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Decluttering Kids' Rooms

Try these strategies to calm clutter and bring order to kids' rooms.

Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Special Challenge

It's a conundrum. Children's rooms are usually small, often shared and may lack built-in storage. Yet these rooms are host to out-of-season and outgrown clothing, surplus toys and even household overflow from other rooms. Children can't stay organized when the clothes closet is crammed, the drawers are stuffed and playthings are strewn across the whole carpet area.

The solution: Use the STOP clutter method to sort, store and simplify children's belongings. Long sessions of "clean your room" are an ordeal for all concerned, but by working for a limited time with a defined method, kids and parents can come to terms with clutter.

Skills for Life

For all but the youngest toddlers, resist the urge to wade into the mess alone, garbage bags flying. Instead, look at the decluttering process as a learning activity, and put the focus on the child. In your role as organizational consultant, survey what's working, what's not, what's important to the child, what's causing the problems and why the child wants to get organized. If they're involved in the effort, children are better able to understand the organizational logic and maintain the new, organized room.

It will take a number of STOP clutter sessions to clear a crowded child's room. Boost your patience with the process by remembering that you're not just clearing out the stuff, but you're building skills that will stand the small fry in good stead for life.

Let's Play the STOP Clutter Game

In addition to the usual STOP clutter tools — timer, boxes and garbage bag —you'll need a good selection of lidded plastic shoeboxes or other stackable containers and a few floor level open containers. Set the timer, and show the child how to play the STOP clutter game.

1. Sort
Start with a small section of the little person's domain: a single shelf, a small area of floor or one drawer. Grab each object and ask the question: Is this something we want to keep, to put away, to give away or to throw away? Nope, we can't put it down! We've got Magic Clutter Sticky on our hands, and we can't put it down until we make a decision!

2. Organize
STOP clutter for 15 minutes, and then begin to sort the keepers. Here's where the lidded storage containers earn their star billing. Toss small items such as all connecting blocks into one bin, dolly's clothing into another, tiny trucks and cars into a third. Playing "match the toy" is a good identification-and-labeling game for young children, and teaches them organizing skills.

Warning from an Old Mom: There will be resistance to the Give Away and Throw Away options. Try tactics like Choose Three to break through the block: "Yes, you may keep the space hideouts but only three. Which are the most exciting?"

3. Toss and Put Away
Finally, when the timer bell rings, toss the trash and return Put Away items to their homes in other rooms. Deliver Sell/Donate and Storage items to their storage locations, and stack and store the newly sorted kids' toys.

Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited

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