Organizing the Kid Clutter

Organizing the Kid Clutter | Sara Eizen | Seattle Interior Designer

When you’re expecting your first child, you’re up to your neck in baby gear registries, “must-have” newborn items, and hand-me-downs from friends with older kids.

As the due date gets closer, you find your house filling up with swings, bouncy seats, baby carriers, and high chairs; not to mention toys, clothes, and that adorable fuzzy bear snow suit that you just had to buy.

At some point, you look around and think, “Surely we won’t need to buy anything else for this kid!” But the thing no one warns you about is this: the accumulation of stuff only gets worse as the kids get older.

They grow like weeds, going through clothing and shoe sizes like tissues.

They develop mentally and physically, moving onto new toys and mercilessly ignoring last week’s favorites.

And then comes school. The pictures, the projects, the mementos that couldn’t possibly be thrown away; the homework, lunch boxes, lunch containers, jackets, and shoes; and the daily whirlwind that has parents everywhere going crazy every morning at 730am.

You’re busy enough just keeping up with today’s hectic schedules and keeping your living space from looking like a Toys R Us after a hurricane; you don’t always have time to constantly sort, declutter, and store old stuff properly.

I get it. I have nine year old twin boys and we have dealt with plenty of organization challenges over the years. I have also helped many clients facing the same challenges.

How can you maintain a beautiful, comfortable, relaxing home without letting your kids’ stuff take over completely – or worse, spending all your time picking up after them?

As an interior designer and home organizer, I have one mission: help families attain grown-up style, ease, and efficiency in their home while creating kid-friendly spaces the whole family will love.

Because yes – it IS possible to have both! (Whew!)

In this post, I’m going to share some of my favorite tips for setting up kid-friendly spaces that let kids be kids without losing the style and organization adults crave.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Foster independence by setting up areas that kids can use without help
  • Use ridiculously easy tools and tricks to keep toys out of the way and make pick-up easier
  • Calm the morning off-to-school chaos
  • Save treasured artwork and school projects without turning the fridge into a mountain of paper

But first, here’s why, as a professional designer and organizer, I’ve dedicated my business to helping families organize their homes: kid clutter can be a very real source of stress, wasted time, and conflict in many households.

When your house is always messy with toys, clothes, and papers scattered about, you tend to feel less comfortable in your own home and less able to relax. Clutter has even been linked with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in women.

As parents, we’re constantly faced with two unpleasant choices: either spend much of our free time picking up after messy kids, or nag and argue with our kids over and over to try and get them to clean up after themselves.

Good interior design and home organization won’t completely change those two choices, but it can significantly decrease the amount of time and energy it takes to clean up or get things done. Imagine the amount of time you spend haranguing your kids in the morning cut in half because everything they need is already in one clear place!

Here are some of my best tips for staying organized in a household with kids:

Toys and playrooms

Conquer the toy clutter by working with it, not against it.

That means, instead of constantly bemoaning the ridiculous number of toys in the house, just make sure you have ample shelving, baskets, cubbies, and under-the-bed storage. That way, you don’t find yourself piling toys on the floor or throwing them into the closet just to get them out of the way.

But there’s an even better way to approach toy storage: make sure it is going to be easy for your kids to access from a young age. The earlier they can reach and put away their toys on their own, the sooner you can teach them to pick up after themselves and play independently. Always a good thing!

Here are a few super useful tricks for making toys easy to pick up or at least take up less space; as an added bonus, most of these can be easily accessed by kids as they do their own clean-up:

Base plates for building bricks

These are a great way to set up a temporary space for kids to build and then easily put the project away to work on later, so it doesn’t have to take up floor space all week.

Roll-up brick building mat

Along the same lines, a roll up mat can be more easily stored when not in use.

Under-the-bed storage

Boxes and drawers are great for under-the-bed storage, but I love this under-the-bed play mat too.

