With rugrats running around your house, how do you keep everything in order? Can you teach toddlers to put their toys away? How do you label items when half the population in your home can’t read (because they’re toddlers)?
Never fear. The answers to those questions are the answers to most of life’s questions: once you’re organized, anything is possible!
I’ve been spending time with my two nieces who are aged 2 years (almost 3) and 4 months. Needless to say, caring for two children younger than three is exhausting, difficult, and incredibly rewarding. Anyone who questions the difficulty of parenting should be forced to listen to a screaming baby for hours on end while making dinner and folding laundry and playing kitchen and sweeping up messes and heating bottles.
The only way a mother, father, or caregiver can deal successfully with the chaos of parenting, in my opinion, is by being organized. I stick by my belief that the fewer items one owns, the easier organizing becomes, and I adhere to that mantra especially when one has children. Having fewer toys means less to clean and organize. Fewer clothing means less to wash and put away. And children are simple beings, happy with cardboard boxes and their imaginations. They don’t need much, besides an abundance of love and acceptance.
So, what do you do with all their stuff? Do what my sister and brother-in-law do: construct shelves in just about every room! Their house is an adorable English Tudor with plenty of room for their children to play, but they’re able to keep it charming without the rooms being overrun by children’s toys.
Here’s how they do it:
1) SHORT, STURDY SHELVING UNITS
Keeping with the same theme of white shelves, each girl’s room has at least one set of simple shelves. They’re easy to construct, or you can purchase them at places like Ikea.
2) SCREW SHELVING UNITS INTO WALLS
This is the most necessary step of constructing shelving units in places where small children play. You must screw the shelving units into the walls so there’s no way the shelves might fall over onto the children. That is a nightmare scenario, but one that happens too frequently.
3) BASKETS AND BINS INSIDE THE SHELVES
Other items, like toys, diapers, even clothing, are separated and organized by category and places into baskets and cloth bins within the shelves. To add a bit of style, they purchase different colored cloth bins.
4) LESS IS MORE ON TOP
Not much is on top of the shelves, especially in the girls’ bedrooms. Keep the top of the shelves and dressers clutter-free to avoid distractions while sleeping. Clean lines = calm.
5) USE HOOKS TO HANG OUTFITS
Not enough space in the closet? Or maybe you want to hang outfits for the following day? Wall hooks like below work perfectly to display cute outfits and accessories while also keeping items organized (and out of reach of children)!
For all the little toys that don’t sit neatly on shelves, use metal carts for organization. Carts can also be used to store crayons, markers, and other art supplies; the wheels are helpful when transporting the cart into a different room, like, say, the kitchen—where it’s okay to get messy!
7) NON-READER LABELS
For the toddlers who can’t read, non-reader labels—a.k.a. photos and drawings—help teach little ones how to and where to put away their toys. By age 2, toddlers should be able to put away their own toys, which is made easier when they know exactly where they go. You can draw your own labels, or find labels online. I found this article below by Harvard Homemaker, and there are plenty of downloadable photo labels online, perfect for your non-reader.
Staying organized and keeping a tidy home while raising little ones is exhausting and seemingly never-ending. However, it is possible to stay organized and teach your little one to tidy. Shelves, bins, hooks, and photo labels are a surefire way to get there!