Few people are born organizers, so it’s up to parents to help kids organize their rooms. Notice I said help — working with them is part of the process of teaching this important life skill. Doing it for your children might be faster, but they don’t learn anything.
Although it takes a good bit of time and commitment on your part, helping your kid organize their room pays off when they take over the task. Once they’ve mastered that, they’ll be able to help elsewhere around the house, too.
Help Kids Organize Their Rooms
Start When They’re Young
Even toddlers can learn to help put away toys, throw away trash, and tug sheets into place on the bed. From there, add more organization tasks as they can handle them, and remember to use natural consequences if they refuse to help.
Sally didn’t want to put away her toys? Then, since Sally didn’t do as asked, Mom or Dad won’t be taking Sally to the play date with her bestie like she asked.
Did Johnny play video games instead of picking his dirty clothes up from the floor? Then Johnny doesn’t get to play video games until he does — and then he can do some kids’ chores, too.
Yes, they’ll argue. They’ll sulk and pout and stamp their feet. So what? That’s what kids DO! Part of their process of becoming independent involves pushing boundaries. Part of your job as a parent is enforcing them.
That’s not to say your home needs to be a War Zone, but you aren’t doing your kids any favors when you do everything yourself. In fact, that just adds to the reasons that cleaning stresses you out.
But It’s Never Too Late to Start
What if your kids are older? Maybe they haven’t caught on to the process of organizing, or maybe you’re not the most organized person yourself but are working to change that.
If that last bit describes you, congratulations! You’re taking a big step to change your mindset and setting a good example for your kids at the same time.
Remember to use natural consequences — like those described above — when your older child’s room turns into a pigsty. Otherwise, they will gladly turn the hassle of cleaning their rooms back over to you at their first chance.
Kids are kind of smart that way. Cleaning and organizing a room isn’t nearly as fun as playing or hanging out, so why do it when they know you will eventually? Don’t fall for it!
Start with a Clean Room (and a Checklist)
It’s important to initially work with your child to clean and organize their room. After they’re ten or so, they’re perfectly capable of cleaning a bedroom without supervision. (Worried yours will forget a step? Use my printable cleaning checklist for kids’ rooms, which was written specifically for children.)
Once you’ve got the room clean, check out these ideas to organize it.
10 Tips to Help Kids Organize Their Rooms
1. Choose Kid-Friendly Furnishings
Ruffled pillows, bed canopies, and curtains that puddle on the floor may look fantastic in a celebrity’s kid’s room, but they’re not practical for the average person. (Unless you happen to employ a bevy of maids and nannies to keep it all clean like the celebs do. No? Me, either.)
Instead of using adult-sized furniture or decor, go for kid-friendly surfaces that can be easily cleaned and withstand rough and tumble play or crafts. Painted wood, hard floors, and vinyl blinds are great; mirrors, unwashable fabrics, and glass are not.
2. Make Bed-Making A Snap
An unmade bed makes a room look much messier than it is. It also encourages more messiness since a child won’t see leaving her toys out makes much difference. Teach your child to make his bed, but don’t make it harder than it needs to be.
Get your child into the habit of making her bed by swapping the top sheet and fussy comforter or spread for a covered European-style duvet. Then all they have to do is pull the duvet up and, voila, it’s made. Come laundry day, all you have to wash is the cover. (Putting it back on is easy once you know the California Roll trick.)
3. Keep Storage Easy to Use.
Rows of canvas baskets with dangling chalkboard labels look nice, but when kids can’t immediately see where to put a toy away, then it’s going to end up on the floor.
Take a tip from kindergarten teachers and go for see-through containers for very young children. Immediately seeing what container a toy goes in makes it easier for them to put things away. Also, skip tight-fitting lids because they’re hard for little hands to open and will be a barrier to cleaning up.
For older kids, pare down their collections to things they actually use. Group similar things together on open shelves, and stash smaller items in decorative containers.
4. Store Things at Kid Height.
Get down on your knees and take a look around your child’s room from their point of view. Are the toy shelves within reach? Can you grab toys and books without having to climb on a chair?
Keeping things within your child’s reach means they can be played with, and what can be played with can also be put away.
Make sure the toys they play with most often are on the most easily accessible shelves. Use upper shelves to hold things that require your supervision — like paints or that craft set with a gazillion tiny beads that get spread all over the place.
5. Round up the Stuffed Animals.
Many kids have dozens of stuffed animals they can’t bear to part with even if they only play with one or two. Rather than letting those critters take over your child’s room or bed, give them a bed of their own with a stuffed animal hammock.
6. Schedule the Week’s Clothes
Rifling through closets and drawers every day in search of an outfit to wear to school can turn a clean room into a mess by Tuesday. Stop the mess and speed up your mornings by picking out the week’s clothing on Sunday.
Then hang outfits together using a pop can tab to turn individual hangers into double ones. Or, for casual outfits, roll them together (with underwear and socks) and stash them in a hanging pocket shoe organizer.
7. Display Books, Don’t Stack Them
Piles of books are a reader’s fantasy, but for kids, a large stack usually goes unread. Plus, children tend to knock those piles over and leave them spread everywhere.
Bookshelves are a nice yet often pricey addition, but making book racks from rain gutters is an inexpensive solution. As a bonus, having the covers facing outward encourages your child to pick up a book and read!
8. Use the Space under the Bed
Storage containers under the bed are a great way to take advantage of unused space and keep your child from stashing dirty dishes and trash down there. Keep out-of-season clothing in them, or even board games and jigsaw puzzles.
If you don’t use clear containers, be sure to label them so you can easily find what you’re looking for without having to pull out one after another.
Then, use a bed skirt to keep those storage containers hidden and make the room look tidier, too.
9. Clear out the Excess
Once you’ve made room for favorite toys and stuffed animals, maximized your closet space, organized books, and taken advantage of under-bed storage, it’s time to make some tough decisions.
You could buy more containers for what’s left then try to find room for them. Or you could help your child decide what it’s time to let go of and sell or donate the excess.
I found with my kids that explaining the things we were giving away would make another child happy encouraged them to get rid of even more.
10. Take a Picture
Once your child’s bedroom is clean and organized, take pictures. LOTS of pictures. Photograph the insides of the closet and drawers, the table or nightstand, and any other storage spaces you use. Don’t forget to take one from the bedroom door, too.
Print the photos together on one page and hang it on the back of your child’s bedroom door where they can easily see it. This way, your child can find for themselves to find where things belong. And the next time they clean their room, they’ll know how it’s supposed to look.
Note: How To Help Kids Organize Their Rooms first appeared in January 2016. It has been revised and updated for republication.