5 Insights That Will Help Your Kids to Keep Their Room Organized

For years, I used to spend 40mins EVERY EVENING tidying up toys! I was an au-pair, so I just thought of it as a part of my work, but I wondered how it must be for parents without daily help to split themselves between family time, work, and all the household chores. Especially if their kids have a lot of toys… 

As the kids grew older, I knew it was important to educate them on how to tidy up after themselves. I had to find out what would motivate them: With trial and error, I kept re-organizing their playrooms and exercising different negotiation strategies. Some with more, some with less success. 

Eventually, I saw that having fewer toys makes a huge difference in the tidying-up process while not at all decreasing fun and play for the kids! My decluttering path had slowly started back there. That was five years ago, and ever since, I have practiced the skill of reducing possessions with other people until it became my full-time job. 

Undoubtedly freeing as decluttering is, there always lingers the question,
“HOW DO I GET MY KIDS TO KEEP THEIR PLAYROOM THIS TIDY?!?!”

Not only from my work with the kids but also by observing dozens of parents facing this dilemma, I noticed one clear pattern: WE LACK THE KIDS’ PERSPECTIVE.

Through my playful au-pair eyes, I had the chance to find my answers to this. Remembering what is important to kids, I discovered five main objections we should consider. And this is how I overcome them to bridge the gap between kids and adults when organizing playrooms. 

I. “It is too much work!”

Big tasks aren’t the strongest point for kids and their shorter attention span. If they pull out piles of toys, it will be way too overwhelming to tidy them afterward.

I can’t stress enough that the minimalist and Montessori approaches of “Less is More” are righteous here: The fewer toys, less clutter, and less visual noise, the more you simplify the whole process of tidying. 

You may choose to either reduce the number of toys you own (I have written an article on decluttering with kids just a few weeks ago) or introduce a rotation system. 

II. “It is too hard!”

The #1 mistake I see in most playrooms organization is inaccessibility & difficulty. Remember: if it is difficult or impossible for the kid to tidy up, he won’t do it. Avoid complex or fiddly organization at all times if you want to get this right!

1) Ensure furniture and toys are at the right height for kids to access.

2) Avoid anything fiddly: Remove complicated molds from game boxes that don’t need them, and avoid having toys that need to be completed before tidying (such as open puzzles or jigsaws)

3) Don’t overfill their toy storage: You might fit everything in with some effort and time, but your kid won’t. Leave enough space, so it is EASY to put things back!

4) Avoid obstructions: That extra move and effort your kid will have to execute to move things around to get to the correct storage will decrease the chances of success.

= The 0 effort strategy: Open shelves or baskets that aren’t overfilled, clearly defined “homes” for things, and no extra effort is your way to win!

III. “It is my best game.”

I remember the sad faces at the end of the day when we said we must break down the forts we created. Kids are excited about their games and often care about the idea of resuming their building or play projects the next day. To not create resistance or aversion to tidying up, it is important to compromise a bit. 

I suggest creating a designated space (in a corner, in a play tent, on a play table, etc.) for their open projects to leave their toys ready until the next day safely. One open project policy and a certain total time limit will help you manage this: E.g., you keep only this LEGO battle project out and tidy it up after a week. 

IV. “Why do I have to do it?”

Kids don’t have the same natural incentive to have a tidy room. Instead of just motivating them by what you want/need from them, explain the benefits. 

1) Tidy playroom where all toys have their home is a ready playroom. “You can find your toy in no time and play right away when you come home from school!”

2) Respecting other people – I noticed kids understand when you say, “The cleaner needs to mop the floor. Could you help him by putting your toys away?” Having a regular cleaning day in their room holds them accountable to have their room completely tidied on that day (usually once a week), plus it teaches them respect towards other people’s needs. 

V. “I still want to have fun.”

After a play session, tidying up might seem very boring. Make tidying up fun and something not to be resisted with some of these tips:

1) Keep it short: Put a timer to 5-10mins each day to make it an easy and fast routine.

2) Offer your presence or helping hand: having someone around keeps kids more focused and motivated and holds them accountable to finish the task.

3) Gamify it: Choose a song that will lift the mood, make it a race (how many toys can you tidy in 5 minutes?), or play the “putting toys to sleep”.

What strategies do you use to overcome your kids’ objections?

If you wish to create & maintain an organized, clutter-free, &
welcoming home for yourself and your family,
Your SPACE home-organizing process™ is the answer.
Book a free consultation to discover how can our tailored solutions help You!

WHEN and HOW to include your kids in decluttering their toys!

