The conversation often starts with, “Where are your shoes?”
For many parents trying to get out the door on time in the morning, a child with a disorganized bedroom can be a huge roadblock.
The clock is ticking.
The bus is coming.
All the while your offspring is searching for his favorite hoodie.
The day often ends with similar challenges: “Is your backpack ready for school tomorrow?” “Where are your library books?”
Getting a child’s room organized can be the first step toward smoother mornings and more peaceful evenings.
“It was nice to be organized 20 years ago,” said Kathryn Bechen, an organizing consultant and author of “Small Space Organizing: A Room-by-Room Guide to Maximizing Your Space” (Revell, 2012). Given how busy people are today, “It’s become a necessity.”
Here are some experts’ tips on decorating and arranging your child’s bedroom in ways that will simplify daily life.
No need for full-scale redecorating. An offer to rearrange items and perhaps add a few new ones probably will get your child excited enough to help shape up her space.
Get Them Excited
“Try to make it fun,” Bechen said. “Take one whole Saturday or Sunday for the whole family to work on it.”
Eliminating clutter isn’t simple, especially when children would prefer not to part with anything. Donna Smallin, author and creator of unclutter.com, suggested having children help haul everything they own into the hallway outside their rooms. Once emptied, have them bring back in only their favorite or most necessary things. You can supervise.
When all the necessities are back in, start discussing what might be good to give away, sell or box up for storage in an attic or basement. Reassure the child that items in storage always can come out again later.
If the room includes a desk, keep it as uncluttered as possible, said Dr. Martin L. Kutscher, a pediatric neurologist and co-author of “Organizing the Disorganized Child” (William Morrow Paperbacks, 2009).
Get a bin that holds hanging file folders to store finished papers that come home from school or pending homework. Another small bin can hold pens, pencils and a few other supplies needed for schoolwork. Otherwise, keep the desk clear.
Rethink The Closet
To get children excited about actually putting things away in the closet, let them “paint it a neat color inside,” Bechen said. The color can be as outrageous as they’d like; it’s hidden behind a door. If they love the color and it feels personal, she said, they’re more likely to use it. (For children who share a room, let each choose the color for one side of the closet.)
Then, work with their habits: If your child isn’t a fan of hanging up clothing, consider filling some or all of the closet with open shelving. Put bins or baskets on each shelf, labeling with words, pictures or both to describe what belongs inside.
You might prefer T-shirts to be neatly folded, Smallin said, but having them wrangled in large baskets is better than finding them on the floor. If shoes are misplaced, add a large crate to the closet where the child can drop them.
If you will be using the closet rod, Smallin suggested adding a small double rod that hangs below one portion of the main rod. Put items the child wears most often on the lower rod, so they’re within easy reach. Or use this extra rod for the clothing the child will wear to school this week. If those items are chosen in advance and all located in one place, you won’t spend time searching for them.
Make Straightening Up Fun
Make straightening up fun. Consider buying one large trash can for sports equipment and another to use as a hamper. Let the child label and personalize the outside. You can even add a plastic basketball hoop to the top of each trash can, so the child can have fun tossing items inside.
“Who doesn’t love to throw stuff?” Smallin asked.
Also, have the child decorate a special bin or basket where tomorrow’s clothes and shoes will go. Then choose a permanent spot for it. Each night, toss in everything your child will wear tomorrow (including the packed, zipped school bag). Better to find missing socks and debate which clothes are appropriate in the evening than do it when the school bus is on its way.
Use The Walls
Kids are more likely to use hooks than hangers. So add lots of colorful hooks at your child’s level – not just one or two, but a whole row – to store hoodies, jackets and even pants.
Also consider hanging a shoe bag on back of the door, but don’t feel obligated to use it for shoes. Smallin said it can be filled with socks and underwear, small toys or anything else that needs to be easily located.
Another key item for the wall: a clock with hands. Nondigital clocks make time a bit more tangible for children, Kutscher said, helping them notice the passage of time and hopefully stay on task. A large wall calendar that children can reach also is a great way to help them get organized.
Last item: a dry-erase board – WallPops makes one that’s a repositionable vinyl decal – where children can keep a checklist of tasks for bedtime and morning. Write out the checklist with them, then praise them for using it.