Kids room – part 2
Backpacks. Even though it’s not a piece of furniture, I want to address backpacks in this section. As a former teacher, I can assure you that backpacks can quickly become huge clutter magnets and the bane of a parent’s (and teacher’s!) existence with lost homework molding away deep within their recesses (pun intended!). Train your child to declutter their backpack every day after school, making sure they have assignments out that need to be done the next day, and that they reload all the proper books into the backpack for the next day. File away any papers they want to keep as memorabilia in their treasure file box. (Refer to the story below for details on how to set up an effective school memorabilia/treasure box.)
Closet Shelves. Teach your child how to hang up their clothes immediately after taking them off, rather than dropping them on the floor, putting them on the bed, or draping them over a chair. Provide child-size hangers and hang clothes by clothing type and color (e.g., all pants together, all tops together, just like in their dresser drawers) so it’s easy to get dressed. Shoes can go on shelves, on the floor in plastic bins, or in over-the-door shoe pockets. Keep a box labeled Donations in the closet for outgrown clothes.
A tall plastic garbage can with or without a lid works great for laundry as it’s slim and fits in small closets better than round baskets. Have your child put their laundry in the basket, not on the floor, and ask them to bring their own laundry to the laundry room when the container is full. Put their laundered, folded clothes back in the garbage can and let them put their own clothes away, with or without help as is age-appropriate.
Most children love books and love being read to. Make sure you have a bookcase and use it to store their favorite books, as well as puzzles and games.
A toy box with a hinged lid is one way to store toys, but hinges can be dangerous to small fingers. You may want to opt instead for plastic stacking storage drawers, colorful plastic stacking cubes, or plastic lidded bins. Label the drawer or bin fronts with your label maker—Stuffed Animals, Barbies, Legos—so items are sorted by category. If your child is too young to read labels, teach them that Legos go in the green bin, stuffed animals go in the red bin, and so forth. Another option is to put a picture of the contents on the front of a plastic bin or box and cover the picture with clear contact paper so it stays put.
Sharing with Siblings
A word of wisdom regarding siblings sharing a small room: children have differing organizational capacities, styles, and needs. When Michael Messy has to share a room with Nathan Neatfreak, trouble may ensue. However, if you live in a small space home, separate bedrooms may not be an option for your kids. So you’ll need to be creative about how to promote organizational harmony between siblings. Keep in mind that it will likely never be a perfect arrangement, but it can be a harmoniously workable one. Use my ideas below to help keep the peace.
Sibling Bed Bliss
When siblings share a room, I think it’s wise that they each have their own bed as a private zone that is distinctly theirs. Choose two complementary colors that both kids like for their room, and let each child choose their own comforter and decorate their own bed area according to their unique tastes and theme. Don’t worry that both sides don’t perfectly match; it’s more important that your kids are happy and are developing a sense of individuality than that their room look like a matching showplace in a decorating magazine.
Twin beds take up more floor space but can be used as a way to divide the room in half. Each child can take one side of the room for their bed, desk, and dresser as a way to carve out their unique organizing and decorating style.
Bunk beds take up less floor space, but not every child feels comfortable sleeping on the top bunk. Also, with the beds on one side of the room, all other furniture for both kids must be combined elsewhere in the room rather than giving them each a separate side. Decide on the best bed style and arrangement depending on your children’s ages and personalities.
Darling Desks and Organized Papers
If more than one child is sharing a room, consider buying two identical desks and put them face-to-face with the short sides along a wall. A double-sided bookcase can stand in between the desks for privacy and storage.
Papers proliferate quickly for children. I love what my teacher friend did to organize her son’s papers from the time he was in kindergarten:
We bought a plastic bin for school papers and during the year, we tossed them all in there. Once summer came, we made it a fun ritual between mom and son to go through each paper and decide which ones were special that he wanted to keep. He was allowed only those that would fit inside one 9″ x 12″ gold clasp envelope that was labeled for that year’s grade. We also put report cards, awards, and any newspaper clippings for sports in there. When he brought home large items like science projects, we took a photo of him with the project, put the photo in the gold envelope, and tossed the actual project. I set up a plastic lidded file bin with hanging file folders labeled Kindergarten through 12th grade and we filed the gold envelopes in there by grade for each year. I labeled the outside of the bin “John’s Treasure Box.” When my son left home, all his childhood memories were organized in one small bin, ready for him to take with him.
I was so touched by this mom’s story about the loving bond and memories it created with her son. What a wonderful legacy that you can also easily do with your child!
With today’s kids being so plugged in, you’ll want to update your kids’ rooms with enough power outlets. I feel it’s ultimately up to each parent to decide how much “tech and TV” is “enough” for their particular children and family, and set up their rooms accordingly.
Every family has “house rules” they maintain in order for home life to function at its best capacity. And for that reason it’s wise to teach children that keeping their room reasonably orderly and clean, even though it’s their room, is respectful to the family. As I’ve already mentioned, siblings do often have differing organizing penchants; but with mom and dad as the family leaders, an acceptable level of organization at home must be agreed upon simply out of courtesy for other family members.
So what’s “organized enough” for children’s rooms? Ice cream wrappers should not be allowed to grow mold under the bed, nor should clothes be allowed to pile up on the floor unwashed. By the same token, a neat freak child should not be allowed to insist that their less organized sibling have all their clothing tags facing the same direction in their dresser drawer or their shoes militarily lined up in the closet. Discuss with your children a household standard of what is “organized enough” for their shared room. That way there will be harmony and both siblings can grow into the unique individuals God meant them to be.
All that being said about house rules, a brief word here about teen bedrooms. They should be organized using the same principles we’ve already talked about, but keep this in mind: most teens (I’ve taught them!) are at that life stage, God love ’em, where they are easing their way into independence from Mom and Dad and want to do things their way.
As a parent, decide what you can realistically live with that will keep your teen’s best interests in mind while maintaining respectful order for the rest of the family, and go from there. For example, maybe it’s simply agreeing that the door to their room must be kept closed when they are not home; but for the sake of monitoring girl/boy visits and media or computer use when teens are at home, the door absolutely remains open for parental supervision. Alas, their clutter will just have to be visible and tolerated for a bit by others in the household. Another option for both teens and younger kids might be to keep media and computers in the family room rather than in their bedrooms.
One good friend of mine told me that her boys preferred as teenagers to have Mom put their folded clothes on their bed. They then put them on the floor and wore them from there. Mom finally decided that it simply wasn’t worth arguing about.
And I still remember the teen sisters’ bedrooms I once helped to organize: to say their floors were deep with stuff and that their mother was tired of nagging about it would be putting it mildly. I was called in to play referee, and as we sorted, tossed, and bagged I coached the girls on how they could keep their room “organized enough” so they still felt like it was their domain, and so that their mom was not constantly screaming at them to “Clean up your room!” Mission accomplished.
Staying organized is an ever-evolving process, so once every six months or so you’ll want to go through your child’s room with them and assess what toys, clothes, books, and games need to be donated, stored, or given away. Remember that by using the KISS principle, you’ll have less stuff to go through to begin with! Always donate kids’ toys and outgrown clothing to charity, family, or friends rather than tossing items you no longer want or need in the trash. Your children learn by example, and this will teach them early on to “go green.”
Kids’ Room Closing
I’m so glad we’ve been able to spend time together here for your kids’ rooms. I hope you’ll take the organizing tips and ideas I’ve offered and use them to teach your children good organizing skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.