Previous to my organizing career, I worked as an au-pair for one family for four years. Living in big houses with big playrooms, we had an abundance of toys to play with, an ever-growing collection that was harder and harder to tame. It took me an hour to tidy up after playtime!

I knew it was important to educate the kids on how to tidy up after themselves and let go of old toys they no longer played with. But there would be no decluttering – every piece of plastic seemed important to them.

We moved houses almost every year, which seemed like the best opportunity to eliminate some overflow. With each new playroom, I tried different strategies of working with (or without) the kids to keep their room tidy.

After our 4th move to our 4th house, with a playroom size one-fifth of the first one, it looked like I figured it out. With 1/5 of the original furniture and space, we still managed to fit!

We had all our favorite toys and just the same amount of fun and play as we always had. And tidying up never took longer than 10 minutes…

What did I learn from setting up five different playrooms that grew increasingly smaller while still working with the same kids?

I. First of all – Consider their age.

Naturally, smaller kids are most interested in what they see at the moment. Whether it’s an expensive toy or a stick on the floor, it will be THE most interesting object just because it’s there. They have less concept of the things that aren’t in the here & now. So if you pick a toy and wave it in front of their face saying, “Let’s give this away because you haven’t played with it for a while,” you’ll probably fail.

So in the age of less reason, I found it easiest to declutter alone. I put away what I knew was unplayed with and took it away from the playroom for a couple of months to see if someone asked for it. Once they did not notice its absence for a long time, it was safe to pass it on. If they asked, I put it back in their space.

As parents, You know the best when you want to include your kids in your decluttering projects. I noticed that past the age of 6, I could start reasoning with the kids and had better success including them with their playroom re-organization.

II. Once you include them, understand them.

Their world is like ours, only condensed to a much smaller area. The adult world is huge – the personal history, the places we’ve been, the social contacts, the mental realm of ideas, a whole house of stuff – all to hold onto.

Our kid’s worlds are still growing, just getting past their room, home, school… It is natural that they, too, hold onto and put meaning to the things occupying their world. The rock from the neighborhood might have the same sentimental meaning to them as your souvenir from Australia to you.

Though reasonable, be compassionate when handling their “trash” not to develop an aversion to decluttering.

Make sure there’s a bin in their room that’s open and easily accessible so they can throw away stuff regularly when they are done treasuring it.

Observe what they play with and make donation suggestions for the less-used items.

III. Explain decluttering as a positive thing

1) Change the language and make it a winning game instead of a losing game

–> Forcing them to choose the losers and using the “getting rid of” or “throw-away” can be met with resistance. Turn it around. Empty the basket with toys and let them “choose their favorites” and “who’s gonna live in the robot basket” instead. It encourages more positive emotions.

2) Let them know where their toys go

–> Explain the process of decluttering: What isn’t identified as a “keeper” goes to [….] – ideally your smaller friend, smaller cousin, kids that shop in the charity store.

Tip: Kids love the feeling of growing bigger, so identifying toys for smaller children can be an easy trick. However, avoid manipulating them to get rid of things by making them feel like babies if they wish to hold onto their early toys!

3) Let them have their fair exchange

–> Living in the Netherlands, King’s day is in our favor! Encourage your kids to sell their old toys in May and celebrate their first own earnings.

IV. The last but most important lesson: Lead by example and with a relaxed attitude!

Walk your talk, and start with your personal decluttering. Make letting go a visible, regular, and normal part of life. Avoid dramatizing decluttering into either extreme (the “have to get rid of everything now” and the “have to keep everything forever”) if you can.

Your RELAXED ATTITUDE and normalization of decluttering will teach them the most… sooner or later, your kids will pick up on it and copy you.

In my professional experience, the most cluttered rooms were a mere reflection of the rest of the house.

Do you include your kids in the toy-decluttering process? At what age did you start?

If you wish to create & maintain an organized, clutter-free, &
welcoming home for yourself and your family,
Your SPACE home-organizing process™ is the answer.
Book a free consultation to discover how can our tailored solutions help You!

BACK TO SCHOOL – Organizer’s checklist for parents

This one is for you, parents. I am not a parent myself, however, after four years of living as an au-pair in a family with two schoolboys, I do know the routine. 

Being ready for school isn’t just having the school bags ready. Have you thought of the shoe size for PE, or having a place in your home to hold all the incoming and processing papers that are always so many at the beginning?

Getting your home ready and supportive to efficient school rhythm is half of the win.

Your SPACE by Lucie checklist

For PDF version to download and print out: