What’s the quickest, easiest way to put your rundown palace in order?

Simple: Round up your young princes and princesses and turn home organization into a game.

We are literally spoon-fed the power of play as infants when our parents deploy flying flatware and other amusements to convince us fussy eaters to ingest our food instead of throwing it. Add a sibling or two to the mix and friendly family competition can further help keep our house in order.

Whether you are a kid between the ages of 8 and 80, making home chores fun is the name of this game.

Girl taking donation box full with stuff for donate

Games Families Play

Alli March, a self-described recovering clutterbug, blogger and printables entrepreneur at Scattered Squirrel, let her imagination fly as she and her husband invented ways to make home chores fun while instilling healthy lifetime organizing habits into their two sons. Her secret: keep the incentives in perspective.

“We don’t often give rewards, but for larger tasks or projects like organizing their rooms or sorting toys, we’ll do something fun like bake cookies or have a family game night or movie night,” she says. “We often pick activities where we are doing something with them, to help reinforce that when everyone pitches in, we have more time for the fun things.”

Since their oldest son is a neatnik, March typically simply challenges him with a timer. But their youngest son, who is more of a sentimental collector, requires a different approach.

“We plan decluttering sessions weeks in advance, and for a couple of weeks before, we allow him to not pick up his toys each night,” she explains. “When we go in to do the declutter, we agree that everything that is not put away at that moment is a ‘keep’ item.”

March found the he is okay letting go of items he hasn’t played with for weeks.

how to turn organization into a game

Here are five family games that help keep the March household tidy:

  • Laundry Toss: Place a hula hoop down the hall from your kid’s room and see who can get the dirty laundry closest to the hoop. Works to corral clothes and soft toys as well.
  • Garbage Basketball: “I use a garbage can when sorting, and we have fun tossing the garbage items into the bin like they are basketballs,” March says. Add a second can for giveaways, but don’t confuse the two!
  • Speed Sorting: Decide on the categories before you start, set the timer for two minutes and sort, sort, sort.
  • Dump Truck: For little ones, have your kids use a broom to sweep toys into the dustpan and then dump them in the bin, box or bag where they belong. “It’s a great way to clean up blocks and Legos,” March adds.
  • Beat the Clock: “I take a look at what needs to be done and set a time frame I think is appropriate,” March says. “Once I know how long I think we’ll take, I pick the prize, something like milk and cookies or extra round of Sorry.”

family fun with cleaning up

Leveling Up

Certified Professional Organizer Linda Samuels, owner of Oh, So Organized! raised two daughters in a tidy household using these three games:

  • Dance Party: Slipping on some children’s music by Tom Chapin or adult fare via Pandora can make light work of a heavy task. “People who don’t particularly enjoy organizing get really stressed and tense when they have to do it,” Samuels notes. “Music just relaxes them and adds fun to the experience.”
  • Pizza night: “For some people, organizing by themselves is no problem, but for others, it’s really lonely,” Samuels says. “They do so much better if there are more people doing it with them.”
  • Family Olympics: Each family member dreams up a simple competition, such as timed laundry folding or dishwasher emptying. Break into teams and the team with the best score wins. Hilarious medal ceremony follows. “It was just a fun way to clear a space,” Samuels says.
Jay MacDonald