A place for everything, and everything in its place…. hopefully!

I am one of those people who cannot think or focus in clutter. Even just being in a house that is really cluttered makes me twitchy :) Before I sit down to write, work, plan, mark, etc. I have to have a clear space around me. The nights before report cards are due, or if I have a bunch of work to do for Dayhome Registry, you will find my office, kitchen and living room at its tidiest.  Over years of working with this need to stay tidy, I have come up with a few strategies that work for me, at least most of the time.

1. Books, magazines, papers and mail: I am an avid recycler, but there are some papers and such that you do need to keep! The trick is how to do it without drowning in papers. At my front door I have a basket for the mail. On a day when I’m in a hurry, I grab the mail and throw it in the basket. My favorite magazine, Today’s Parent, goes on the back of the toilet in the bathroom – I know that there I can grab a few minutes a day to read it. Once I have a minute to deal with the mail, it gets separated into piles – home, work, junk mail – and then put away from there. Magazines or flyers I want to hang on to for a while go into a magazine holder from Ikea in the kitchen.  Then, when we are done with them, to the recycling they go. Each of my kids have a bookcase in their rooms, and we have 3 bookcases in the basement. I group our books by topic or author in the bookcases.  The bookcase in the guest room holds fun, easy reading books. The books in the office are about work, entrepreneurialism, and teaching. The bookcase in the playroom is filled with home, and self, improvement and our favorite, never get rid of, books.  In our craft/workout room are all our photo albums.  Can you tell we are a family of readers?   Once a year I go through all the bookcases and purge books that we no longer read, want, need, etc.

2. Clothes:  growing kids have a LOT of clothes – summer clothes, winter, school, activity, etc. They can pile up REALLY quickly. Again, I purge regularly. Too small? They go in the “too small” bin in the closet, and once that’s full, out the door to either a friend with younger kids or to Goodwill.  I keep “off season” clothes in another bin in their closets so when we get that freak snowstorm in September, I can get my hands on mitts and touques really fast! For the different activities, I keep the different clothes for the activities in a separate drawer or cupboard so they are easy to grab before running out the door.  Speaking of running out the door, to keep hats, mitts, scarves, bug spray, sunscreen, etc in easy grabbing distance, we put up shelves with baskets up on the wall in the backhall.  Each person has a basket, and all the stuff goes in there.  Now if I could only get my son to not lose his things, his basket would have all the stuff he needs! For a dayhome, I would have a basket, bin, or bag for each kid, and then one “extra” to cover the kids who have lost or forgotten stuff.

3. Toys:  Toys are fantastic, fun, exciting and…. everywhere!  My two kids have a ton of toys, I can’t even imagine how much dayhomes have!  We are lucky enough to have a basement playroom where most of the toys are kept. This allows us to have a living room upstairs that I can keep relatively toy free. However, with my need for order, I have a system in place in the playroom as well. Ikea is my friend, and pretty much all of my systems are from there.  I have the toys separated out into “themes”: Lego, cars, Nerf, sports, games, kitchen, trains, dress up, music.  Each theme has a bin (or two) that then fits into a storage unit. The bins are different colours, so the kids can pick out what they want to play with quite easily. It also means that they know where to put the toys BACK when they are done with them.  Like most kids, remembering to clean up is the hardest part!  To encourage the kids to help clean up, I use a few tricks. Firstly, I ask them to do a set amount: Can you clean up all the cars, and I will do the trains and Lego? Can you do JUST 10 handfulls of Lego, and I’ll do the rest? Secondly, I put on music – Mary Poppins’ “Spoon Full of Sugar” is a really fun one, but anything you can “bop” around to – and we dance around while we clean up. Lastly, if nothing else is working, we make it a race: who can clean up their pile the fastest?  Around Christmas time, we go through the toys and I help the kids choose some of their toys that they don’t play with anymore to donate. I also take note of the toys that aren’t getting any play time and pack them away for a while. If they get asked for, I bring them back out, if not, I donate them after a few months of being packed away.

4. Crafts and Art:  I struggled with this for a LONG time. My daughter is a voracious artist, and during the winter comes home from school and the dayhome with at least 4 or 5 pieces of art everyday!  The piles of artwork were getting a bit out of control, and I only have so much sticky tack for the walls!  My organization system was inspired by how our dayhome and my daughter’s playschool keeps arts and crafts organized. I have a rack with different sized bins for all the supplies. In the playroom, I have a kid sized table and chairs where they can do their artwork.  To display the art, I have 3 lengths of string pinned into the wall. I then use clothes pins to attach the art to the string. This doubles as a display, and a place to dry paintings!  I also have a shelf above these strings where I display sculptures, etc. I employ the same strategy with art as I do with toys. I keep the very precious and unique, and after a period of time, some of the “regular” pieces get put away or recycled. For those really special pieces, again Ikea is my friend. I bought 6 different coloured frames, and framed them to hang on the wall. They look fantastic, and makes the kids feel really proud.

Keeping organized and tidy when you’ve got kids around (or husbands with many hobbies) can be challenging. A system, even if it isn’t used perfectly, gives you a way to deal with all the “stuff” when you just can’t handle the chaos anymore.  I find that as the kids get older, I keep having to modify mine, but this is a good starting point.

A tip that I got from organizing guru Peter Walsh: fold all your sheets from one set, and then tuck them INTO one of the pillow cases from that set. They pack away nicely, and when its time to change the sheets, its all together! Brilliant!  Do you have tips for other dayhomes when it comes to organizing?  Add to our forum topic so we can share ideas! http://dayhomeregistry.com/forums/2

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