How to Stay Organized when You Have Kids

Love these ideas for getting organized when you have kids at home! Click through to see all of her smart tips and tricks!

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

Oh, sweet children of mine. I love you to pieces. You bring so much joy to my life, and I absolutely cannot imagine life without you. But along with all of your amazing qualities (and there are SO many), you also can make staying organized really, really hard. 🙂

I am often asked, “How you you stay organized when you have kids?!” It’s a tough question! I’ve shared a few storage solutions for kids on the blog before, but I have kind of avoided answering this exact question, mostly because I am far (far, far, far) from an expert on this topic. In fact, on the day I sat down to write this post, the Cs’ toy area looked like this:

Love these ideas for getting organized when you have kids at home! Click through to see all of her smart tips and tricks!

Not an expert. Clearly. #reallife

I’ve learned, though, that like so many things, organization is an ever-evolving process more than a destination. So while I in no way feel like I have “arrived” when it comes to conquering organization with kiddos in tow, I feel like I have learned some things along the way that I thought might be helpful to share.

I know that every home, every family, and every child is so incredibly different, so what works for me totally may not work for someone else, and that’s fine. Hopefully, though, this post can act as a starting point and give people some ideas to try or tweak for their own situation.

And now that I’ve given all of my caveats, let’s get on with the tips! 🙂

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1. Give yourself some grace. (A whole lot of it.)

I wanted to get this one out there right up front! For the most part I share only the “pretty” photos on this blog, but as you saw above, when it comes to the day-to-day, our house does not sit around looking Pinterest-ready 24/7. And while part of me would like it to be neat and tidy all of the time, the other part of me realizes that we live here. We use our stuff. And I don’t want my whole family to have to feel like they’re walking on eggshells because I’m scolding them for not keeping the house perfectly clean.

I am constantly reminding myself that this is just one phase of our lives, and an amazing one at that! My boys are 4 & 7 now (such fun ages!) and while they’re not the world’s best picker uppers (Caleb may actually be in the running for the title of “World’s Worst Picker Upper,” if we’re being honest.), we’re already able to maintain our systems of organization more easily than when they were 1 & 4. Maybe by the time they’re 14 & 17, we’ll all have this whole organization thing figured out! {Or maybe not, but a mama can dream! 😉 }

Grace. So much grace.

2. Declutter. All the time.

Now that we’re giving ourselves grace and not holding ourselves to Pinterest-worthy standards any longer, I’ll let you know the biggest thing that gets in the way of an organized home, whether you have kids or not.

It’s clutter.

I am incredibly guilty of just finding new ways to store my clutter and calling it organization. If I’m just rearranging my clutter, though, rather than getting rid of it, it won’t take long for everything to start feeling unorganized again because I simply have too much stuff.

Love these ideas for getting organized when you have kids at home! Click through to see all of her smart tips and tricks!

I purge areas of our house on a regular basis, but I am especially ruthless with toys. It seems like new ones are constantly making their way into our home {ahem, grandma & grandpa… 😉 } and creating a cluttered mess. Once per month or at least every other month I go through our toy bins and throw away anything that is broken or worn out. I donate anything that the Cs no longer play with and just do a general overhaul of what they have, only keeping items that are in good shape and are played with often. I give the boys a say in what I get rid of. I’m not going to throw out anything they are particularly attached to (unless it is detrimental to them in some way), but most of the time, we agree on what needs to go.

3. Create simple systems that kids can help maintain.

I know that I’m unlikely to keep up with an overly complicated organizational system, and my kids are even less likely to do so. I try to keep things as simple as possible, especially when it comes to organizing their things, so that straightening up is not just “my thing” and they can help. For us, this means that I use a lot of bins that are open at the top. I’ve found that when I use lidded bins, they’re more likely to set stuff on top of them rather than open them up and put things inside. Caleb also still needs help with some types of lids, so they get in the way of his ability to clean up.

Love these ideas for getting organized when you have kids at home! Click through to see all of her smart tips and tricks!

Coats, shoes, and bookbags were another area where I knew I needed a simple organization system for the boys. I used to be tripping over their stuff constantly, but when we redid the kitchen, we created a mini mudroom setup out of our old pantry, that included hooks that the Cs could reach. Game changer.

I also put a basket in the little nook for their shoes, so they know that whenever they come in the door, they take off their shoes, put them in the basket, and hang up their coats and bags. It’s so simple, but it was a great fix for an organizational system we had that was most definitely broken.

Love these ideas for getting organized when you have kids at home! Click through to see all of her smart tips and tricks!

4. Separate toys by type.

When Connor was little and started to amass a large collection of toys, I used one toy box and just threw all of the toys in there. What I found, though, is that I was wasting so much time helping him look for the toys he wanted because they were all in one pile. It didn’t take me long to switch to a bin system, with each type of toy having its own bin so that the Cs can easily find the items they want by themselves.

