When this teacher turned mom and personal friend called me to help her redo her playroom, I was so excited to take on the challenge. Especially since I would get to enjoy the results along side of her!  In a nutshell, this mom of two was growing more and more frustrated with the lack of storage, limited floor space, and felt as if the playroom was uninviting.  Ring a bell?  Before we could get started with the project, I needed to ask questions… A LOT of questions.  As a mom, teacher, and professional organizer (it’s nearly impossible to separate the three), I wear many hats when working with families looking to get organized.  For me, it is important to understand how the space is used, what is and isn’t working, and what the homeowner’s goals are.  There is no one-size fits all when it comes to organization! 

Vertical Before Here is what we determined. . . This room is a formal living room turned playroom and is visible the minute you walk into the house. Lucky for me, the room was packed with potential, great decor, and a reasonable budget to add some of the items on this family’s wish list. Don’t get discouraged if some of the  items on your organizational wishlist aren’t in the budget.  This just requires a little more creativity and patience.  Try Craigslist, local sales groups on Facebook, and even consignment/thrift stores.  Try asking friends/neighbors that have older children if they are ready to let go some of the things their children have outgrown.  

With two young children at home, ages three and ten months old, we had to be creative in order to meet the needs of both children. This three year old is really into art, but there was no art supply storage and, therefore, items stacked up on the work table, making it hard to be creative.   A large collection of books and a beautiful teepee were also an essential part of the design.  Both items took up a lot of floor space making it hard for the kids to explore the room with ease.  Dress up and make believe is HUGE to any three year old, so it was key that we incorporate creative play into this room. In addition to finding a space for the essentials, this mom wanted toys to have a logical home so that her children could learn to play and clean up independently. With young children in the home, it was important that furniture be secure and that toys in this space be safe for all ages. Ultimately, the most important thing to this family was to have a fun and safe place for their children to grow and explore in. 

Let It Go
Take time to purge toys at least twice a year.  This doesn’t have to mean giving them away.  Try rotating toys to keep the playroom fresh or even make a trade with a neighbor/friend.  If you are done growing your family, donate toys that your children have outgrown, abandoned or those that drive you crazy.  Throw away toys that are broken or missing pieces.   Children younger than seven probably aren’t ready to help make these decisions, so it is best to make this a parent-task. Choose quality over quantity.  Think about workmanship and purpose.  Maria Montessori said, “Get toys that encourage children do something with their hands, to drop a ball in a box, or to stack rings to accomplish a task”.  Toys with flashing lights and buttons are not teaching our children how to think independently and problem solve. Opt for toys that give the child a task and/or encourage creativity.

The Sky’s The Limit
Baskets tend to be the storage solution of choice in most playrooms I encounter.  While I love a good basket, playroom baskets are often over-sized.  Toys get buried on the bottom and children tend to play with what they can see.  When we use a basket to store toys in a playroom, it is typical that if one fills up, we buy another.  Before you know it, the floor is full of baskets with toys buried so far down they will never see the light of day.   If you think a basket is the solution for your space, choose baskets that are small, transparent, or use them to store larger items that won’t get lost.

So where do you put the toys? I see it in every space I visit, the forgotten vertical space that is wasted on our walls.  This is especially true with children’s spaces as we want our children to be safe and toys easily accessible.  Don’t be afraid to go up!  Furniture doesn’t have to be low to the ground for child’s room and the top shelf of any piece can serve a great purpose.  Store items here that you prefer your child use while supervised or use this space to add some character to the room.  If your child still needs supervision with paper books, store the board books on lower shelves until they have learned the rules. Don’t forget to secure taller/heavier furniture to the walls for safety.

Incorporate Independenceart cart
When children know what is expected of them and feel safe they can make decisions more independently.  After all, this is our ultimate goal, right?  Take the time up front to teach your child how to play. Define clear, simple rules and routines in your home so that they can independently accomplish things for themselves. It may take a little more time initially, but it will benefit everyone in the long run. When designing your play space be sure to create kid friendly storage so children know where toys go and can independently play as well as clean up.  This sense of accomplishment can supplies editedhelp develop self-esteem in children of all ages. This doesn’t mean that they have to be able to reach everything!  Be strategic about what you put out of reach.  Make art supplies your child can use independently easily accessible and utilize cabinets, carts, and closets to put away items you prefer they use under direct supervision.

