Saturday, September 15, 2012

Organizing Tips and Tricks for Life with Little Kids

I have always loved to organize.  When I was a teenager, I used to combat stress by cleaning and organizing my walk-in-closet.  I guess it's how I'm hard-wired.  Now that I'm an adult, I still love to organize, but I have a lot more real estate and more people to think about.  I always ask myself, "Will this make my life easier, make my kids more independent,  or make our family happier in some way?"  I'm always looking for simple solutions to accomplish those goals.

If you have little kids and are looking for some organization strategies of your own, here are four things to think about:

Think about height.
Little people are... well... little!  They can't - and shouldn't - be expected to thrive in an adult-sized house all the time.  Of course, you can have step stools all over your home, but how much easier would it be to just bring things to the kids' level?  In our house, we've done that in a few key areas:

The Bathroom:

Instead of hoping that kids will fold and rehang their towels on a towel bar, we moved the towel bar over the toilet for guests to use and gave each of the kids their own hook at an age-appropriate level.  (I specifically chose to have the bead board go high enough to make the towels fit on it and not puddle on the floor.)

We also removed stress by having custom towels made with built-in, embroidered hangers, so the towels don't keep falling on the floor.

The Kitchen:

We special ordered sliding drawers for a low cabinet close to the kitchen table, giving the kids independence in getting cups, bowls, and plates.  It was expensive, but hear me say that it was worth. every. penny.

The Closet:

Command hooks are your friend.  Your children aren't going to be able to hang things on hangers high up in closets, but they can be expected to hang up coats or bags on hooks at their own level.

Think about where you use things.

Keep things close to where you actually use them.  If you always get a glass out of the cupboard and pour a drink, don't keep the glasses across the room from your refrigerator.  The same goes for kid and baby items.

All of our bedrooms are upstairs, and I have no interest in trekking upstairs every time I need to change a diaper.  Instead, I set up a diapering cupboard in our family room, and probably 80% of our diaper changes occur right here on the floor (on a changing mat, of course).  I have been changing diapers in front of this cupboard - in multiple houses - for six and a half years now and my whole extended family knows just where to find spare wipes or clean diapers when they come visit.

Think about reality.
I wish my stairs wouldn't always have stuff on them, but they just do.  It's reality in a house with five people.  Instead of denying it, I decided to embrace it and buy stair baskets.  We have one for each kid and one for Jim and me together.

(Someday I will actually print and laminate the name labels for these baskets!)

Another reality I have embraced is that my kids do not outgrow their clothes all in one night.  They gradually outgrow them one item - or several items(!) - at a time, and I don't want to keep hanging them back up and forgetting that they are too small.

In each kid's closet I have a large Tupperware container.  When someone outgrows something I fold it and move it straight into their container.  When the container is full, I label it with the clothing size, put it in storage, and start a new container.

Think about routines.
Sometimes having places for things make no difference if you don't train your family to properly use them.  In our house, we have lots of routines.

I have a few routines just for me that help me to stay sane.  One is my laundry routine.  I don't always do things the same way, but what I have found works best for me is when I put a load of laundry in right before bed, move it to the dryer first thing in the morning (I'm talking maybe seven or eight hours in the washing machine... certainly not enough time for mildew to grow), and fold it as soon as possible.  Sometimes I don't actually get to put it away until after dinner, but at least it's clean and wrinkle-free.  If I do a load this way every day it takes minimal time and keeps me from doing ten loads on weekends.

Speaking of laundry and routines, I have a great system in Brennan's room for his clothes.  I bought one of these hanging closet things, and I put his clothes in it for six days at a time.  He knows he should always take from the top and work his way down.  I thought about labeling each one with a day of the week and doubling up weekends in the last one, but so far it hasn't been necessary.

If we have a special event or soccer practice, I put the uniform/swimming trunks, etc. into the right slot along with his clothes, and it helps to remind him that things are coming up.  The best part of this system is Brennan doesn't come in my bedroom when I'm bleary-eyed to inform me that he has no clean underwear or to ask me, "What matches my blue shark shirt?"  He can just get dressed with no fuss and no problem.

I am also trying to get better about packing lunches in advance.  I'm bad about this, but I think that when dinner is cleaned up and the kids are in bed, the last thing I want to do is make another mess or prepare another meal.  Anyway, when I can get motivated, I sometimes make several lunches at one time.  I use these awesome Ziploc containers and stack them in the refrigerator.  They fit in the kids' lunch boxes, and the compartments individually seal, so things don't get soggy!  If there is something I can't add until the morning of, I put a note on the container.

So, I promised a little sneak peek into my organization tricks, and now you've seen a few of my favorites.  I want to give a little disclaimer and say that I don't think a single thing I do is original.  I don't think I have brilliant, creative, one-of-a-kind strategies, but then again, does anyone?  I mean, don't we all just kind of take the things that work for us?   Anyhow, I can't give credit to everyone whose ideas I have stolen because half the time I don't know where I have gotten them, but I don't have some crazy notion that I'm just so smart.  I'm only sharing this stuff in the hopes that it will help someone else's life to be a more efficient or a little less stressful.  Let me know if you adopt any of these strategies in your home!!


  1. I don't have kids yet, but this is amazing! I love it and could see myself definitely using many of these tips in the future. Thank you!

    Brooklyn (friend of Rachel's)

  2. Hey Melissa!
    Thanks for sharing your organization tips! I think one of my favorite is the sliding drawers in the cabinet. Love that idea! I need to find ways for my little one to be more independent. :)

    Andrea Metcalf


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