10 Ways to Knock Out Your Kid’s Clutter
By Kerrie McLoughlin
Kids are born with clutter. Think about all their teeny weeny clothes, shoes, diapers and toys. Then come the wipes, bottles, stuffed animals, blankets, paperwork and so much more in the Clutter Parade. I remember coming home from the hospital with my first child and crying because I couldn’t find anything in all the bags I brought home.
A few kids later, and it’s only gotten worse. Much worse. Into the mix go specialty shoes (summer, winter, tap, ballet), balls, sports equipment, cheerleading stuff, Scout projects, homework papers, larger toys, movies, books and clothes. So where do you start when you want to knock out some of that kid clutter?
1. Sort what your kids already have for about an hour a day so you don’t get overwhelmed. Categories could include: toys, stuffed animals, shoes, clothes, books, videos and so on. Separate items into two bags: throw away and give away (or sell at a consignment store or in a garage sale). Then group like items (e.g., shoes, leotards, sports equipment) so you can quickly figure out what you are missing or have too much of.
2. Notify family and friends that you are trying to reduce clutter. Grandma would probably be thrilled to get the kids a membership to the local zoo, while several people could pool money to pay for some of your daughter’s ballet lessons.
3. Get a toy storage units with the 10 brightly colored bins. You can either have your child throw everything in the bins however they like, or try to get them to sort by bin (e.g., trains in the large yellow bin, books in the small blue bin, animals in the small red bin, etc.). But … don’t get too crazy about grouping like items. While this method works well for many things (trains, shoes, Barbies), make sure you have a catch-all system, too (see #4).
4. Purchase a storage ottoman for a main living area. Target carries a nice brown faux leather storage ottoman with a no-pinch lid for about $80 that hides toys and is also sturdy enough to serve as a seat for two. Kids can do a fast pick-up daily or when company is on the way, and then close the lid on the whole mess.
5. Store unused items. Store things like stuffed animals and out-of-season clothes in under-the-bed boxes and/or plastic storage tubs, depending on the height of your bed’s frame. Consider using simple copy paper boxes, which are great for throwing miscellaneous toys into and then shoving them in a closet. They are not only free, but also fit under many beds so they are hidden.
6. Perform a paper purge. One sample of how well your child colored within the lines at age 3 is fine, but something even more special would be a hand-drawn picture. This is a tough one for softies like me, so consider putting pictures up in the garage or laundry room instead, taking a photo of an entire set of pictures or giving away pictures to loved ones.
7. Store seasonal shoes. Place a medium-size basket by the door you normally enter and leave the house from, for seasonal shoes. Out of-season shoes can be stored in their closet or in a plastic tub in the basement.
8. Take all kiddie DVDs and music/computer/video game CDs out of their cases. Store them in a short, round case or in a disc album that hold 4 CDs per page side in protective sleeves.
9. Purge before holidays and birthdays because more stuff will be arriving. I like to pretend I’m moving in a week and absolutely can’t take everything in my home with me, and that prompts me to get rid of more things.
10. Have the kids pick up things daily. Maintain your newfound order by having the kids pick up daily, either before dinner or before bedtime and teach them that it’s easier to do it as it happens instead of letting it get out of hand.
Kerrie McLoughlin, her husband and 5 children fight clutter daily and live to tell about it at TheKerrieShow.com.