Spring Family Organization Tips & Ideas
Decluttering & Organizing Fever: The Marie Kondo Effect
One cannot ignore the current decluttering and organizing fever that has taken hold of the United States thanks to the “Marie Kondo effect.” Marie Kondo is an internationally bestselling author (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing), the inventor of the KonMari minimalist method of organizing by categories (clothes, books, papers, etc) and the KonMari lifestyle brand, and the star of the Netflix Original show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” The impact of the show, which highlights the Marie Kondo method of letting go of possessions that do not “spark joy,” has been so great that thrift stores across the nation have seen massive increases in donations and some second-hand stores have started restricting donations due to the overwhelming amount of stuff they are receiving.
As a family organizer, I love that more people are embracing decluttering and organizing. I appreciate the KonMari method, though I do not ascribe to any specific philosophy when working with clients except that organization makes life easier and more enjoyable. It’s that simple. My approach is to meet families where they are currently. I learn what their existing organizational patterns are, the main organizational challenges they are facing as a family, and what they want to prioritize. Then, I build upon these existing patterns, implement additional organizational approaches, and help my clients set up practical, functional systems so they can get & keep their homes and families organized. If a client wants a super minimalist home, wonderful. If a client likes their stuff, but just wants an organized way to store it, that’s great too. If a client wants me to support them through a KonMari-type approach to decluttering their house, I can do that too.
The bottom line is that clutter is expensive. For example, according to market research, Americans will spend $37.5 billion this year alone in storage fees, with an average cost of about $90/month). Clutter is not just draining on our finances, it is also draining on our time and mental health. Living in a cluttered home is stressful and a time suck - just think about the extra time spent trying to find things in a cluttered house or the stress of disorganized finances.
Recognizing the cost of clutter is important, but it is also paramount to acknowledge that all of us have cluttered aspects of our lives and no one is perfect (well, except maybe Marie Kondo). I’m a family organizer and there are plenty of times when life is so exceptionally busy that the clutter in my home gets out of control (I am more of a minimalist, while my family is decidedly maximalist). Organizing a home takes time and commitment and when you have young children it can be particularly HARD. The key is to tackle the job as a family team, be patient, take small steps, and implement practical approaches that work for your family. Also, decide on the areas of your life that you want to prioritize decluttering/organizing and don’t worry about the rest until you have the time and energy to deal with it. In the remainder of this article, I highlight some organizing tips and strategies that I have found particularly useful at various life stages for our family and the families with whom I work. As always, take what makes sense and seems like it would have a positive impact in your family life, and leave the rest.
What Stops Us From Organizing?
I think a lot of us put off organizing because we get overwhelmed: "I need to organize the (whole) house or I need to wait until I can budget money for those fancy organizing systems or I don’t know where to start." However, if you think more small-scale/doable, there are a lot of projects that you can easily tackle that will make a big difference in your daily life, and that will be relatively inexpensive to boot (repurpose containers you already have around the house or purchase inexpensive organizing products, if needed). The key is to focus on just one or two areas at a time, and to aim for function (how can I make this area work better for our family needs?), not for perfection. And don’t forget to use labels so everyone knows where things go and you can keep your stuff organized!!
Organization Tips for Families with Children Under Age Five
Mamas and papas, I feel your pain. The early years of parenthood can be so glorious and also so very tiring and overwhelming. As the parent of a nine-year-old and a seven-year-old, I can honestly say it gets easier (note I do not have teenagers, ha!). Within the past year or two, things became noticably easier for our family. I’ll never forget the day I suddenly realized that the house was incredibly quiet (you parents know too quiet is often a sign of bad things to come). Instead of finding some terrible mess, I found my two girls happily and quietly reading in their rooms. Hallelujah! Remember parents in the trenches, you will get there too. In the meantime, here are a few tried and true family organizing tips for families with young children (most of these come into play once your child is 1-2 years old):
For parents with babies/early toddlers, always keep a “go-bag” packed. When our girls were little, we would alternate between two diaper bags so we always had one that was fully stocked with diapers, wipes, snacks, a change of clothes, etc.
Bins and baskets are your friend. When my girls were little, we kept a bin or basket in every room in the house that was heavily used (the kitchen, living room, and their bedrooms) and used it to store their toys and other stuff.
To keep your little ones entertained while you are cooking, it is a great idea to keep a basket in the kitchen of a few small pots and pans, utensils, and small containers that you can easily pull out for them to play with while you are doing meal prep.
Develop a routine task list for key points of the day, such as getting ready in the morning or getting ready for bedtime (you can use pictures for non-readers: e.g., bathtub, toothbrush, pajamas, book, sleep).
