Maintaining a perfectly tidy home with kids is akin to having a unicorn as a pet. But with a few tips, tidying with kids in the house can become more manageable.
I’ve heard it said that cleaning with kids is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.
Oh well. Balance in everything, I say.
I do my best to maintain an orderly home, but if it gets to a point where I’m frustrated and wound-up most of the time, then I know I need to take a step back and relax a little. And THIS is what sparks joy for me. Trying to maintain a sense of order and calm in the home while allowing my family and myself to enjoy life together.
So, without further ado, here are my priorities for tidying with little ones in the home.
Tidying with Kids Tip #1 | Discard items that you don’t absolutely love
And try to do it in “one fell swoop” (as recommended by Marie Kondo in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing).
It feels incredible to let go of all the clutter taking up space around you, and you really begin to understand what your style is.
Tips: I’ve gone through this step in “one fell swoop”, but do need to revisit it regularly as my children grow and their needs change. I keep a storage bin in the back of my car, so whenever I come across an item we’re ready to say goodbye to, I chuck it in. Once the bin is full, I head over to Goodwill and empty it out.
I also keep a paper grocery bag in my 5-month-old’s closet for outgrown clothes. Once that’s full, I bring it down to the bin in my car. Easy peasy!
Tidying with Kids Tip #2 | Make sure the remaining items have a home
This is key. The minute an object’s home becomes unclear, it can all unravel. Trust me. When deciding on a home for your objects, consider storing like with like. For example, in my kitchen, I have a designated cabinet where all of my small appliances live. I also try to keep all paper-like items in my office (e.g., books and files).
Tip: Keep your shoe boxes! (And any other boxes that come with your purchases.)
While I was going through the tidying process, I came across loads of bins, baskets, and boxes. I kept them in one room of my house, and could “shop” for containers there when I was ready to store the items I chose to keep. This saved me a ton of money since I didn’t need to buy special containers.
Tidying with Kids Tip #3 | Remember: kids don’t need a lot of toys
And, if you’re like me, remind yourself of it daily.
I’ve doubted myself on this many times. But when I see my daughter pretend that her Little People camel is a dog named Benny, I’m reminded that it’s true. Less is more.
When we create room to imagine, our children thrive.
One major influence in this area for me has been the book Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids.
Tip: As noted in guideline #2 above, make sure all toys have a home. I love the brown wicker baskets in my white cubby cabinet. We usually use ours as follows, with some baskets being out-of-rotation (see guideline #4 below):
- Basket 1: Little People
- Basket 2: Legos
- Basket 3: Musical instruments
- Basket 4: Pretend play (dolls, purses, etc.)
- Basket 5: Play food
- Basket 6: Balls
- Basket 7: Train tracks, trains, cars
Tidying with Kids Tip #4 | Set aside an area for rotating toys
While we don’t have a lot of toys, we have more than our kids can play with in one day (or week).
For example, I’m not sure my 2-year-old needs both the Mega Blocks and the Legos out, since they both serve the same purpose (building).
Likewise, with books, I’ve found that our daughter has maybe three favorites in any given week. And yet, we probably have about 30 children’s books.
I’ve reserved a cabinet at the top of our stairs for toys that we enjoy, but are taking a break from. This allows us to simplify the set of toys available to our kids each day, which in turn, allows our kids to immerse themselves a little bit more into play. (Another concept I learned from the Simplicity Parenting book above.)
Tidying with Kids Tip #5 | Remember that balance is key
This is one of my 2-year-old’s drawers.
Oh, I can fold her clothes beautifully and vertically, using the Konmari method (as I’ve done many times before). But then a couple hours later, she undoes it all while choosing what to wear.
I could lock her drawers, but then she wouldn’t be able to help get dressed or put her clean clothes away.
So, I’m letting this one go (for now).
That said, her clothes are pared down to what she loves. And they all have a home:
- Drawer 1: Pajamas and undies
- Drawer 2: Tops and dresses
- Drawer 3: Bottoms
In my current stage of parenting, this delights me.
Tidying with Kids Tip #6 | Check in with yourself
Choose which areas of your home make the most impact for YOU. You are caring for your family. In order to do this well, you need to be happy, healthy, and sane.
If you had to choose two or three areas of your home that have the biggest effect on your mental well-being, what would they be?
For me, it’s having the kitchen counters cleared and the toys put away. When these are taken care of, I feel OK.
Tidying with Kids | Final Thoughts
The thing is, the landscape of parenting is constantly changing.
Once we get everything in order, our kids grow and their needs and situations change. They might need clothes in the next size up, or a different set of toys and books.
Because of this, we have to be flexible, and we will probably need to revisit the first two items in the above list somewhat regularly.
And this is OK.