Create A Space to Inspire Creativity
If and when possible, each space in the playroom should serve a specific purpose.  Divide your playroom into areas that will help direct and encourage creativity as well as define the objects that belong in the area for easy clean up. Children should know where to find their toys and where to put them away.  Allow your child frequent opportunities to make choices and lots of time to experience and explore expressive materials.   Maria Montessori said it best when she said, “Play is the work of the child”.  Fill the space with toys that allow your child to think for themselves and provide them experiences with a wide variety of content (art, music, language, science, math, social relations).

Market What You Support
My friend reminded me recently that grocery stores display sugary cereals facing out and at eye level for a reason. Why not do the same for books?!  Draw them in and they will be readers for life!  The simple fact is: The more kids read, the better readers they become.  The Washington Post stated that “ninety-one percent of children ages 6–17 say “my favorite books are the ones that I have picked out myself.”  Letting your child choose the books that interest them is the fastest way to get them to read.  Freedom of choice is the key to creating excitement about reading.  When children can access booksCollageImage teepee editedeasily, they are more likely to read.  Display your books facing out so that kids will be attracted to their covers and in turn they will be drawn to read!   

Patience Is A Virtue
Organizing kids playrooms can be overwhelming, especially if your children have too many toys or your family doesn’t have a large space to dedicate to play.  How your family plays can say a lot about how you parent and what you are encouraging in your children. Kids learn by playing.  Teach them how.  Find the right tools for your needs and organize their space in a way that encourages independence and creativity.  Remember that once this space is organized, you are not done. First and foremost, teach your children how you expect them to behave in the space. Go over the rules and expectations, setting them up for success. An organized home requires regular maintenance just like anything else.  Get in a good habit of editing the space on a regular basis.  Make adjustments as needed. Don’t underestimate your children.  Give them the tools and then set your expectations high and your children will rise to the occasion when it comes to independence in their new space.  Most importantly, get in there and play with them!  We may not have it all together, but together, we have it all. Enjoy!

Items Added:DSC_0753room edited
-Craigslist Chalkboard $40
-Ikea Picture Ledge Shelves $15/each
-Ikea Fintrop Rails & Caddies  $9 rails, $7 caddies
-Craigslist Toddler Table $20
-Target Mori 5 Shelf Bookcase $136/each
-Hobby Lobby Dress Up Mirror $30
-Hobby Lobby Shelves & Hooks $20 each

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Getting organized doesn’t have to mean spending the entire weekend tackling the piles around your house and going through every closet.  Here are some quick and easy habits that you and your family can implement every day to keep the clutter and chaos at bay, saving more time for fun and relaxation!

businesswoman with a note-book in a cafe drinking coffeeWrite It Down
Get one notebook or calendar with notes pages to jot everything down.  Take the time to unload your brain onto a sheet of paper.  Be specific and include everything that you have floating in there.  It might sound silly but clearing up this space in your brain can make a huge difference in your mental clutter and allow you to be more present each day.

Pick It Up
Never leave a room empty-handed.  If you pass by something that doesn’t belong where it is, pick it up and take it with you.  Dirty dishes, mail, toys…..take the time to address the mess now, don’t wait! Doing a little each day can help avoid hours of work later.

Let It Go
Create a ‘donate and returns’ station at your house.  This is the place that collects any and all items that need to leave your home.  Put the items (with receipts) near the door or in your car so you don’t have to spend time locating them when it is time to leave.  Make sure everyone in the house knows what the bin/area is for and encourage family members to add items as needed.

Male hand holding a cell phone and writing sms message Delete & Unsubscribe
Don’t let your email get out of control!  Take 10 minutes every day to delete unwanted emails and unsubscribe to mail lists that are not of interest.  The unsubscribe button isn’t always the easy to find but once you do, a few clicks and you are done! 

Look Before You Buy
Take time as you are making your grocery list to check to see what items you already have.  Add a meal to your schedule that you already have the ingredients for and cross things off you don’t need!  Be sure to check expiration dates as you look through the pantry and toss food that has expired!  Apply these same strategies to all purchases. Look before you buy, then donate or toss an old item to make room for the new.

Purge With The Season
The weather has changed and so should your closet.  Donate items you don’t see yourself wearing this season and shift out of season items to the back/sides of your closet saving the prime real estate for the this season’s items.  Remember to do this with children’s closets too!  Donate or sell the items you don’t love, then label and store the remaining clothes for the future.

Don’t Wait
Do things immediately as often as possible!  Whether it be going through the mail, paying a bill, or changing a light bulb….do it now!  Don’t waste time and energy adding items to your to do list that can be done quickly.  You will find your mind and calendar less cluttered when you take the time to tackle small tasks often.

