Home Organization with Little Ones (Part 2)

Problem #3: Doing Everything for Everyone

Burnout is inevitable when one person shoulders the responsibility.   If you have a partner, it starts with open communication, the division of tasks and creating schedules that work for both, but it’s also important that a teamwork mindset is fostered throughout your home – which means including your children!

Young children are eager to be just like their parents and want to participate in housework.  While you may be tempted to say, “I don’t have time for this – it’s easier if I do it myself!” it pays huge dividends as your child grows up!

When your child is a toddler, they can learn to make their bed by pulling up their blanket over their pillow.  They can put their PJs under their pillow.  They can put their dirty clothing in the hamper.  They can tuck their shoes into the cubby in the mudroom and hang up their jacket on a child-height hook.  They can help clear the table after dinner and can sort the silverware from the dishwasher rack into the kitchen drawers.  You can give them age-appropriate chores to do, Messerli says.  These things help them respect the process of working together to care for the home and teach them how to clean up and keep things organized. These seemingly small and insignificant routines go a long way in helping keep things organized and running smoothly.

(And, as your child’s teachers, we can testify that some of the most beloved activities in our classrooms are those practical life activities which encourage them to care for their environment and for themselves!)

To support your child’s independence and responsibility, you’ll want to make the tools your child uses ACCESSIBLE.  For example, if your child uses child-sized plates, utensils and cups, put them in a lower drawer or cabinet so your child can get them out when he needs them.  Keep a stool in your kitchen and in your restroom so they can easily reach the sink to wash their hands or their dishes.  Does your child help with wiping down the table or dusting furniture?  Keep a small caddy of child-safe cleaning supplies and rags under the sink so they can easily access them when they need to clean up a spill.   

boy helping to clean house
A Children’s House student enjoying cleaning the windows in his classroom!

Problem #4 – Overambitious and Lack of Scheduling

Your systems of organization need to be sustainable, says Messerli, meaning they need to work for you in the long term.  If you set a goal that is unreachable, you will quickly grow discouraged and chances are you might throw your entire organization plan out the window.  Be flexible, meaning – if a system isn’t working for you, give something else a try.  The goal is to find something manageable, and it won’t look the same for every family.  (If you need help, reach out to organization experts, like Messerli.)

Likewise, your system of organization needs to be scheduled.  If it isn’t on your schedule, it won’t get done.  Block out times on your calendars to check in on your organization and catch up if there’s anything that’s been overlooked!

Organization Hacks & Tips for Busy Parents

  • The incredible Kallax – one of Messerli’s favorite organization units is a square shelving unit from Ikea! This allows you to label bins with a word or an image, separate out toys, and store them out of sight when not in use. 
  • Toy rotation. Do not put out every toy you own on shelves or in your child’s toy box.  Set out a limited number of toys and store the rest in labeled bins in the closet.  Rotate the toys out on a schedule that works for you, for example, once a month.  First, the less number of toys, the easier the cleanup.  Second, the less number of toys, the more your child will enjoy and interact with them (remember what we said about too many choices?)   Third, you will more easily determine what toys are actually enjoyed, and which are ignored – consider donating toys which your child does not use.
  • Experience gifts. Instead of giving your child more toys for birthdays and holidays, consider giving them a gift of an experience: season passes at a local zoo, a trip to waterpark, or activity lessons (art, ballet, skiing, etc.)!  You can also ask relatives to consider donating to a charity of your choice in lieu of gifts, or asking them to consider gifting to your child’s college fund or an experience gift.
  • Accordion filing folders for kids’ school and artwork. If you have an accordion filing folder labeled for each child, with a hanging folder inside for each year, you can collect miscellaneous paperwork and art projects and store them there.  Plan once a month to sort through that month’s paperwork and decide what stays and what goes.  Try to limit yourself to 12-15 pieces per year.  Always label their material with their name, age and the exact date!  You can also consider capturing photographs of artwork and science fair projects – you can compile these into a photobook.
  • Kids clothing. Go through your child’s closet and drawers monthly and take out clothing that doesn’t fit.  If you have a younger child who you want to keep the clothing for, or if you want to take out off-season items, sort and remove any worn, stained or torn clothing and discard.  Launder the clothing, then place in a durable bin, sorted by size and season, and clearly mark them on the outside of the bin.  Pop in a Melaleuca sheet or other freshener to keep clothes in good condition during storage! 
  • On a budget? Visit garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, secondhand stores and the Dollar Tree. Your home organization setup doesn’t need to be Instagram worthy!  It should be functional and work for you!


clean living room
Some activities displayed on low shelves in our Toddler Community.

Life with little ones (from infants and toddlers to preschoolers) can be overwhelming, but it is a short season that will too soon be missed!  We’ve even heard it said that one day you’ll miss stepping on those Legos left in the hallway overnight?!  But as you look for ways to better navigate this season, we hope these tips help you in your journey, and ultimately, lead to a greater quantity and quality of time spent with your loved ones!

anne messerli


Pin It