With schools in the U.S. closing several months before the school year ended — and with it now being summer — it does seem like the kids have been home, like, forever. And their rooms are starting to look like it!
Don’t make their bedrooms a battleground. Instead, grab this opportunity to help your kids organize their rooms and their stuff.
GET DOWN TO KID LEVEL
Look at your child’s room at kids-eye level, and you’ll get a new perspective. Their adult-sized dressers may have drawers that are too heavy for little hands to open, and closet doors are rarely designed for a child’s height.
To help, remove the closet doors and lids from all storage containers and toy boxes. In the closet, lower the clothes rod to your child’s height. Use child-sized hangers, and get baskets to house socks and underwear.
LET THE KIDS PARTICIPATE
Rather than using the bulldozer approach — where Mom or Dad comes through with a big trash bag and indiscriminately cleans up — get the kids involved. Help them survey and divide their things into three categories:
— Use now.
— Want to keep.
— Don’t want anymore.
Try to advise rather than control the situation. Let the kids suggest ways to make a place for everything so everything can be in its place.
Hooks are the way to create a place for all kinds of things that can so easily get lost and forgotten at the bottom of a junk drawer. Or forever lost in a big pile in the closet.
Place the hook at the child’s eye level, complete with a label or picture next to it for what belongs on that hook. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your kids begin to identify a hook and its color with the item that belongs on it.
SORT AND STORE
Rather than keeping every toy in their rooms, help the kids separate their toys and put some away in “storage” in another part of the house. Every month or two, swap toys in their room for some toys in storage.
Once you know what will stay in your child’s room, it’s time to sort according to colors and like items.
Start with the clothes, and then move to the toys and games.
PLASTIC STORAGE BOXES
Clear plastic shoe boxes are great for all the little things like tiny doll clothes, crayons, Legos, CDs and video games. They’re clear, so the kiddos can see what is inside and what is supposed to be in there. They’re also sturdy and just the right size; even when loaded to the top, the kids can lift to take them in and out, quite easily.
Large bins with lids removed work the same way. Store picture books standing upright in a plastic dishpan. Even preschoolers can flip through to find the book they want without pulling down an entire shelf in the process.
Inexpensive cardboard magazine holders (available at an office supply store) are perfect to keep magazines, comic books and other similarly sized papers so they’re neatly stored but easily accessible.
Once you have everything sorted and stored, start labeling. There are lots of ways to create labels. The important thing is that the label means something to the child, regardless of his or her age.
For little ones, cut out pictures that indicate what goes in this box or container. For children who can read, make labels on your computer using big, bold letters that leave no question about what lives on this hook, in this container or on that shelf.
The secret to organizing a child’s room is to make it at least as easy to put something away as it was to get it out. When you involve your child in the process of organizing and making decisions, you can be sure your child will be more eager to learn and exercise his or her organizational skills to keep it that way.
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”