Welcome warm weather, sunshine, sprinkler play, bike rides, camping, cookouts and family vacations. Welcome, summertime…and the clutter that comes along with it.
When your kids are in school and the days are more organized by a schedule, it seems to be a bit easier to keep the clutter under control. But when the days include spontaneous trips to the park and making mud pies in the backyard, the clutter tends to get away from you.
If you tackle the clutter when it first appears, and you stay on top of it constantly, you’ll certainly be able to keep your children’s clutter under control during the summer months.
Where to Begin
A great place to start is to do a big bedroom and playroom clean up at the beginning of summer. This a great way for you to work together to decide what stays and what goes (not a bad idea for parents to do this with their own rooms and set an example too). Sort in three piles: keep, sell and throw away. Then have a garage sale for all the extras. You’ll never sell it all, so anything that doesn’t sell can go to a local charity.
Also, set a maximum number of how many toys will be available for your kids to play with. If every toy they own is accessible, then every toy they own will get pulled out—every day—all at once. “I made it a goal that there would only be as many toys out as would take five minutes to pick up,” writes the author of a Make It Better magazine article. “Since we were nowhere close to my five-minute goal, I had a lot of work to do. I knew that I would have to make the hard decisions and get rid of a lot of toys.” And, if some are too hard to part with, do a toy rotation and switch what toys are out every couple of weeks to keep things interesting (and say hello to occupying your kids at no extra cost!).
Create an Atmosphere for Storage
“Instead of trying to change your child, change the room to fit your child,” writes Nancy Bartley in the Seattle Times. As you work toward storage goals in your kids’ rooms, first make a list of activities the room is used for (studying, playing, creating (art, crafts, models), collecting, sleeping, etc). Then, organize the room by that list. Keep height in mind, as a seven-year-old won’t be able to reach high storage bins or be able to hang his shirts. Adjustable organizers in the closet that change with your child as he grows are ideal.
Also, be aware that whatever changes you make to the room now will likely not be permanent. As your child grows and his or her interests change, so will the types of storage and organization used to accommodate those interests.
All the Summer Extras
Staying clutter free during the summer months goes beyond rearranging bedrooms. There are many extra things that come out during summertime, such as bikes, kiddy pools and gobs of crafty activities. The first key to keeping your children’s clutter under control is taking a few extra minutes to clean up and put things away immediately when finished with them, rather than tossing them in the corner or on the nearest surface or leaving them in the garage or yard to deal with later.
Don’t get in the habit of cleaning up after everyone either; that’s when things get overwhelming and the clutter controls the house. Everyone in the household should be responsible for himself or herself. “My kids…are far more likely now to leave craft supplies everywhere, take off their clothes and drop them in the middle of the floor, or make themselves a snack and leave crumbs, utensils and drinks behind in their wake,” says Chris Jordan of Alpha Mom. “I will call them downstairs, make them get up from the table, end a phone call, to put their stuff away. Sometimes it just seems like it would be easier to do it myself, but, in the long run, it won’t be. Trust me.”
Just make sure everyone has a place to put everything, and you’ll be golden. Work together with your kids to determine where swim bags should go when not in use, where the bikes should be parked, and how to organize the craft supplies in their desks. Make it a house rule (that everyone should follow—including adults) that the next activity doesn’t start until everything from the previous activity is put in its proper place.
If your list of things to tackle just seems overwhelming, right@home, a division of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., has a list of storage suggestions for your kids’ stuff. It’s a great place to start. And, if all else fails, toss a few things in a bin and put the bin in the storage unit to see if your kids even miss those things this summer. With all of the great activities you’ve planned to keep them active and occupied, they likely won’t.
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