Do you dream of a playroom that you can walk through and the kids can easily keep neat? If you are ready to turn down the volume and keep toys & art supplies from turning into clutter, here are 9 neat ideas to get you started.
- Sort Everything. Collect everything in one place. Group items “like with like" such as Dolls, Purses, Train sets, Small Toys, Toys that Require Supervision, etc. Assess how much you have before thinking about the storage solutions. As you sort, set aside a container for toys with missing items. As you sort and find the missing pieces, put them in the container too. When you have all the pieces, you can give the complete toy, game or art kit a permanent home.
- Set Limits. Determine how much of everything is a reasonable amount to keep. Do they really need 72 stuffed animals? Perhaps 10-20 is a reasonable limit. Remember, kids actually get overwhelmed when they have too much stuff. They take far better care of their things and enjoy them more when they have fewer of them.
- Conduct a Treasure Hunt. Have your child pick his or her favorites according to the limits you have set. Set aside the rest to donate. Let them know that the rest will be going to kids who don't have as much. You might even want to spend quality time with your child writing a note to the kids who might receive the toys.
- Assign Homes & Containers. Now that you know what you have and have a reasonable amount, store smaller items in containers by category and label each container. TIP: Put pictures on the containers so that your child knows where to put things away. Let your child help by choosing pictures and applying them. This is a fun way to involve your child in learning organizational skills. For larger items such as big trucks, assign a “parking spot" on a shelf or on the floor.
- Make Things Easy to Access and Easy to Put Away.
- Store frequently used items that children can use without supervision on lower shelves that they can access.
- Use containers without lids for frequently accessed items. Lids are difficult for children to use and discourage them from using the storage solution.
- Separate arts and crafts supplies in square or rectangular bins for easy stacking and to maximize use of storage.
- Be Safe. Store items requiring supervision either out of reach or locked. For example, if you have really young children, you probably want them to ask you to get down crayons, paints etc. If you use tall shelving, anchor them to the wall so they can't fall over. Store heavy items on the bottom shelves.
- Teach the Kids How Put Everything Away. Kids don't always know what to do when you tell them to put stuff away. Take the time to teach your kids how to organize. Explain to them that organizing their toys will make it easy to find them later and prevent them from losing toys. Once you have a system in place, practice using the system with them for several days in a row. Help them put away toys and find them by making a game out of it, such as conducting a “treasure hunt". Ask them to find things, or to put away several different items in their new locations. For example, “Where are your favorite talking toys?" “Where does this stuffed animal go when you are done playing with it?" Give lots of praise for correct answers.
- Be Creative. Containers don't have to be expensive. You can use plastic containers, or even empty tissue boxes. You can even turn decorating containers for art supplies into an art project.
- Maintain. Once you have pared toys down to a reasonable number and given each toy a home, you need to keep the amount of toys you have under control. Going forward, maintain the limits you've set by adopting a “Give to Get" policy. So, whenever your child gets a new toy, have them pick one to donate. This is a great way to teach your child the joy of giving. Set up a monthly donation pick up or drop off with your favorite charity and you'll never have to do a big purge again!
To see photos of playroom makeovers, visit the photo gallery at www.neatliving.org.
© 2006 Ariane Benefit
Ariane Benefit, M. S. Ed. , is a professional organizer, coach, author and speaker with over 25 years experience helping people and businesses reach new heights of performance. She has written over 80 articles which can be found on the popular “Neat Living Blog: Neat Ideas for Living" at http://www.NeatLiving.net and at http://www.OrganizingForHealth.com . Ariane resides in Bloomfield, NJ with her husband, Alan and three adorable Maine Coone cats. When not helping people organize their lives, she enjoys gardening, entertaining, traveling and riding her motorcycle.