacuum, and refilling the Keurig cup holder with coffees and teas. Simple chores teach children that cleaning up is valued in the house.

And now for the hard part:  Set an example.  When times get tough, remind yourself that you’re not only trying to restore order to your small space — you’re teaching your children skills that will last a lifetime.

What are your best tips for children and organizing?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments.


Photo credit: Tina Vega via photopin

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  1. Sarah Mueller
    Sarah Mueller October 30, 2013 at 2:56 pm .

    I think the most important tip is what you said at the end of this post: ” Set an example.” This has the most powerful effect on our kids. If we are allowing our stuff to pile up and we don’t take care of it properly or put it away, why should we expect them to do otherwise? If we conscientiously and mindfully take care of our belongings with an attitude of contentment, they are more likely to do so as well. Thanks for a great post!

  2. onbeyondcancer
    onbeyondcancer November 2, 2013 at 8:51 pm .

    This is the hardest part of containing clutter – the kid stuff! Thanks for the tips.

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