How to Teach Kids to Organize (hint: start with the things they love)

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by Robin

We have a pretty high tolerance for kid clutter.  You could not walk into our front door and wonder if kids lived here.  (Sometimes, you may wonder if adults actually live here.)  Enter our home and you'll be greeted by art supplies, costume pieces and Lego creations pretty much everywhere...and happy kids. 

Are we lazy?  A little bit.  But aside from that, we made the conscious choice early on to tolerate some kid clutter so we didn't need to nag quite so often about picking things up.  It's not a choice everyone could make, but we're quite content.

There comes a time when teaching responsibility for our own stuff is too important to overlook.  Over the next few months decade (who am I kidding?) we are working on teaching our kids to better organize their stuff.

Our starting place: the things they love plus the cardinal rule of organizing...

 A place for everything 
and everything in it's place.

We had success in recent months with our recycled craft caddy Markers, tape and scissors are found where they should be because they are actually put back there.  Youppi!  A huge win for our house because crafts are nearly constantly done here.

But, heard around our place on a typical Wednesday night...

Me: "Where's your sash?"
Daughter: silent shrug

Me: "Where's your Woggle?  You need it for your Necker!  Where did you have it last?"
Son: silent shrug 

Our son is in Beavers.  (Did you recognize those hilarious terms?)  Our daughter's in Brownies.  They love their uniforms.  Those uniforms have a half dozen accessories each.  What a great place to start with organizing lessons! 

Remembering that cardinal rule of organizing I decided what the kids needed is a place for their uniforms.  Without it, those bibs and baubs could potentially be anywhere.  

Enter a pair of hooks.  I found these buried on a shelf during the organizing of our bathroom cupboard.  Given my kids rooms' wall colours are already vibrant colours, I decided to paint them white.  (If my daughter ever sees this picture I will be in so much trouble!  She'll think the "before" mermaid hook was so much prettier.)

Now in each of their rooms there's a special place for their most special things.  And for the last couple of months, those things have been found there when we needed them. 

Another success!

Next I've set my sights on: lightsabers, Lego creations and crafts that are too precious to bid farewell to.

How have you taught your kids to put their things where they belong?


  1. Great tip! We also decided to live with a certain amount of kid stuff around the house to avoid some of the nagging but now we're really working on establishing a "place for everything" to increase the "everything in its place" part :)

    1. Thanks, Hilda! I'm right there too. Our latest project is thinning out the things so we can see what really needs a place. It's so hard to keep on top of!

  2. Sigh! We are trying but alas, this is an uphill battle.

    Nearly everything my kids own has a place- the problem is a small house and they want to play in our livingroom. This is where we 'live' so they want to do their stuff where the action is. The room is spacious but just doesn't have the storage for all their toys, games, craft supplies and creation (lego or crafty). The result is stepping and dodging kid stuff.
    If I 'remind' them to put away their stuff and they do, it is often only put in their rooms rather than in it's place in their rooms. I rarely go in their rooms but sometimes, I get quick a shock when I see how they've returned theirs stuff.

    Recently, I modified a 9 drawer mid-mod dresser into an entertainment unit to house stereo, wii, ps3 and a PC we download movies from. Of the 5 remaining drawers, one holds video games & software disks, one has board games, one has a netbook, battery charger and remotes and the last 2 hold lego. This dresser is truly an 'entertainment' unit.
    I am hoping that putting away lego and games will be simplified by being in the room they play in.

    Good luck with the training!

    1. I think your dresser sounds awesome! (We're planning something similar for our basement "wreck" room.) We've also got crafty-lego monkeys that leave this sort of stuff all over our kitchen table and living room. It gets frustrating. Sometimes I reassure myself that if that stuff weren't here, then that would probably mean they were doing things less creative, like just playing video games or watching tv all the time. A silver lining?

  3. I totally agree with you that we should let our kids organize things by themselves from the early time. My cousins were so messy with their toys, Lego and all kid’s stuff on the floor that every time I visited their house I just yelled them and shook my head in vain. OMG, anyway now it becomes better that they could bring back their toys to the indicated places.


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