Swoop bags

These bags are 100% cotton canvas toy bags that double as play mats. So when it’s time to clean up, just “swoop up” the bag with the cords on each side, tie the cords, and hang the bag on a hook. Done!

For more ideas on organizing kid bedrooms and play rooms, check out my Pinterest board for kid spaces.

Simplify your morning routine

Mornings with school-age kids can be hectic. I can’t be the only one who has sent their kid to school late with mismatched socks!

My solution is to make sure all the essentials you need to get your child out the door has its own place. That means:

  • Backpacks and lunch bags
  • Homework, school projects, permission slips
  • Shoes and boots
  • Coats, jackets, umbrellas, and cold-weather gear

Organize your mudroom

If your home has a mudroom or other spacious entry way, lucky you! A little organizing may be all you need.

Mudroom/laundry room/office/closet- A place for everything! These lockers open

Designate a space for each person in the household

I find that it really helps to give each person their own designated space. Naturally, make sure hooks and cubbies are height appropriate so even your littlest ones can learn to be self-sufficient.

Pro Tip: Keep a message board by the door for important reminders (e.g., Monday piano lessons) or sweet notes to send them out the door with love.

Get creative with your space

If you don’t have the luxury of designated entry space, you don’t need a ton of room to make one of your own.

Consider hanging a staggered row of hooks on a bare wall for an easy solution (Command Hooks) with a spot for shoes and boots below. Baking sheets covered with stones or cooling racks are a cute, crafty way to keep muddy shoes off your floors.

Cookie Sheet Boot Drain from Martha Stewart

Cookie Sheet Boot Drain from Martha Stewart

Avoid the great paper pile-up

Kids tend to come home with a stack of papers and treasured artwork every week – or even day. Much like assigning a spot for each person’s backpack, it helps to have a designated spot for each child’s papers, too. I just love the wall-mounted, magnetic magazine pockets by Three By Three. Get one for each child plus an “in” box for papers that need to be looked at or signed.

Post your calendar

Kids these days are BUSY and someone has to keep track of where everyone is supposed to go. My favorite method is a family calendar that lives right along side the paper and homework space. You may still be the commander-in-chief of the schedule, but as your kids get older the family calendar will help them take responsibility for their social, school, and extracurricular life.

Set up a workable space

Every child has unique needs for homework and project space. Some might need peace and quiet while others need a little activity or the motivation of mom looking over their shoulder to keep them on track. Consider what works best for your child. While there are no set rules, giving kids separate space often works the best.

Keep supplies organized

To avoid distractions or melt-downs over lost scissors, keep school and art supplies easily within reach. I love the idea of using containers that you already have on hand to store anything from crayons to erasers to colored pencils.

Organize lunch items

Unless your child buys lunch every day, chances are you have lunch boxes, baggies, thermoses, and cutlery spilling out of your cupboards. To stop the sack lunch insanity, designate one cupboard for all things lunch and label categories clearly.

I also like to have a designated set of utensils that is just for lunch and lunch prep (no sharp knives or pokable objects) so your kids can assist in lunch making responsibility. At the end of the day, have your kids empty out their lunch boxes and put things back where they belong. No more stinky milk cups!

The most important part of all of this back-to-school prep? Making sure your kids are on board with this vision for smooth-sailing school days. Label designated areas clearly and review with the whole family so everyone is on the same page. You might even practice prepping a school lunch and have a picnic out on the lawn.

Artwork, school projects, and activities

If you have a school-age child, chances are good that you also have a deluge of delightful artwork piling up around the house. You can’t possibly keep, or showcase, it all. But you can’t possibly disappoint your little Picasso either.

Here are some of my favorite ideas that will leave your kid feeling artistically applauded while adding a little life to bare walls.

