Monday, May 12, 2008

Uncluttered With Children

“There is no way to have an uncluttered house with two little ones underfoot!” our young friend lamented. She was trying to get ready to have a meeting at her house and just could not imagine how she could get things picked up before the guests arrived. She was right. Without help, she could not get the family room organized in time for the meeting. So, together with another recruit, we succeeded in having the space presentable and the guests never suspected that we were hauling blocks up the back stairs as she was greeting them at the front door.

My friend has since adopted organization systems that are better suited to young families. Now, she can have the family room presentable for guests in 30 minutes or less. The secret is to:
Ÿ use storage systems that are accessible to the children who use them,
Ÿ establish rules for playing and returning items to their place,
Ÿ limit the number of play items, and
Ÿ select storage that hides content from view.

Storage systems that hide content from view include toy boxes, shelves with doors and baskets that fit in cubbies or tables. Even open baskets that group like items help give a more orderly appearance to a room. The most important thing is that the storage system is appropriate for the age of the child. A two-year-old cannot be expected to line books neatly on a shelf, but he can randomly place them in a basket. Children can also “help” pick up toys and put them in a box. Toy boxes can be wagon seats, covered ottomans or an oversized basket that fits under a table.

Children can begin from an early age to learn to pick things up before going outside, or going to bed. They can also understand picking up some toys to "make room” to play with blocks or use a riding toy. These simple rules set the groundwork for more extensive requirements as the child grows and takes responsibility for picking up his toys.

Some children have so many toys that even adults are overwhelmed at the array of choices. By storing some toys and rotating them in the play space, young children have a better opportunity to play with what is available without distraction. When interest in a toy wanes, retire that one for a while and bring out something new to delight the child. Older children can participate in the selection. For instance, you can agree to have only ten stuffed animals on the bed at a time. The rest can go to the “animal reserve” for a while. The “reserve” can be a display shelf, a box under the bed or one of a number of clever storage systems to house a stuffed animal collection that are available on-line.

Keep the systems accessible to the children who use them. Hooks should be placed no higher than the child’s shoulder level. Shelves should be low enough to reach without climbing and doors and lids should open easily and safely. The storage should be placed in the area where the child does the activity so he can easily get his things out and put them away.

Our friend adopted these suggestions and the next time she was called on to host a meeting, she gathered the family room clutter (mostly toys) with the help of her children and was ready in no time.

Living with children is a wonderful experience--made better by organization that makes life easier.

Take a look at these sites to find child-friendly storage systems:

Beverly & Kristen

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