9 Organization Tips for Working from Home with Kids
By Angela Hall
First things first. I need to get a disclaimer out of the way. I’m not Marie Kondo or Martha Stewart. I don’t organize in any way shape or form professionally. I come to you sharing my experiences as a fellow momma trying to keep up with my husband and 11-year-old son.
And, during the coronavirus pandemic with so many of us working from home, we can all use organization tips.
To help you organize your at-home work and kids’ school space, take a look at these 9 organization tips for working from home with kids.
1. Start small
Now that so many kids are enrolled in remote learning or a pandemic pod, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when your whole house feels like it’s filled with clutter. Especially when we are spending so much time at home during the coronavirus pandemic, it can feel like your space is closing in on you. So, instead of assuming you’re going to get everything organized and clutter-free in one fell swoop, start with one area.
This can be anything. Think: a cabinet, a junk drawer, your child’s closet. Or, think bigger as in your child’s school space or your home office. Now, you’re ready to dive in!
2. Dump everything out
Yes, you read that correctly. Remove everything out of the area or room you’re focusing on. The key is spreading it all out within a central location. This way you can actually see everything that was once lurking underneath, creating all that clutter.
Here’s a bonus tip within a tip. If you want to get your kids involved in this step, turn it into a game. You can even let your child make some of the rules! See who can bring the most items to your predetermined central location in five minutes. The winner gets to pick dessert for the family!
3. Half Hour Hustle
I picked up this tip from my friend who’s an actual professional organizer, Melissa Hathaway-Stutz. She invented a method called the Half Hour Hustle. It’s a pretty simple concept. You (or your kids) pick some music that’s upbeat and gets you going. Then, you set a timer for 30 minutes.
For those 30 minutes, you focus on organizing only and simplifying your space. This idea is so simple, but so genius. You can do pretty much anything for 30 minutes, right? And with some rocking tunes, you barely notice you’re doing something tedious. Repeat as necessary.
4. Sort out what you’re organizing
While you’re bopping along to your kids’ favorite jams, you’ll be sorting your items into 3 distinct piles:
There are a couple of ways to get the kiddos involved with this step. For starters, they can make fun signs to designate each category. They can also have a say on which items go into each category.
The toss pile is pretty self-explanatory. You’re throwing away anything that ends up in that pile, like a toy that’s broken and has missing pieces.
The donate pile is self-explanatory as well. You’ll be donating anything that you feel someone else will be able to use. This is such a wonderful way to get your children involved. You can also have a conversation with your kids about their toys and giving to children who are less fortunate.
The keep pile can be a little more complicated, so I’m saving it for its own tip.
5. Honestly assess what you’re keeping
You may think it’s easy to simply put stuff back away. And, if you and your children have been really diligent, you may be able to do this.
If not, see if you can reasonably fit everything you’re keeping back into a closet, drawer, or cabinet. If you can’t fit everything neatly back where you initially had it, then it’s time to go through the pile again until you’re able to do so.
Yes, this part can be hard – especially if you’re shrinking down your child’s toy pile. Ask them if they play with a particular toy on a regular basis. If not, have them think about someone else who can use it. It is much more rewarding to donate something vs. having it sit for months or years collecting dust.
If there’s still resistance, make an agreement with your child. Place some toys in a box that can be donated at some point. Then, put this box in a closet, the garage, etc. If your child doesn’t ask to play with an item in the box after a month, it goes.
Or, you can agree to sell their toys and have them get a portion of the sales to spend on a new toy. Once they hear there’s the possibility of getting something new, they may be more willing to let go.
6. Sort your items into like categories
This step is great for little ones who are learning how to match similar items.
By sorting everything into categories, you’re able to keep like items stored together so they’re easier to find. This will also help you figure out what types and sizes of storage containers you’ll need.
7. Figure out a realistic storage system
Now that you know what you’re keeping, you need to figure out how to keep everything organized. You can easily use storage options you already have in your home. This can include clothes bins for larger toys and plastic shoe boxes for art supplies or smaller toys.
No matter what you choose, there are two things to take into consideration. First, make sure you use larger storage containers than you need. I learned this tip from a home organizer colleague of mine, Catherin Weeks.
Think about it – if you hit an end of season sale at Carter’s and want to prepare for next year, where are all those new clothes in larger sizes going to go?
Second, you need to have your children involved in the process. They should be able to access the bins and containers and easily open them. If they can’t open and close containers, for example, you’ll be spending more time organizing and this is not a productive way to spend your time!
This might be the most challenging step of all. Now that you’ve put in all of this hard work getting organized, you have to keep it up. This is where a weekly or monthly Half Hour Hustle can come in handy.
You can also do a clean out before birthdays and the holidays. I personally subscribe to the one in, one out philosophy. For example, if your child is getting a new toy for Christmas, is there a toy they’ve outgrown that you can donate?
9. Borrow or swap whenever possible
By borrowing items, you have to give them back and therefore they’re not going to take up precious real estate in your home. This means borrowing books from the library or looking into toy libraries in your local area.
You can also swap items. This is great as your kids can get “new to them” toys while removing other toys – it’s a win-win!
Rome wasn’t built in a day
You don’t have to do everything right away. As I mentioned in my first tip, start small.
Once you feel good about one area of your home and maintaining it, move onto the next. The important thing to remember is that home organization is a practice. And once you practice this often, your home will remain more calm.
It’s also okay to understand that you’ll have busy weeks where you can’t see straight and before you know it, your playroom looks like a tornado went through it. Accept that this will happen, then return back to your organization practice. It’s just like riding a bike or practicing yoga!
And here’s a final tip: Accept that you might need to take mindful breaks to remain calm, as cleaning and organizing your home can be stressful. And while you’re decluttering, you might want to sign your kids up for a Pretzel Kids yoga class so they can find their zen too!
About the author: Angela Hall is the owner/interior designer of Friar Tuck Design Company. Her passion is working with busy moms to transform their homes into beautiful, functional spaces that adapt to their growing families. She lives in Merrimack, New Hampshire with her husband, Mike, 11-year-old son, Cameron, and fur baby, Gypsy.