Children, they spill into our lives, leaving it drowning in piles of love, clothes, toys, tools, papers, and all things JOY (Barbie or Lego, anyone?)
What's a mama (or any self-sacrificing human) to do to create a space that preserves your sanity whilst letting kiddos play and have fun with all their stuff? And clean up effectively afterward?
RefreshEase to the Rescue!
Whether you are thinking of hiring our professional organizing team or you are the DIY type, here are some of the simplest ways we have found to create spaces that bring our kids and our home serenity and peace, you know, to counteract blasting electronics, peanut butter smears, dirty soccer socks, and small figurine pieces akin to stepping on hot coals.
1. Create a place for EVERYTHING!
Small children come with a lot of little pieces. So much so that it seems they are holding tight to "The most specialist rock" even in the womb. It is true, kids love their things-even minimalist kids. So why not create a special little place for each different toy, collection, and creative supplies? By giving the different tools of play their own home, you create a world in which the child can play as open-ended as they want, without direction or parental interference (i.e. you as the caretaker are quietly left to your own devices), and easily switch between play worlds, integrate several toys at one, and (THE BEST PART) clean up by themselves afterward. Because they know where everything goes!
Wall to ceiling shelving like this is easier and cheaper than you might think. Although its a simple wood project that RFE is happy to build for you, this one was found on Craigslist for FREE! It was poop brown so all we had to do was disassemble, paint, reassemble, secure to the wall, and Organize to Thrive! There are 24 slots that are perfect for baskets and larger items. Everything is labeled. This room holds things for a two, six and nine-year-old so the height variance comes in handy.
2. Label Accordingly
Kids love to figure things out on their own, so labeling where things go is a lifesaver in the "I need help" department. Organization and labeling is a useful life skill for our little people to learn. And there is always pride in ownership when they have decided the best labels for each rectangle. We organized this space last year and labeled it together using insert labels so we can easily change them out. We found that over the course of a year some labels stayed the same, while others became more detailed. They also requested that I don't label in cursive;) The kids could certainly write their own labels ... good for you if you can release that kind of imperfection!
Labels for kids that are easy to understand means that they can get toys out on their own. But more importantly, they have no excuse not to clean up when everything has a home!
3. Choose the right size for containment
We have tried a couple of different size baskets for this space. We found that extra-large baskets really work great for balls, cars, and larger items. Over time we noticed that small bins that could easily be cleaned were more appropriate for figurines, card games, and miscellaneous kid things. The key is to group like items together on a shelf. If they are all the same (ish) they can go in a big bin. Here the kids have large and small vehicles and balls. For those, we put small bins inside the larger ones so the matchbox cars, marbles, and small balls, could be easily located without dumping the big bin out. Baskets and bins can usually be found gently used. Sometimes you need a specific size. For those times, we use cost-effective discount store baskets in the same color scheme to keep it cohesive. More power to you if you can afford the fancy container store bins (swoooooon!)
Stackable items, like puzzles, fit flat together. Small games that would otherwise we lost at the bottom of a toy box or cannot stack are much better in little bins that nestle together.
4. Have a Special Place to Collections and Treasures
Kids are natural collectors, observers, scientists, treasure hunters, and yes, hoarders. They love their special rocks, gems, animal parts, cards, feathers, buttons, etc. Those who have a shared space can sometimes struggle with both keeping their treasures out of small, clumsy hands and having a place to keep them so they can be easily taken out and enjoyed. A mama turned me onto this awesome solution, a toolbox! Each kiddo has their own drawer and shelf to keep and collect anything their heart desires.
This vintage toolbox was found at an antique shop for just $30. It holds myriads of snake skins, rocks, badges, and memories. It is used by three kids, hence the capacity. A smaller, handheld toolbox is a great option for a solo kiddos collection.
5. Art Supply Inventory and Accessibility
Lucky kids have lots of art supplies and creative tools. Whether it is just crayons and markers, or paints and bracelet making supplies, the best way to corral them is to create a display in an easy to reach spot. The markers and pencils are matched by color in inexpensive mason jars gathered on a tray. An art shelf holds stencils, stamps and paints in a bin, paper and activity books in another. A line to dry painted pages and display works of art acts as a curtain of sorts when it is strung across a window.
This sturdy IKEA Table comes with four chairs and costs less than $150. We chose it because it was not kid- sized, so it will grow with the kids. To stay on top of things, once a year purge unusable creatively tools like worn out markers and pens and coloring pages that never quite piqued the kids interest. Just a few days ago art work covered the window. We went through it and kept only the best for portfolios and digitized the remaining pieces. The kids can make art and do projects without ever needing help!
6. Honor Change and Growth
When we initially built and organized this space, there were two Lego maniacs and a baby. A year later, we are dealing with a toddler, a boy who is less interested in Legos and another who is still deep into engineering. We changed the space with minimal effort to reflect their growth. It was collectively decided that the oldest kids built collections (save for a few) would be stored in ziplock bags with the instructions to be rebuilt by younger brothers who like to have complete sets. Those are all stored together in a large tote with rogue instructions in a binder. We put all the "free build" pieces in an easy to move and stow (under the desk) bin. Finally, they still kept three shelves of built legos to play with. They each also have a desktop tray for works in progress. Since the toddler now loves to take out his games and toys and then put them back, those were moved to be totally accessible. Sometimes change and growth are the freshness of life that we all need.
Legos! One must be a master in organization for these little pieces!
Truly unbelievably, the kids take care of this space and keep it cleaned and organized. It is crazy but setting kids up for success actually works! We have so few tears and "I don't know how" arguments with this setup in place. The clothing situation is the same (that's a whole other post;)
Everyone is less stressed, the chaos is contained. Sanity and solutions for all the people, big and small.
How can RefreshEase help you rework your space? What do you find to be the most challenging toy/activity to contain? Do your kids play and clean up by themselves? Why do you think that is? Comment below!