Love these ideas for getting organized when you have kids at home! Click through to see all of her smart tips and tricks!

5. Label it.

I use labels as much as possible, again so that everyone knows where things go and doesn’t just rely on mommy to put stuff away. Connor is reading, but Caleb is not yet, so I still try to make sure that the majority of the labels I use have a picture and words.

Love these ideas for getting organized when you have kids at home! Click through to see all of her smart tips and tricks!

Labels don’t have to be complicated. (I share some pretty printable ones in this post that you could use for a variety of things!) They can be handwritten. They can be chalkboard labels. They can be printed from the computer. I am a smidge obsessed with this label maker and use it all the time. I’ve also cut vinyl labels with my Silhouette machine. They can be as simple or as complex as you want, but they really do help, so use them!

6. Make clean up time part of the pre-nap/ night time routine (or both).

I admit, we are still working on this one. Sometimes you get to the end of the day and you just feel tired. But I know that when we all pitch in and work together to get the house straightened up before bed, it is much nicer to wake up to a clean house in the morning.

Sometimes I’ll set a timer and we’ll race to see how fast we can clean up. Other times I’ll turn on fun music and we combine clean up time with a dance party. Sometimes we turn it into a competition. There are lots of ways to make clean up time a little bit more fun. {Though Caleb (age 4) was watching Daniel Tiger the other day when one of the characters claimed that cleaning up could be fun and he literally shouted at the TV, “It’s NOT! It’s BORING!!” See? It’s definitely a work in progress! 😉 }

Love these ideas for getting organized when you have kids at home! Click through to see all of her smart tips and tricks!

7. Have little jobs that are just “their thing.”

From the time he was about 2, it has always been Connor’s job to take the rolls of toilet paper out of the package when we buy one and put them in the cupboard where they go. It’s his job. He owns that job. He even got mad the other day when Donnie tried to give that job to Caleb. I find the more that I can build little jobs like this into their routine, the more willing they are to help because it becomes something that they “just do.”

Love these ideas for getting organized when you have kids at home! Click through to see all of her smart tips and tricks!

Maybe they could be in charge of finding their snacks in the bags of groceries and arranging them in the pantry. Maybe they could sort the dirty laundry into whites, lights, and colors. Maybe they could be in charge of matching up clean socks. There are plenty of small jobs that even little kids can take ownership of that not only take the jobs off of mom’s plate, but get the kids into the routine of helping as well.

8. Make it fun with a chart.

If your kids are old enough to take on additional responsibilities like dusting or emptying the dishwasher, a chore chart might help motivate them a little bit more. (I have a free printable chore chart in both boy and girl versions in this post.) The Cs love checking things off of a list, and they are particularly motivated when they can earn an allowance for helping with extra items around the house.

Love these ideas for getting organized when you have kids at home! Click through to see all of her smart tips and tricks!

9. Have a system in place to deal with all of the paper they bring home.

When the Cs first started school, I was shocked at how much paper came home with them! It took me a few attempts, but I finally figured out a system for handling all of the paper they bring in the door.

You can read all of the details of my system in this post, but basically, the majority of the paper is thrown away/recycled. I have an area in our living room where I display special projects, crafts, or excellent work. This display is constantly being switched out, with the older pieces being discarded. I keep a sampling of their work from each school year (25-30 pieces at the most) in a labeled and divided file box that we store in their closet. This system allows us to have a representation of what they’ve done each year without keeping piles and piles and piles of paperwork that need to be stored.

Love these ideas for getting organized when you have kids at home! Click through to see all of her smart tips and tricks!

10. Have a system in place for hand-me-downs.

Along with paper, clothes were another area where I found we were collecting a lot of clutter. I wanted to keep some of Connor’s clothes that were in good shape for Caleb to wear eventually, but I needed a system to make that happen. I eventually decided on plastic drawers (I initially tried stacked bins, but they were too much of a pain to get into.), divided by size, with an inventory card so I knew what they had and what I needed to buy. More details on our hand-me-down system, including free printable inventory cards and sizing tags, can be found in this post.

Love these ideas for getting organized when you have kids at home! Click through to see all of her smart tips and tricks!

Well that list ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would be! Staying organized with kids is tough, but having some simple organizational systems in place can help our days run a lot more smoothly.

Will it ever be perfect? Nope, but that’s okay. We do the best we can, give ourselves a healthy dose of grace, and we might just end up with happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids who love their mamas to pieces. And that’s  a win in my book. 🙂

What tips and systems have helped you keep your home organized with kiddos? I’d love to hear about them in the comments! Have a wonderful day, sweet friends!

