Part of having children means having more stuff than you sometimes know what to do with. For that reason it’s helpful to have a system set up so that you don’t get overwhelmed and can keep things organized right from the start.
Infants & Toddlers are probably the easiest to get organized – the hard part is keeping it that way.
Start by having specific places to put all the toys & books. Put them down at a level that is reachable so that as your little ones grow they can help put things back after playtime. Things with small pieces should be stored up high until your child grows into them and keeping a few toys put away for a truly rainy day is often a good idea. Make clean up time a game with special rewards such as super hugs, bath playtime or a snack. This not only gets YOU in the habit, but it will help train them to put things away when they’re big enough to pick things up all on their own.
The same system works well for clothes. Don’t just shove everything into a dresser drawer or hang them high on the closet rod. Keep current sized clothes at a good level for your child to help dress themselves and put away their clean laundry. Kids love to have choices and be real helpers. Things like diapers, salves & burp cloths can be higher on their own shelves.
Don’t know where to keep your baby food? The same place as your regular food! Formula, milk, & jarred food should all be kept in the kitchen, in cabinets or fridge with the regular food. Set aside a section in a lower cupboard for things that your child might help get out for themselves like plastic bowls and cups. As they grow simple snacks that do not need to be refrigerated can be stored in their reach for them to help at snack time.
Once your children start participating in outside activities or preschool, you have an entirely new level of clutter & paperwork to overcome. Bet you didn’t realize parents get more homework than young children. Summer camps, team sports and music lessons all require specific equipment and documentation. It can be hard for you to remember it all, let alone your child. The more kids you have, the more easily confused it all gets, so the key is: keep it separate, but keep it the same. In other words, have an overall system in which each child can see his/her own schedule and keep their things together for easy retrieval when it is time to go.
Magnetic or Dry-Erase Boards work WONDERS! Have one for each child (or section off an oversized one), side by side so they’re easy to see. Put their name at the top so you know whose is whose, post their calendars and have a to-do list or checklist to keep track of things that need to be done. Update them weekly so critical dates and paperwork are kept organized. 10 minutes early one morning can save you a meltdown later in the week.
Designate specific spots in the house and garage for activity specific things like soccer gear or music books. The same holds for lunch boxes and backpacks. If these itemsare always kept in their spots, it is easy to grab them and go when the time comes. It is always easier to clean and organize things as you put them away than to be delayed next time you want to use them. Mud washes off cleats much easier when it is fresh then after it dries to cement. This also keeps outside dirt out of the house. Taking care of lunch boxes right away ensures food containers and crumbs only live in the kitchen.
Make paper files for general information on activities. These should be kept handy for reference but don’t usually need to be displayed like calendars and snack lists. At the end of the season all paperwork pertaining to an activity can be filed away for reference. You may want to refer to them when sending out Birthday party invites or before signing up next season.
Summer reading lists, regular schoolwork and year round activities can follow the same systems. Notebooks and folders for the same subject in matching colors make pulling things to work on easier. Write the name and subject in the top left or right corner, but be consistent. This makes materials easy to spot at a glance.
We hope this will help you with the crazy everyday things that sometimes seem overwhelming when you have kids. Until next time – Keep it simple.
Danielle VanDusen joined The Betty Brigade in 2012 and recently graduated from Eastern Michigan University. Danielle coordinates all marketing and communications for the Betty Brigade, in addition to helping with the administrative duties. She also hopes to become more involved in the event planning arm of the Betty Brigade, helping companies and individuals plan, coordinate and execute successful events. In her spare time she plays roller derby for the Ann Arbor Derby Dimes and spends time with her pet pal Kitsune, a 5 year old Shiba Inu.