Everything I learned about organizing, I learned in kindergarten.
The most organized rooms most of us will ever experience are at either a school or a hospital. Since I frown on having to go through minor surgery in order to gain home organization ideas, I choose instead to draw my inspiration from the classroom.
I have an inside track. My stepdaughter, Amanda Lipp, is an associate teacher at a childcare facility. While she and I were discussing how she wants her room to be set up for her students, I couldn’t help but see the similarities between a well-set-up classroom and a well-set-up home.
Here are Amanda’s guidelines for a well-run classroom:
- Everything has a place and everyone knows where that place is. Everyone in the house knows where things are because items have an established place. No one has to ask Mom where the tape is because the tape is always in the second drawer of the closet.
- Clearly label items with words and a picture. Label your drawers, bins, tubs, and baskets in a way that everyone in the house can understand. For smaller children, pictures on the labels enable them to help with cleanup responsibilities.
- Clearly define each area of the room with boundaries, such as rugs, shelving, or other furniture. Divide rooms into sections so they are easy to manage, use, and clean up. For example, if your kids have a play area in the corner of your living room, use a big area rug to define the space so the kids know that every book, toy, and game goes back into the play area clearly defined by the rug.
- Keep the room clutter-free so children can easily roam and play. I stay on top of clutter so that we don’t have to clear off a table before we eat dinner or move piles of paper from a desk before I can work on it.
- Clean up areas when children finish playing and before beginning another activity. After I’m done with a project, I put it away so that I don’t get overwhelmed by the mess.
- Arrange each area for maximizing learning capabilities. The block area has a lot of floor space for building; the reading area has sofas, pillows, and rugs for resting. I look for ways to make my home and the areas in it functional and comfortable.
- Arrange the art on the wall neatly, using frames, canvas, backgrounds. A room with too much artwork will feel chaotic and agitating. I keep things in my home simple and uncluttered. I want the people in my home, not the stuff, to be the focus.
- Regularly switch out items for use, allowing the children to experience a wide range of activities while still keeping the areas neat and not overflowing. Each of our rooms is going to have many different functions, but I will focus on one activity at a time and put away those things I’m not using.
- In order for the children to know where items belong, have them help set up the bins and boxes where the items live. We work as a family to create the systems; we work as a family to keep up the systems.
Even though the saying “A place for everything and everything in its place” has been around a long time, I still use it in my life today.
The words that make me cringe or even get me downright frustrated are, “Mom (or Honey), where is…?” Even though I have painstakingly gone through my home and labeled plastic drawers and bins to help everyone find things easier, I still hear those irritating words.
However, since I did the work of organizing, labeling, and placing strategically all these bins, it has really made my life easier. Now when I hear those words, “Dear, where is the tape?” I can say, “It’s in the closet in my office, in the drawer labeled ‘Tape.’ ” I no longer need to physically stop what I’m doing and find it for them. The tape is in its rightful place.
Kathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker and the author of several books, including The Husband Project, The Cure for the “Perfect” Life, and The Get Yourself Organized Project. She and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four young adults. Connect with Kathi at www.kathilipp.com.