Involve kids in clean-up as early as possible. Children as young as 1-2 can help with basic clean up. The earlier you start, the quicker you will establish a pattern and family expectation that everyone cleans up after themselves and helps to keep the house organized. Consider these ideas to make clean up a game/fun:
Sing the “clean up” song.
Have a family clean up race. Set a timer for 5-15 minutes or more (depending on the age of your youngest child-use the one-minute-for-each-year-of-age rule of thumb) and turn up the family’s favorite music as the family works together in a cleaning burst.
Consider purchasing a set of miniature kids’ cleaning tools like a window washing carrying bucket with a squeegee, spray bottle, and cloth or a mini broom and dust pan. Kids love having their own tools to do “big kid” jobs.
Organization Tips for Families with Older Kids Under Age 10
A “go bag” is still a great idea. At this age, I encourage parents to have activity bags pre-packed for each child’s activities. For example, a bag for baseball, a bag for swimming, a bag for dance, etc. Pack these on a Sunday when you have more time and get your kids involved in packing the bags. This will save a lot of time and potential stress later on in the week.
Bins and baskets are still your friend. I like to keep a catch-all basket in a few central places in the house (like the kitchen and living room). A quick way to declutter the house is to take 10 minutes and dump all the family’s stuff from the common rooms into the catch-all baskets and have each family member go through the basket at the end of the day or a few times a week and put their stuff away.
Create a designated snack area in the fridge and pantry. I use one of the smaller drawers in our fridge to provide healthy snack options that my girls can grab for themselves, including apples or other fruit, yogurt, juice boxes, and snack-sized cheeses. The girls like it because they can choose their own snacks from the snack-drawer, and I like not having to have a conversation about what to have for snack or having to "make" the snack. I have a snack stash in the pantry with options as well (nuts, bars, etc.).
Involve Kids in Decluttering & Organizing Their Rooms
I love the picture above of my youngest daughter’s lego organization. It was all her idea and execution. She came with me on a Container Store run and while we were there she asked if she could get a container to organize her legos. When we came home she devised her system and went to work organizing her lego pieces and labeled the container using chalk labels I gave her (she decided on the categories and wrote out the labels with some spelling help: weapons, heads, pants, hair, etc). It was so fun to watch her enjoyment and pride in this activity.
When working with kids, I find it is best to focus on a small area of the room at a time or just one type of item, like stuffed animals. I also use a timer and focus on 15-30 minute increments, depending on the age and attention span of the child (for younger children under five, I would do one minute per year of age of the child). With a younger child, I suggest having them focus on helping you decide what to get rid of (toss, donate, or recycle) and what to keep. Then, go ahead and finish organizing that particular area on your own if they are losing interest, and then bring them back to help you when you are ready to tackle another area. My youngest daughter has helped me organize her room for years and usually enjoys the process, especially if I keep the organizing time short and empower her to make choices about rearranging her furniture or selecting a small project to focus on, like putting all her legos in one bin or putting all her dolls in another. With kids, it is much easier if you focus on rearranging and organizing the room by categories (books, legos, art supplies, et cetera). Another good organizing principal is to adopt the one thing in, one thing out rule. The idea being that anytime they bring home a new picture, toy, art project, and so on, that they want to keep, they have to get rid of a similar item (donate, recycle, etc.). We also declutter and organize their rooms prior to major holidays or events like birthdays or Christmas when we know they will be getting new stuff.
Here's to getting more organized!
If you liked this article, check out some of Enriched Family’s other organizing posts such as Productivity and Organization Tips & Tools for Parents, Easy and Budget-Friendly Summer Organizing Motivation and Ideas, and Back to School To-Do List & Organizing Tips.
*If you ever want help with planning or implementing individual or family organizational goals and strategies, Enriched Family is here to support you. I provide home organizing services for families (organizing stuff), as well as help parents develop systems to better organize their family life (such as support with meal planning, household scheduling, family routines, individual and family goal planning, setting up back-to-work plans for parents returning to work after maternity and/or paternity leave, and so on). I offer a free, 20-minute initial phone consultation to all new clients to discuss matching your needs and priorities with my services. In addition, I am offering a 15% discount to all new clients who book Enriched Family services through the end of May 2019 (the work does not have to be completed, just booked by the end of May). Check out our services page and click the "Let's Get Started!" button below to contact me with questions or to schedule your free phone consultation.
(This post is provided for informational purposes only; the information is accurate and true to the best of my knowledge, but there may be omissions, errors or mistakes, and no guarantees are made.)