Have a frame free-for-all

I love this idea because it works with frames of all shapes and sizes and you don’t have to worry about the cost (and fragility) of glass. Create a uniform look by choosing or painting frames in a single color or mix it up with a touch of something bold or bright. Simply string wire across the frame (on the inside) and use a clothespin or cute clip to hang the art. It’s easy to rotate in new pieces or create a collage by layering multiple pieces in a single frame.

Source: The Project Corner

Source: The Project Corner

 

Get clipboard creative

I actually love this idea for all kinds of eclectic art, and all you need is a few clipboards. You can paint the clipboards in a uniform color to showcase the art or leave them as is for a more funky, arts and crafts feel. Most clipboards already come with a hole for hanging, so this creative idea really couldn’t be much easier.

Kids Art Clipboards from Lolly Jane

Kids Art Clipboards from Lolly Jane

Go pretty in plastic

The durability, ease, and casual style of these heavy-duty plastic page protectors make them a great way to display art in kids’ rooms. With grommets already in place for easy hanging and thick, durable plastic that will stand up to tiny hands, your kids will have a ball creating a dynamic gallery of their favorite work.

Scan and shrink

This is a super cute way to create a collection of your little one’s art. And while the end result looks sophisticated, it’s quick and easy to execute. Simply scan artwork using your home scanner and then shrink individual pieces down to a uniform size. Print, position in a large frame, and hang!

Show, store, and tell

This idea is both cute and efficient – a winning combo in my book! These Lilian Vernon frames let you store up to 50 pieces and easily rotate your favorites for display.

BONUS! I couldn’t resist adding just one more of my favorite recommendations. Mantle Art has an easy-to-use app that lets you snap a picture of a piece of art and then experiment with a variety of framing options before you buy. Once you select and order the frame and optional mat, they send you a protective sleeve or tube with prepaid shipping to send the artwork back. In a few weeks, you receive your beautifully framed artwork, ready to hang!

Repurpose art projects into gifts and useful home items

One of my favorite solutions is to repurpose paper art projects into gift items and objects that are easier to integrate and use around the house. Think placemats, tea towels, and even duvet cover!

 

Use labeled mailing tubes for larger pieces

For larger pieces that you want to save, storage can pose a challenge. Consider labeling mailing tubes with your child’s name and age and combining all the pieces from a single year.

Source: Martha Stewart

Source: Martha Stewart

 

Save school assignments in a simple storage box

Math tests and spelling stories may not be as flashy as art projects, but it doesn’t necessarily make them less meaningful for your child. I like using a simple storage box like you’d find at an office supply store with files labeled for every year. This gives you a place to store papers as they are dumped out of backpacks, but also forces you to keep only those that fit in a single file folder once the school year ends.

If you have more storage space or want to hang on to projects that don’t fit in a file, you can use a separate storage box for every year.

Turn a binder into a school assignments scrapbook

Finally, I’m a big fan of the binder. It feels a bit more like a scrapbook and is easy to page through when you want to reminisce.

Turn medals into keepsakes

It’s so great to have active, engaged kids. But in addition to ride shares and crazy schedules, every extra activity is bound to come with photos, at least, if not also medals and awards.

Once again, the answer is to repurpose and get creative. There are many companies that turn photos into fun items such as phone cases, placemats, and notepads.

As for medals, simply shorten the ribbon and use it as holiday decoration. Or even better, take a photo of your child with the trophy or medal and make that into any kind of keepsake you want.

If your kiddo really wants to hold on to the real thing, a simple, inexpensive glass or plastic jar can be decorated with ribbon or washi tape to create a cute showcase for medals in minutes.

I hope this post inspires you to take action in your home and conquer the kid clutter! It might be a bit of work to get things where they need to be, but it will be worth it when you are able to cut down the time you spend tidying up and looking for things on a day-to-day basis.

Don’t Host Thanksgiving Without Doing This To Your Kitchen

Don't Host Thanksgiving Without Doing THIS to Your Kitchen! Sara Eizen - Seattle Interior Designer

Can you believe it’s already mid-October? That means Thanksgiving is coming up next month, and all of the big gatherings, meals, and celebrations that come along with the holidays.