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This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

18 Comments

  1. I was really messy as a kid (still am, trying to recover with your help 😉 and one day my father hung up a large piece of paper in my room with the word ORDEN (Spanish for “tidy up”) in bold, capital letters. But he didn’t give me a clue of how to get there. I wish I had someone like you helping me out with systems and routines. You’re giving your kids a great gift. Hopefully I’ll be able to do that with mine someday.

    Thanks so much!

  2. Gah! I feel like I have so far to go! My kids are 2, 4, and 6 and SO MESSY! It doesnt help that I’m still trying to overcome my own sloppiness too! But you do have excellent tips and resources so I’m glad I’m a subscriber, and have bought a couple of your products. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I just love it. You give such great tips and your writing is so fantastic, I feel like I know you! I also think it’s inspiring how you’ve grown so much, since I want to do that sometime too (only with selling digital home printables- currently on Etsy smilecrushartprints.etsy.com- but I hope to have my own website someday too). Anyway, I promise I didn’t actually comment just to promote myself, I just feel like you’re always writing so I feel like I am your friend so I figured I should write a little about myself too so I can pretend we actually ARE friends 😉 Anyway, love the blog, love the post, love it all. Thanks and keep it up! 🙂

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Aw, thanks so much Kasey! You are too sweet! I popped over and looked at your shop and it is SO cute! Thanks so much for sharing with me! I hope you’re having a wonderful Monday! ~Abby =)

  3. Suzi Whitfords says:

    Love this! “I am incredibly guilty of just finding new ways to store my clutter and calling it organization.” – I had to call in backup and had my mom come help me declutter my home. Sometimes having someone else go through your stuff helps you see it as ‘junk’ too. 🙂

    1. justagirlabby says:

      My mom totally helps me sometimes too! It really is so helpful having another set of eyes! Hope you’re having a great week Suzi! ~Abby =)

  4. Love this article Abby! some great ideas to implement too. I have a 2 and 5 year old… so I am hoping we will get to where you are soon. interestingly the 2 year old loves to clean up and the 5 year old doesnt even though she was one hell of a cleaner upper when she was 2… so we are going in the opposite direction ;)….we keep trying everyday…

  5. MomofTwo PreciousGirls says:

    It is so important to give them ways to help! We have an try bench my hubby built. It has a way to hang their coats and backpacks along with a basket for their shoes. When we come home they hang their coats and backpacks and shoes right into the baskets. They know to take out their lunch boxes, put away their ice packs, and repack it for the next day (they are 8 & 6, they only repack non cold items. I make their sandwiches in the mornings). They also pull out their homework stuff and set it on the table for when it’s time.
    Hubby and I were dragging out the giant bag of cat food and pouring it into the feeder each day. Now we threw a cup in the bag and they take turns feeding the cats. Their dishes are low down so they can get the table ready for dinner and put away the clean dishes from the dishwasher. Amen for front loading washer/dryers bc they are starting to learn about laundry too (they are my putter awayers!). I don’t want them leaving home at 18 having no clue how to take care of themselves.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Sounds like you have two helpful little girls at your house! Love it! ~Abby =)

  6. Christina @ Martha, Martha says:

    Wow! This is such a thorough post! I totally agree with all these things. The number one thing we did that FINALLY cut down on the mess was our Epic Toy Cleanout! We had discarded before, but this past fall we realllllyyyy discarded. One of the most important things, though, is getting the kids on board with the idea of less. Here’s how we did it https://www.marthamarthablog.com/how-to-convince-your-kids-to-get-rid-of-their-toys/

  7. GREAT tips!! I have been on a quest to get my house completely organized for about a year…it’s a marathon not a sprint! 😉

  8. kerisnyder2014 says:

    These are such great ideas! I love the idea of the lower hooks for their items- it is so simple but so helpful!

  9. May I ask you what type of gray (fabric?) bins you are using and where you have purchased them? Thank you!

  10. Suzanne Renae says:

    I definitely need to work on systems.

  11. Where can I get the white storage unit that your bins are on? The one that looks angled with the different colored bins on it!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Hi, Ashley! My husband actually made the ladder shelf (before he was my husband, when we were in college 🙂 ), believe it or not! I know they sell similar ones at Target and Pottery Barn. I hope this helps!

      ~Abby =)

  12. WisdomFromtheGalaxy says:

    I am waiting for the article (13 years to date) about organizing challenges when you have animals! I might take it on myself, though I am still trying to figure out how myself….oh well, in my writing I usually write what I need to learn…mmm…

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Hmmmm… We don’t have any pets, so I wouldn’t be able to speak to that one, but I know my friend Julia at Cuckoo 4 Design (https://www.cuckoo4design.com/) does a whole series called “Living Pretty with Your Pets” and Serena at Pretty Fluffy (https://prettyfluffy.com/) does a lot of organization and pet stuff as well. I hope this helps! Have a great day!

      ~Abby =)

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