Don’t work harder to fight the piles of kid paraphernalia; work smarter. Try these seven kid-friendly clutter busters:
1. Live by the one in, one out rule.
Every time a new object enters the house — a toy, a book, an item of clothing — get rid of another item. This one-in, one-out rule helps guard against the constant accumulation of stuff and keeps the number of items in your household from continually ratcheting up.
2. Make a memory bin for each kid.
Buy a clear plastic file box for each child and add one file for each year of school (plus an extra for preschool years) to house important papers, cute drawings, report cards and the like. This keeps all of their most treasured memories in one portable spot — and off your dining room table.
3. Vow to touch it once.
The first time you touch a paper, make a decision about where it will go. Is it memorable enough to add to the memory bin? Or a forgettable math worksheet you can recycle without a second thought? Should you add it to the family calendar? Resist the urge to set papers down and deal with later.
4. Do a 10-minute cleanup every day.
Set a timer for 10 minutes and challenge your kids to clean up as much as they can in that time frame. Make it fun by turning on music or joining in to help them. Tip: This works on adults too. I regularly use a timer to motivate me to cleanup my kitchen. I set my microwave timer to 10 minutes and race against the clock to get everything spic and span.
5. Bring in the gunny sack.
If your kids have a problem cleaning up after themselves, it may be time to use that age-old parenting tool: the gunny sack. Designate a large drawstring bag or even an old pillowcase as the “gunny sack.” Toys and other things left lying around get tossed in the sack and don’t come out until extra chores are done to earn them back. You may find your kids don’t even notice what’s missing.
6. Remember baskets are your friend.
Strategically place baskets in spots around the house where clutter tends to accumulate. Baskets, especially pretty ones from Target, are a stylish way to conceal necessary clutter like shoes in the entry, books from the library and lap blankets in the family room.
7. Don’t let it in.
Let less stuff into your house, especially ‘”tiny junk” like Happy Meal toys and school prizes. Even if your kids find them momentarily distracting, they’re bound to break or end up puncturing your foot in a matter of days.