As much as I love fall weather, cozy sweaters, and family meals, I want to be clear on one thing: I’m no Martha Stewart!!

I don’t think you need perfectly folded napkins, place cards, handmade crafts, and artful holiday décor in order to make a holiday special.

I think all that really matters is bringing together the people you love over a good meal.

But here’s the thing: If your kitchen is cluttered, makes you stressed, or is filled with bottlenecks and confusion, you’re going to spend more of Thanksgiving hunting for things and running behind than actually relaxing and enjoying this special time with your friends and family.

So if you’re planning on hosting a big Thanksgiving meal this year, don’t do it without doing this first:

Declutter and organize your kitchen!

Take a look at your kitchen now and resolve to do some serious decluttering before you jump into hosting a Thanksgiving meal.

I’ll give you two big reasons why:

First, you shouldn’t have to worry about where to find things when you’re trying to focus on your friends and family. You should be able to relax and simply enjoy the time together.

And second, if your kitchen is organized and not too cluttered, it will be much easier for your guests to move around in the kitchen and help you cook and clean up – major win!

Ready to get started?

Here are some of my best kitchen decluttering tips, just in time for Thanksgiving:

Brighten up your cabinet interiors

As the skies get darker and stormier and the days get shorter, a bright, warm kitchen can become a cozy oasis for your family and your guests.

This fall could be the perfect time to brighten up your cabinet interiors. Try painting only the interiors with a fresh coat of paint in a fun color like light turquoise. Or maybe it’s enough to simply clean the grime and dust that builds up in the interiors and get them sparkling a little bit. Or, what if you even remove the cabinet doors completely? That way you can let your prettiest dishes and glassware do the work of brightening up your kitchen, without having to tackle any painting projects.

As an added bonus, having bright, friendly, and well-organized cabinet interiors will make it easier for guests to serve themselves when they need something or help you set the table. The more help you get, the less time you have to spend running around in the kitchen and more time you can spend relaxing (and eating) with family and friends this Thanksgiving.

 

Make sure you can easily access crucial cooking tools

Besides the turkey, baking sweets is probably the most time consuming aspect of the Thanksgiving meal. To help all the baking and cooking go smoothly when you’re crunched for time, it is crucial to make sure all your most-used cooking tools – including measuring cups, measuring spoons, mixer attachments, and even cutting boards – are easy to access and organized beforehand. I love to hang hooks on the inside of a cabinet doors to hang these items up so you don’t have to dig for them. I’ve even seen people use desk organizers to hold cutting boards on a cabinet door. Brilliant!

Maximize your counter space

When you’re hosting a Thanksgiving meal – even a small one – you’re likely going to be dealing with a lot of different dishes coming together right before the meal. This is true whether you’re doing all the cooking yourself or if you’re doing it potluck style.

And that means you’re going to need as much surface area and free counter space as possible – more than you normally need for your everyday uses right now. So here’s what you do: put anything non-essential away. Since a lot of kitchens are already short on storage space, this could mean making the most of all your vertical space in creative ways. You can even put items that you’re unlikely to use for Thanksgiving or holiday meals on top of your cabinets – or, if there’s enough space between the cabinets and the ceiling, you can even add a second row of shelving.

Organize your plastic Tupperware

Leftovers are one of the best parts of the Thanksgiving meal. But getting stuck with all the leftovers can be frustrating, right?

After all, pumpkin pie is great, but no one wants to eat it for 3 straight days, or have mashed potatoes as your side with every meal for the rest of the week.

My favorite trick is to send my guests home with the leftovers. That way, everyone gets to enjoy a bit more of the Thanksgiving meal, but no one has to live off of it all week. That means now is the perfect time to organize your Tupperware drawer or cabinet. Find all of the cheap plastic Tupperware that you’re okay with never seeing again and make sure it is ready to go on Thanksgiving.

