My new series: Ask an Organizer launched last month and was a huge reader hit so we’re back to answer more of your burning questions. This post will feature a roundup of questions related to the unique challenges that come with parenting and raising kids. I’m thrilled to be collaborating with some of my favorite organizers, and parenting experts, who will provide answers, tips, and resources just for you.
You can meet the experts below, but first, let’s dive into the first question:
Q. I have 3 children, 2 school aged. There is a lot of accumulated art, “treasures,” birthday party favors, school work, and toys/games/books. I feel pretty clear about giving away items that they no longer use, but I’m wanting to involve them in the process so they learn the skill (spoiler alert: I never learned it as a kid) of letting go, minimizing belongings, and prioritizing what they keep. Do I purge with or without them? With them takes time and has mixed outcomes, without them risks them feeling like they have no input or control.
The Home Capsule: Slowing down what comes into the house is a bigger teachable moment then the act of getting rid of items. For birthdays and holidays, make it a family value to prioritize experiences over things, and ask if the school can email you their flyers instead of sending home paper ones. Make scrap books or take photos of favorite art each month before it becomes a giant project. Come to a compromise of what they can keep from party favors, before they even exit the car. Making those daily decisions will teach value, and care for the items that child chooses in the present, and in the future as a consumer themselves.
Sparks Joy Home: One of my favorite strategies is to have children choose their favorites from the category that is being worked on. For children, it’s easier to think about what their favorites are and to focus on the positive – what they really love and can take care of. It’s less time consuming and a simpler way to include them so they can be part of the process. Ultimately, the best way to inspire the skills is to practice them yourself, lead by example and eventually they will follow.
Q. My kids come in from school with so much stuff – homework, shoes, backpacks, library books, etc. We have a small home with no entry closet or mudroom. Where can we put all of the stuff that comes in? Thank you!
The Home Capsule: Historic homes (I live in a 1923 colonial) often pose design challenges, but don’t let that discourage you. Think about what space you have first, and then plan on WHAT you can realistically put where. A small console table with a drop bin, tray, or basket for incoming papers is everything. Hooks on the wall for seasonal outerwear, backpacks stored by where homework is done or lunches are packed, shoes come off and live in a basket by the door, and library books go straight to the bedroom nightstand. Get the kids involved, and set up to succeed, by having clear destinations for each and every item.
Q. Our playroom always seems to be a chaotic mess. Any tips for setting up better organization and systems that our kids can maintain so I don’t have to clean up every night?
Sparks Joy Home: Decluttering is key. Let go of about half of the toys and books, and then put half of the ones you keep into a toy/book “library”. Then, rotate the toys and books in storage monthly or as needed. Having less to mess with is a good start. Anything not kept in the “library” should have a specific home to which it is returned after use. Help kids clean up as they go and expect to have to guide them in cleaning for a while – until they are mature enough to be self directed and the routine is established.
Smart Playrooms: We see so many chaotic playrooms every year, and here are our top tips for you!
1. Less is More: Declutter the playroom and evaluate the toys. Are they age appropriate? Are the kids interested in this toy? If not, those toys need to be removed from the playroom. (Stored in a closet or donated).
2. Sort! Sort each type of toy into a clear or open container. (We love the Container Store containers!) and label these containers.
3. Designate each type of play into a separate area in the playroom. This will help contain the same toys to the same space. Different zones may include building/block play, pretend play, art area, physical play area, etc…
4. Parent involvement is necessary for clean up in the beginning… kids will respect the toys and space if it is inviting and functional when they enter the playroom. Eventually, the kids will start to clean up if parents have prioritized expectations and helped the clean up along the way.
Love these ideas so much! If you have a burning question or organizing dilemma for the team, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, subject: Ask an Organizer to have your question selected for a future feature.
Meet the Experts
The Home Capsule is an organization lifestyle brand, committed to design as an expression of feelings: about self, home and family.
Sparks Joy Home Founder Christine O’Brien specializes in helping parents simplify and create home environments that inspire connection and positive behavior from their children.
Smart Playrooms (based in NY and CT) merges organization and design to create unique play and learning spaces for children and teens.