10 Minute Chores
Create a chores schedule (ie: Monday: vacuum, Tuesday: dust, Wednesday: errands, Thursday: groceries, etc).  Spend a few minutes every day cleaning up the house so that your evenings and weekends can be used for relaxation.  Use the weekend to plan for the week ahead and then sit back and relax!

488621Form A Team
Assign tasks to children, no matter their age.  A family that works together, can play together!  Pick something from your list for each family member to be responsible for.   Teach them how to do it correctly and then let go!  They might not do it as quickly or even as well as you, but it is done and they are learning valuable skills for the future.

Be Patient
Give yourself time to make changes to your routines and habits.  Pick one of these suggestions and give yourself a few weeks to implement it.  When you’ve got it down, try another.

With the start of a new school year fast approaching, it is the perfect time to get your family organized! As a teacher, I know all too well that early morning alarm clocks, shorter days, piles of papers, and after school activities can quickly make you feel out of control!  Use these time saving tips to help prepare your family for the busy days that lay ahead!

Family Command Center 
Whether big and beautiful or tiny and functional, every family needs a command center!  This is the space where everything important and relevant lives . . . 

  • family/school calendar
  • household chore checklists
  • frequently called/ emergency phone numbers
  • school lunch menus
  • shopping list, coupons & receipts
  • notes & reminders
  • mail & bills to pay
  • storage for pens, pencils, paper, markers and erasers

Find a high traffic area for your command center so that each family member passes by it regularly.  If we don’t see it, we won’t use it! Allow everyone their own space to add notes, important dates, or even encouragement for the coming days. “Check-in” as a family regularly to help avoid headaches later on. Sharing this skill with your children will also help to create healthy habits as they mature.

Set up a kid-friendly home so that everyone can take responsibility for their belongings and help out.  This may require some planning and rearranging up front but will save you a lot of time in the long run.  Find ways to incorporate your children into meal preparation and household chores.  Have a homework station with age appropriate supplies that each child can easily access to cut down on the number of “Moms” you’ll hear during this time.    The more we work together, the more time we have to do the things we love.

Set up your pantry in a way that even young children can help themselves to a healthy snack or even pack their own lunches!   Find a low shelf, cabinet, or drawer and place snacks in a small container without a lid. Label bins “take 1” or “take 2” for packing lunches to be sure each child has a well-balanced meal.  Use this same model in the refrigerator for veggies, fruits, dairy, and hummus!


Plan Ahead
Meal planning can get a little boring and predictable at times, but it always ensures your family is eating right and saving money (and calories).  Planning ahead saves time making decisions or running to the store and helps avoid the last minute runs thru the drive-thru! Find a great website with fresh ideas and recipes or make a girl’s night out of cooking freezable dinners with your friends! Using leftovers efficiently cuts food waste, while buying in bulk makes it easy to stockpile freezer meals at reduced prices.

Find a great website to help you think outside of the box when it comes to packing lunches.  This way, kids are not getting bored with the same old brown bag and everyone is more likely to eat healthy!  Here is a great one to try http://www.creativegreenliving.com/2014/08/easy-back-to-school-lunch-ideas-sandwich-free-packed-lunches.html

Don’t Wait
Mornings can be chaotic and rushed for time.  Plan ahead to get everyone started on the right foot!  Take time after school to unpack backpacks, complete homework, and update the family command center with any changes for the following day’s schedule.  Use your command center as it is intended!  Important papers, lunch money, and permission slips should be kept here until they are packed be sure everyone gets out the door with what they need.

In the evenings, take a few minutes as a family to lighten your morning load.  Pack lunches, lay out clothes, place musical instruments or sports bags at the command center and even consider setting the table for breakfast!  Remember to keep everything at an appropriate height for your family’s needs to encourage independence! You know your children, allow your late sleeper to shower the night before or set up a schedule so that everyone gets the time they need in front of the mirror.

Prime Time
Amazon Prime can be dangerous for some shoppers, purchasing items at the click of a button but has personally saved me hundreds of hours, gas, and headaches!  For a $79 yearly membership you get free two day shipping on thousands of items.  Take a quick second to compare prices as you familiarize yourself with the service, not everything on Amazon is the cheapest option but prices are typically competitive with major retailers.  Look here first for pantry and toiletry replacements as well as gifts for any occasion.

Thanks for visiting my blog!  Check back soon for some tips on starting the school year on the right foot!

For more inspiring family command centers click on the image or visit poofycheeks.com.

For more ideas on how to make packing lunches a breeze, click on the image or visit iheartorganzing.blogspot.com.

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