If you’re extra sneaky, you can use this golden opportunity to get rid of Tupperware that no longer fits its lid or doesn’t have a matching lid, because you can simply cover the tops with plastic wrap for your guest’s ride home.

Source: The Kitchn

Source: The Kitchn

Separate and organize your pots, pans, and lids

We often try to keep pots pans and lids together in the kitchen. Make sense right? Keeping like things together? But the truth is there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to get a dish started and having to dig around to try to find the right pot with the right lid to match it. And since you’re going be cooking so many simultaneous meals on Thanksgiving, now is the time to get organized with your pot, pans, and lids.

I recommend separating them simply because they’re all such different shapes. Use a shallow drawer for lids only, or attach a small towel rod to the inside of a cabinet door to hold the lids. You can stack pans on their own or even pick up a simple wire pan organizer to keep your pans organized and easy to access. That way you can grab one pan without disturbing the other ones.

Source: The Kitchn

Source: The Kitchn

Source: The Kitchn

Source: The Kitchn

Source: The Kitchn

Source: The Kitchn

If you’re ready to take things to the next level with your pots and pans – and kitchen organization in general, you have to check out one of my favorite tools for kitchen organization: Shelf Genie! They make these amazing custom-designed pull-out shelves that can really transform the way you store things in your kitchen – and help make the most of your space.

They showcased one of my own clients in one of their promo videos – I love that it made such a difference for her!

Store platters and trays vertically

When you stack platters and trays on top of each other, you’re going to have to mess up the pile every time you reach for the one that you want. But if you grab a few cheap tension rods and use them to make vertical dividers in a cabinet or shelf, you can organize platters and trays to stand on their side. That way you can easily grab one without disturbing the whole pile, and you can also easily see all of them at once, which is nearly impossible when you’re looking down on them piled up in a stack.

Source: Bev Cooks

Source: Bev Cooks

Get your pantry in order

This is a crucial step this time of year because during the holidays, especially Thanksgiving, we often find ourselves digging around for spices and ingredients that we don’t often use – such as pumpkin pie filling, condensed milk, certain spices, breadcrumbs, and more.

The pantry is one area of the kitchen that can spiral out of control really quickly. So if your pantry is a little crazy right now, you’re not alone! Get organized in the pantry before the big meal, so that you don’t have to stress when it comes to finding the things you need on the day you do all the cooking.

I love using an over the door shoe organizer on the inside of the pantry door. This is a great way to store little things without taking up valuable shelf space. You can also use a Lazy Susan to store things like spices and canned food so that you can easily see and access what you have on hand, rather than letting the more seldom used cans and spices languish in the back of the pantry.

All of these tricks are easy, affordable, and can be done quickly. Perfect for tackling on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Just make sure you get them done before company comes!

4 Tips for Closet Clarity (Hint: it’s time to clean out that closet!)

How often to you take a look at what is hanging in your closets? More than just the precursory morning glance as you’re getting dressed? I recommend going through your closet twice a year, ideally when the seasons change or once a year.  With the end of summer in sight (did it ever begin?) and back-to-school a month away, this would be a great time to go through your clothes.

Closet

Houzz

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3 Tips to Untangle the Bathroom Mess

Bathrooms have a tendency to get hairy – numerous appliances on the counter, multiple people banging in and out of the door, sharing one small space, some people getting gussied up, others getting degrimed. How do we manage this space and fit everyone’s needs? It takes organization and planning, but I assure you, in the end you’ll wind up with more peaceful mornings.

1. One of my favorite tools is an over-the-door shoe organizer, which helps take advantage of vertical space in the bathroom. If you can find one with pockets of varying size to accomodate a multitude of needs, even better! Use pockets for hair products, tweezers, nail clippers, etc. Easy to access and easy to put away after use!

over door

Apartment Therapy

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