Live with what you LOVE: Spaces for Children

Love is in the air this February and I have a new organizing blog series to go along. I work with clients everyday on the art of letting go but I also give them the push to dive in and add items that bring them joy. This series is called Live with what you LOVE. I encourage you to be inspired to identify what makes you happy, create goals of how you want to live, purge what you can live without and add what brings you joy.

Spaces for Children

I recently had a client email me for help with the playroom at her new home.  She said, “I have 2 toddlers that are sentimental over their baby toys and won’t let me get rid of them.” My response to her was, “You are the one who is sentimental over their baby toys, not your children.” The ability to let-go and make organizational decisions is taught, it is not genetic.  If you think your children are “hoarders” or “packrats” you most likely have something to do with that.

Children love structure and visibility.  I love to use products to help create organizational systems and the spaces for children often need them most.  With all of the different shapes and colors that toys and teen clutter have it’s important to use uniform storage and bins to create a more organized feel. I’m a firm believer in setting up a system and using that system to help you quantify what you have room for will help you quality the clutter and ultimately let go.  One of my favorite universal organizing sayings is, “you can only fit 10 ounces of coffee in a 10 ounce cup”. This rule most definitely applies to toys. 

My favorite product to help create  structure is a cubby shelf from Ikea because it can transition with kids from the toddler to the teen stage.  Whether you have 1 child or 6 children, all of the toys that they will use and love can fit into that system. Once you have a system with solid structure in place it’s easy to keep it maintained.  When it becomes difficult to put things back in their “home” and things are overflowing from the system you will know it’s time to purge.  

Organizing with children is always inspirational.  Their decision making abilities are always strong if they aren’t impacted by outside sources like siblings or parents.  We have worked with a little girl named Margaret over the last three years who reminds me that it is our first instinct to let go, it’s not until the emotional factors join the equation that saying goodbye can become difficult.  

When we first had the opportunity to work with Margaret she was eight years old.  Her priorities had shifted from baby dolls to American Girl Dolls, from board books to chapter books, and she craved a labeled system in her closet to help her get ready for school in the mornings.

Her mom had me work with Margaret one-on-one while she and Taylor worked on paperwork in another room.  After 45 minutes we had sorted and made decisions on everything in the room and her mother was shocked (at that point she and Taylor had made a quarter of the way through their paperwork piles). Unlike our adult clients, our child clients don’t always think about how much something cost or who gave it to them, they get right down business and if it isn’t something they love and use often they can easily let it go.

A few years later we were able to work with Margaret again when her family bought a new home and she assisted us in acting as a project manager.  The youngest of three kids she went room to room on unpacking day at their new house and helped talk her brothers into curbing the clutter.  She helped me set up her closet based on what her current priorities were (now she was into swimming and horseback riding) so those items were on shelves within her reach. If she was old enough to work I’d put her on the payroll! Only 7 more years until she can become an intern!

Tips for keeping spaces for children organized:

  1. Skip the “box it up and put it in the garage” phase.  I have so many clients who hide toys for a few months in the garage to see if their kids notice instead of donating them right away.  If you’ve made the decision to get it out of your house than let it go completely.

  2. Understand that it’s never going to be perfect and that’s okay! If your child’s playroom gets messy that means they being creative and having fun. They key to keeping up with that mess is making time to put things back in their “home” at the end of each day or each week depending on how often the playroom is used. Carving out this maintenance time is so important for you and your children. Small organizing habits when they are young will help them in big ways as they grow up.

  3. Schedule purging sessions before birthdays and holidays.  With new items coming in your children will be less likely to notice what is missing.

I received a call from a client a few years ago that was about to send their daughter off to college and they were panicked that she didn’t have the organizational skills to be a good roommate.  Her name was Amanda, just like mine, so they thought we would have a great connection, which we did. Amanda was a busy teen who had a jam packed bedroom with a little trail from the door to her bed.  When I met her for a consultation I asked her it was obvious that she lacked the opportunity to purge and let go of years of stuff.

We worked together for two days to shovel out her room, working counter clockwise throughout the space.  We dumped out every purge and school bag, drawer and bin, only to find duplicates upon duplicates.  She had more school supplies, lipstick, hoodies, reusable bags, than any teenage girl could ever need.  According to her mother Amanda was a hoarder but once we started working together it was evident that she was happy to let go of things, it was the pressure of her parents to keep things “just in case” that made her hold on.

I could see her mom’s stress level increasing as we stacked bag upon bag on the front porch to be taken away for donation.  I had a talk prepared for Amanda on how to let go but I ended up transferring that talk to her mother after the session.  Parents often think organizing skills or lack of are genetic but the truth is that they are a learned behavior.

After two sessions Amanda’s room was transformed.  We removed over 25 garbage bags of clothing, books, art and school supplies, recycling, and just plain trash.  We rearranged the furniture and set up a proper desk so she could study in her room over the last few months of high school.  Her clothing was hung up and her closet and her dresser drawers were functional.  She could now pack up for college in a cinch and according to her parents the tips I passed on to her along the way stuck and she was able to be a great college roommate after all.

The main key for keeping spaces for children organized is to have less.  The less you have, the less time you have to spend putting things away! As always, I’d love to hear from you with your comments and questions. I’ll be back on Sunday with another installment from this series, until then Live with what you LOVE!

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2 Responses

  1. I feel like I really do try to encourage my children to purge but the can’t let go. Any other tips on helping them not to keep everything???

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