There’s no question that children are a glorious, joyful, exuberant mess. While there is often creativity to be found in chaos, creating organizational systems to reign in the multitude of markers, tiny toys, and stockpiles of socks will bring a sense of calm and order to your home. We employed the expertise of four Scouted professional organizers for solutions on corralling kids’ belongings so you can abolish the mess and let order rule the day in your abode. To find a scouted organizer near you, browse The Scout Guide Directory.

Get the kiddos involved. Across the board, our experts agree that involving your children in the organization process from the start is important if you have any hope of maintaining your systems. “Parents can obviously come up with their preferred methods, but let your little ones help in the process of sorting and placing each item into its new home,” says Holly Trepka, owner of NEAT Method Nashville in Nashville, Tennessee. This will make them familiar with what goes where, making it more likely for them to understand how to clean up.

Editing is essential. Whether it be clothes, toys, or art supplies, when it comes to maintaining order, an editing process is key to keep clutter at bay. Allison Flinn, owner of Reclaim Professional Organizing in Raleigh, North Carolina, recommends editing kids’ clothing at the beginning of each season and play areas before holidays or birthdays, when they will be receiving gifts.

Tackle the closet. Ready to take your kids’ closet from chaotic catchall to organized bliss?  “It all starts with matching, slim hangers,” Trepka says. “That’s our first tip when tackling any closet.” This seemingly innocuous trick of the trade not only serves the purpose of saving space on your closet rod, but it can instantly add the visual appeal that was probably lacking before. Keep in mind, closets are often designed for the taller set, so make sure things are accessible to your children. “If you would like your child to dress themselves, ensure their everyday clothing is placed on the easiest to reach rods. You can switch these clothing items with the seasons so they always have access, whether that’s school uniforms and sweaters or sundresses and tees.” Another hot tip? Holly recommends a few soft sided containers like these Oxford Bins, for corralling accessories like hats and bags on closet shelving.

Tidy up drawers. Christina Ryan, owner of Neat Method Bozeman in Bozeman, Montana, knows drawers can be a major pain point for both parents and kids alike. While hanging clothes seems to be an easier solution, Ryan does recommend storing certain items in drawers rather than wasting precious closet space. “Leggings, pajamas, shorts, socks, swimwear, t-shirts, and underwear are ideal items for draw storage,” she says. “Adding drawer dividers to keep each category separate and labeling the inside of drawers will help immensely in your quest to keep things tidy.”

Toy storage for all sizes. You’ve bought all the baskets, you’ve cleared all the shelves in preparation for organizing your child’s stuff, but how do you know where the correct home is for each item? Flinn urges caregivers to spend some time thinking about which items you want within your kids’ reach—and which items you don’t. “Strategically place puzzles, games, and other toys with lots of tiny pieces in clear bins, out of reach of little ones so that they are only accessible with the help of an adult. The toys that are easiest to clean up? Make them the easiest to get to!” Mid-size toys can be displayed on easily accessible shelves and larger toys in a closet, if possible. 

Implement a toy library. It’s easy for a space to become quickly overwhelmed with toys, especially the larger items that can take up a lot of real estate. That’s why Mary Beth Bartlett and Megan McDowell, owners of Rooms to Breathe, in Huntsville, Alabama, strongly advocate for having a smaller number of readily available toys. “Research shows that children play in more sustained and creative ways when they have fewer toy options,” Bartlett explains. The key to success with this method is to be sure to include different types of toys—imaginative, building, fine and gross motor, sensory, instruments, vehicles—in each rotation for varied play. “Rotating your child’s access to certain toys keeps them fresh and exciting and keeps clean up to a minimum for caregivers,” McDowell adds.

When in doubt, go vertical. Whether it be a dedicated playroom or shared multi-purpose living space, Ryan touts the importance of maximizing vertical space when it comes to storage solutions. “When you are dealing with a room that is essentially a big open box, shelving and/or cubbies are a worthy investment.” These types of storage solutions will help in any size room but especially in smaller spaces, where floorspace is limited. Because who wants to navigate an obstacle course everyday?

Let your organization evolve. Every child is different and therefore every organizational system will vary slightly, especially when it comes to the age or phase your child is currently in. What worked for them as toddlers may need to evolve once they hit school age and beyond. Bartlett and McDowell advocate for creating systems that are flexible and able to change as children age. “With younger children we tend to use broader categories and open storage solutions to make tidying up as easy as possible,” McDowell shares.”We also utilize picture labels to ensure that pre-readers can also assist with returning toys to their homes.” Once a child’s personality and preferences start showing, use that to help guide the organizational systems you set up. “Some kids may tend more towards detailed micro organization while others continue to prefer macro organization with looser categories,” Bartlett explains.

Feature photo by Bozeman Neat Method. TSG Tip 454 from Holly Trepka, owner of NEAT Method Nashville in Nashville, Tennessee; Allison Flinn, owner of Reclaim Professional Organizing in Raleigh, North Carolina; Christina Ryan, owner of Neat Method Bozeman in Bozeman, Montana; Mary Beth Bartlett and Megan McDowell, owners of Rooms to Breathe, in Huntsville, Alabama. NEAT Method Nashville appears in The Scout Guide Nashville. Reclaim Professional Organizing appears in The Scout Guide Raleigh, Durham & Chapel Hill. Neat Method Bozeman appears in The Scout Guide Bozeman. Rooms to Breathe appears in The Scout Guide Huntsville.