How to organise your living areas when you have kids

decluttering decluttering tips family organising toys May 25, 2021
Two teddy bears sit together on a wooden floor. One is wearing a red ribbon tied in a bow around its neck.

Last weekend I had the most satisfying reorganising session in my own home. I often laugh with my clients that my home isn’t as organised as I would like it to be – as with other tradies (lol yes I consider myself a tradie), my own projects often take a while to get off the ground because I’ve run out steam by the time I get home! But last weekend the planets aligned – Jamie and I made a decision that activated us, we both had the inclination and energy to do the work, Otis was a willing participant … and so we went for it! 

We have three parts to our living area – the TV zone, the sunken lounge zone, and the walk-through zone. Since we moved into this home in 2019, we’ve had plans to renovate, so these zones were only ever intended to be temporary. Can you relate to that? A temporary arrangement that somehow becomes permanent! Well, last week we made the big decision that we aren’t quite ready to dive into the renovation – so rather than live with this fudged-together solution, we wanted to create a more intentional (and relaxing!) living area. I wanted the techie TV stuff out of sight, somewhere for my knitting supplies to be tucked away, and somewhere that was devoid of toys. An adult space! 

First, we decluttered some toys. We had a few bulky things that Otis no longer played with, and it was time for them to go… with his blessing (read hot tip #1 at the bottom of this page)! Taking these out of the equation created space, so we could move the large random toy box out of the TV zone and into the sunken lounge zone. With the large toy box out of this area, we now had space for a TV cabinet – we’ve had the TV on a trolley since we moved in (temporary, remember!)! We Googled, found and picked up a beautiful cabinet on the same day; once it was home, we hid away all of the technology stuff and gave my knitting supplies a basket so they can be hidden tidily in the cabinet too. Finally, we have a clutter-free, grown up space to relax in. 

Next up was some re-organising of the toys that Otis still loves to play with, in the walk-through zone. The way he plays has been changing for a while, and it is important to us that he can easily grab what he wants when inspiration strikes. I swapped his toys around into different baskets, created new categories when I needed to (he is big into dinos at the moment, so I’ve created a dino hunting box for him). Once I had a system set up that made sense to me, I invited him to play – where I’d changed things around, I used language that he could adopt himself (read hot tip #2 at the bottom of this page for why this is important) and then observed for a while. I checked that he was confident in finding his different play categories, and how easily he could use the storage solutions. If he can’t easily pull something out, he won’t be able to easily put it away – functionality is important for everyone, but especially kids if we want to reasonably expect them to tidy up after themselves. 

Since we made these changes over the weekend, I’ve probably admired our freshly organised spaces 1000 times! It’s a pleasure to unwind each night in our grown up zone, and it’s a pleasure to see Otis confidently exploring his toys and playing in the clear spaces we’ve created in our living room. By the way – of course Otis can bring his toys into the TV zone! Because it is so open plan, there is no way I could stop that even if I wanted to – but I’ve noticed that for the most part he is happy to play in the two areas that have different toys stored in them. 

I know that my son’s interests and imagination will continue to change; he’ll grow out of things, and he’ll develop whole new obsessions (I see Bey Blades and Nerf guns in my future, if my clients’ kids are anything to go by!). We also will start that renovation at some stage next year, which of course means the goal posts will shift in terms of how we can store things. I’m committed to making the decluttering and organising process a regular family activity for the next few years, so we can all co-exist happily in our family home. 

How are your living spaces feeling at the moment; relaxing and grown up, or overrun with toys? If decluttering the kids’ gear is on your to-do list but the idea makes you groan, I’d love to give you a hand. Book your free 15 minute consultation now, and see how you could get started for just $300. 

Hot tip #1

Talk to your child about how it is completely normal to outgrow toys. Involve them in the conversation from a young age. Role model how you donate things you no longer want – clothes, kitchen stuff etc – and ask them if they can think of anything they no longer want to keep, that someone else might enjoy. We’ve been having this conversation with Otis for a couple of months and he hasn’t been ready to let anything go – I haven’t forced the issue and I haven’t hidden any of his things from him. Last weekend he told me the things he no longer wanted, and I struck while the iron was hot! LOL. His unwanted toys and books went into a big bag that I could zip up, and then straight into the garage so he didn’t have a chance to question his decision. And they have already been donated – so takesie-backsies! 

Hot tip #2

Give them the language to use that will help them find (and tidy) their toys. This is something I’ve noticed with every single child I’ve worked with. As we sort through their toys, they naturally group things together. Barbies go together, cuddlies go together, cars go together, and so on. As you’re organising your child’s space with them, speak those categories out loud, for example “Barbies go in this box”, “let’s put cuddles in this basket”, “cars will fit in that drawer” and so on. When it’s time to tidy up, use the same language for a few sessions WITH your child, and then step back and observe how they tidy up. I reckon there is a good chance you’ll hear them saying the same phrases you’ve used previously – every kid I’ve worked with has adopted this strategy by the end of the session. Cool, huh!?

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