Articles | Books | Columns | Background | Contact | Home


organized outlook - HARRIET SCHECHTER

Make conquering clutter child’s play for youngsters 


Illustration Cristina Martinez  

It has been said that “insanity is hereditary — you get it from your kids.”

Nowadays you could say the same thing about clutter.

Of course, children and messes have always gone together like peanut butter and jelly.

But now more than ever before, parents face a never-ending tidal wave of “must-have” toys, games and products for kids of every age from toddlers to teenagers.

Previous generations had it easy: They didn’t need to contend with things like Nintendo, CDs, DVDs and all the other trendy technological marvels accompanied by innumerable peripherals and paraphernalia.

These days it’s not only the typical “messy” child who is overwhelmed with excess stuff. Even your most organized offspring may have a tough time keeping their things in order when there is too much to maintain.

So what’s a clutter-concerned parent to do? Here are some tips to help you manage the mess and also train children of any age to be more organized.

1. Categorize: Putting similar items together is one of the basic rules of organization because it’s the simplest way to keep things in a semblance of order. Typical categories of kid stuff include toys, games, books, art supplies, computer-related, music-related, school-related, clothing, accessories, hobbies and collections. Categories with the largest number of items should be subcategorized.

2. Make it easy: The easier it is to do something, the more likely that thing is to get done. So make it easy to:

• Put stuff away — by having accessible containers and appropriate furnishings that are easy for your children to use. Example: Shelves with clear plastic or wire-mesh bins provide see-through storage options and simple solutions for getting toys and other items up off the floor.

(Safety note: Make sure shelving is child-safe if you have toddlers or climbers.)

• Hang up clothes — by putting up clothes hooks at kid-friendly heights in thoughtful places, making it easy for children to hang frequently used items of clothing instead of dropping them on the floor. This also helps discourage the habit of putting not-yet-dirty clothes in the laundry, something that many kids — and adults — do because it’s easier than putting clothing on a hanger or folding it.

(Safety note: Avoid locating eye-level hooks on the back of doors that swing open.)

Throw things out — by placing trash receptacles in convenient places, making it easy for everyone to discard wrappers, tissues, junk mail and any other detritus that tends to get dropped on the floor. Treat your wastebaskets like babies — keep them within close reach at all times, feed them frequently and change them often.

3. Provide tools: It’s hard to do any job without the right tools, and organizing is no exception. A few basic products for clutter-proofing kids’ rooms:

• Bins and baskets — Even the youngest children can be taught how to categorize and color-code by designating different colored containers for various types of toys, games and supplies.

• File tote — A portable file box — the kind with a handle on the lid — gives kids a manageable way to organize their school papers and extracurricular projects from an early age. Help them decide on file names, then clearly label the folders (bright-colored hanging files are easy to use).

• Desk, chair and lamp — A kid’s “home office” should be a comfortable spot to do homework and also a good place for storing frequently used supplies and books. Adequate lighting is an essential yet often overlooked component; for flexible options, consider getting a clip-on, gooseneck desk lamp.

4. Establish rules: A few basic household maintenance rules for your children should be enforced to keep things from getting out of hand. Decide what would be most helpful and realistic for your family. Examples: Clear the floor before bedtime. No food or drink permitted in the bedroom. Outside projects (anything involving paint, glue, mud, etc.) are not allowed inside.

5. Set limits: Teach your kids the In-Out Inventory Rule: For every new item that comes in, another item of equal type (toy, game, etc.) must go out. At least twice a year, have a regular donation-day ritual, when each member of your household clears out and donates excess stuff.

2004 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.




 Articles | Books | Columns | Background | Contact | Home 


Send e-mail to: