Ok, lately I've shared with you some of my past struggles and my recent messes (LAUNDRY!!!), but tonight I wanted to share with you one of my successes: my kids' bedrooms, particularly their closets! I've heard other moms talk about the never-ending piles of toys and the dreaded task of locating clothes and shoes amid the mess. I know this can be a source of stress and tension in a busy family. However, I believe that an organized approach to a kid's room - especially the closet - can save you time and eliminate these headaches!
Step 1: Clothes
As with any closet, clothes should be sorted into a system that makes sense for the child. For example, if the child wears school uniforms, all of the uniform pieces should hang together neatly in a designated place in the closet. All of my boys' uniforms are sorted into sections for khacki shorts, khacki pants, and polo shirts.
Additionally, short sleeve shirts go together, as do blue jeans, button-downs, jackets and sweatshirts, etc. I established a system in my kids' closets years ago. When the boys were as young as five or six, they helped put their clothes away in the proper locations. My 8-yr-old, who is learning to fold and hang up his own clothes without much help from me, knows exactly where everything should go because I modeled this system for him as he helped me when he was younger. Why does this matter? I do NOTHING to help my 8 and 12 yr olds get ready for school in the morning. Because their closets and dressers are organized, they can find everything they need and get ready without my help. They have done this for years, not because they are naturally independent, but because they have been trained to be independent. And the organization certainly helps!
Step 2: Toys
As early in my children's lives as I can remember, I began using clear plastic tubs (Sterilite or Rubbermaid from Walmart) to sort their toys. As a 2-3 year old, my oldest son could put his toys away with only a little prompting from me. Why? Because everything had a place where it belonged. There was a box for blocks, a box for Little People, a box for Rescue Heroes, and the list goes on and on. Of course, he couldn't read to put them away based upon a word label. So, I found clip art, coloring books pages, or photos representing the contents of each box and decoupaged the pictures onto the boxes. The super heroes box had a pictures of Spiderman, the Power Rangers box had a pictures of the Red Ranger, and so on. As they were learning to read, I added word labels to the boxes. Now, most of the pictures are gone and the words remain.
When they were young, I tried to encourage them to take out only a few boxes at a time. (I tried to stick to the one box at a time rule at first, but I decided that it would inhibit creativity if the "Cowboys and Indians" couldn't play in the Lincoln Log houses, and the Lego guys couldn't ride in a fire truck.) For the most part, they knew that they had to clean up the first mess before making a new one. Now that they are older, it doesn't take much prompting from me to have a clean room in no time. If my 8-yr.-old lets his room get out of control, I do have to give him "steps"; for example, I tell him to pick up the Legos, and I check back in a few minutes. Then I tell him to pick up the Hot Wheels cars, and I check back in a few minutes. I continue with this process until everything is put away.
This system of organization is now so ingrained in my kids that they can make sure that friends help them clean up when we have company. Last month we had a Super Bowl party, and several of our friends brought their pre-schoolers with them. When it was time to clean up, the moms and kids helped and we were able to straighten everything up in a matter of minutes, again, because everything has a place to call home! All of the toy boxes fit neatly in the closet and can be "out of sight" when necessary. Now, at ages 8 & 12, the boys have very little trouble keeping a clean room. Every night, the oldest cleans his room while the youngest takes his shower and vice versa. This insures that the rooms don't get out of control after days of neglect. However, even when we slip up and let things go wild for a few days, the organization systems we have in place help us to quickly restore order!! My kids' closets are definitely one of my success stories!!!