When you’re a new parent, you may not realize that one day all those cute color-coordinated onesies and burp cloths will morph into a bulging closet crammed with mud-stained jeans, elementary artwork and 27 toys that need new batteries.
It happens all too fast, as they say. But when it happens to you, at least you can rely on our best strategies for reigning in all the clutter — and helping to teach your kids how to keep those closets clean, with minimal parental nagging.
Best closet storage strategies
What’s the best way to organize a kid’s closet? It helps to think like a kid. You’ll probably need to use different tools than the ones you use in your grown-up closet.
1. “For younger children keep the toy storage at their level so they are able to put their stuff away at the end of the day. Make it a routine every night so they are going to bed and waking up with a clear space.” — Eileen Bergman, a professional organizer in West Orange, California
2. “Hooks — either inside of a closet or attached to the closet door — make it easy to keep jackets and sweaters organized and off of the bedroom floor. Make sure they are installed at a kid-friendly level.” — Naeemah Ford Goldson, owner of Restore Order in Atlanta
3. “Use clear stackable plastic totes, as they are great for storing toys with multiple pieces, such as puzzles, blocks, cars, or craft supplies, and you can see what is supposed to go inside. If there is a place for everything, it is more likely that the kids will get involved in keeping things tidy and picked up.” — Sori Fischer, parenting expert and designer at Feltman Brothers in New York City
4. “Since children’s clothes are typically smaller and do not have a lot of length to them, a double hanging clothes rod is a great way to utilize what otherwise would be empty, wasted space below just one rod. And, since it is lower, little ones are able to better reach and can help with hanging clothes back in the closet.” — Naeemah Ford Goldson
5. “Hang an organizer over the rod to create storage pockets. These can hold shoes, sweaters, gloves, bibs, anything that would also go in a drawer. This is a nice option if you don’t have a dresser in the room. As children get older, you can also assign one section for each day’s outfit and fill it up at the beginning of the week.” — Seana Turner, professional organizer in Darien, Connecticut
How to handle clothes
As a parent, sometimes it seems like the laundry is an insatiable beast, demanding washing, drying, folding and putting away nearly 24 hours a day. How can you make this process easier on yourself?
6. “Only fold what you have to! Does it really matter if boxers are folded? Probably not, especially since they are inside of a drawer usually. The easier you make it, the more likely, your child will buy into putting his or her clothes away.” — Sori Fischer
7. “Keep an empty basket or bin — even an inexpensive pop-up hamper will work — on the closet floor and as your child outgrows an item, toss it into the bin. Once full, donate or consign the items or pass them on to a friend who can use them.” — Naeemah Ford Goldson
8. “Don’t fold shirts the traditional way. Stack them in a way where you can see what’s on the shirt. It will save you time when picking their clothes and free up space, as well.” — Naeemah Ford Goldson
9. “When you put clothes away, hang outfits together to save space or if you use shelves to store clothes, keep outfits folded together to make it easy for your child to get dressed in the morning.” — Sori Fischer
10. “Start young with a hamper so you can teach children to put their dirty clothes inside. Depending on your configuration, you can put a pop-up hamper on the floor of the closet, an empty laundry basket on the floor, or hang a laundry bag from a hook on the door. — Seana Turner
Dealing with toys
Kids have a strange habit of wanting all the latest new toys and then hardly playing with them after a few days (yet, those cardboard boxes lying in your garage are all the rage). Those unused toys create tremendous amounts of clutter. Here’s what the organizers have to say about them:
11. “Don’t go crazy buying toys for your kids. In the long run most toys will end up being sold at a yard sale, tossed, or donated. If the toy box and storage is full, no more toys until some are donated to make space for the new.” Despite what the whines, remember that you don’t need to prove your love with toys. “That is not what they will remember, it will be the experiences that count, not the stuff.” — Eileen Bergman
12. Is there a birthday or holiday coming up? “Edit clothes and toys with children before each gift-giving holiday.” — Leticia Pfeiffer of Life is Better Organized in Plano, Texas.
13. “For children who can’t yet read, use photo labels on the outside of toy bins so they know what toys are in the bin and can put them away. For example, a photo of blocks on a bin of blocks.” — Jessica Decker, Become Organized, Inc. of New York
Getting kids organized for life
How do you get your children to cooperate on keeping their room clean? It starts early.
14. “The best way to keep clutter at bay is to keep your child’s belongings to a minimum. Always help them find a “home” for any new item that empties the space. Provide bins and containers so there is always a spot for things to be put away. And remember, children won’t know how to do this alone. Organizing is a skill we need to teach, just like brushing teeth and setting the table.” — Seana Turner
15. “Give children one task at a time — gather dirty clothes, hang all their shirts. Relax on day-to-day orderliness. Instead have a day of the week their room must be clean before allowing fun activities. And always follow up editing or tidying with a reward.” — Leticia Pfeiffer
16. “Kids are more involved when parents help them pick up toys or put away clothes, because it is a process of teaching and modeling the behavior that you want to see them adopt.” — Sori Fischer
17. “Always have a donate bin either in the child’s room or in a designated common location. Teach children that they can put anything inside this bin that they no longer want. Don’t second-guess your child if they decide to part with something. Rather, make ‘passing items on’ part of the fabric of your family. — Seana Turner