Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Organizing: Kids and Stuff, Part Two

This is the second post in a response to an Ask Cherri question about dealing with kids’ stuff. In the first post I addressed the emotions and personalities of stuff in our houses. In that post I went over how to sort the stuff you have and decide what to keep. In this post I’ll explore ways to organize the stuff you want to keep.

Though you can find variations of these all over the internet, the basic principles for organizing spaces are:
  1. Like things with like things.
  2. Everything has a place.
  3. An empty space or junk drawer for the random.
  4. Go vertical.
  5. Keep things off the floor.
  6. Use what you already have before you buying new.
  7. Keep doorways and windows clear.
  8. Label shelves and containers.
As always, ask for help when you need it. If you’re organizationally or spatially challenged, invite a friend for food and ask for their expertise.

After you’ve decided what to keep, develop a plan for how and where to store things. You might consider some of the following options.


Shelves are your friend. Put them anywhere there is a wall. Put two or three together and you have yourself some faux built-ins. If the room isn’t big enough for large bookshelves or wall units, smaller sets of shelves can work too.

Always anchor shelves and furniture to the wall; you don’t want littles or earthquakes pulling them over.


Most kids I know don’t have many hanging clothes, so make use of extra closet space. We left room for my kid to hang his suit coat and a few dress shirts from hangers; the rest of the closet is shelving units. We did not do anything fancy or expensive. On one side of the closet is a cheap particle board bookshelf, and on the other is a wire pantry shelf we’ve had for 20 years. On top of those shelves we’ve stacked the plastic drawer units, game boxes, and containers with various toys, balls, and other stuff the kid has collected. The basic shelving units at places like Ikea can work and can be modified; if you need more shelves than the unit comes with, add them. Most home building stores sell lengths of shelf board that is pre-painted. All you have to do is cut it (which can be done at the store) and attach with shelf brackets.

Put stuff the kids don’t need to access on their own—like multi-player games and kits with tiny pieces and lots of directions—on the top shelves, and leave the bottom shelves for things they can manage on their own.

Shadow Boxes and Jars

If you have a child who is a collector of little things, or one whose pockets are always full of this knickknack or that, embrace the chaos and use that stuff as decoration. Shadow boxes are great for paper, photos, and small  ephemera, as are jars.

Stuffed Animals

We didn’t really catch the stuff animal bug at my house, but I feel the pain of those of you with zoos in your houses. These soft, non-square, non-stackable items don’t fit neatly on shelves, and if your kids have anthropomorphized them, these items can’t be stuffed in boxes or shoved under the bed. Hammocks and zoo-jails are fun forms of storage, and over the door pocket organizers work great for smaller items like ponies, Barbies, and action figures.

Junk Drawer Galore

I know some philosophies would have you believe that when everything has a place, you don’t need a junk drawer just like you don’t need a miscellaneous file, but to that I say pshaw. Make your life easier. Have one place to stick random crap that doesn’t seem to have a home. It will have to be cleaned out eventually, but this is a stress reliever when all else is orderly. When our kid was younger, we had a see-through plastic bin that was the catchall container. Now that he’s a teen, his entire room is one big junk drawer.

Label that Crap

If the kids are little, print a photo as a label. Otherwise, make easy-to-read labels and tape or glue them on, if not for the kids, for your own sanity.

Check out Part One of this post dealing with the emotions and personalities related to the stuff in our houses.

Do you have tips or tricks to add? What is your best organizational hack? Please share those or any other resources that might be helpful for decluttering in the comments below.

If you have a question for Ask Cherri, send an email to wordyporter @ gmail.com or or use the google form.

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