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Tricks to helping kids keep an organized bedroom

Feb. 26, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

The conversation often starts with, "Where are your shoes?"

For many parents trying to get out the door on time in the morning, a child with a disorganized bedroom can be a huge roadblock. The clock is ticking. The bus is coming. And your offspring is searching for his favorite hoodie.

Getting a child's room organized can be the first step toward smoother mornings and more peaceful evenings.

Here are some experts' tips on decorating and arranging your child's bedroom in ways that will simplify daily life.

Pare down

Donna Smallin, author and creator of unclutter.com, suggests having kids help haul everything they own into the hallway outside their room. When the room is empty, have them bring back in only their favorite or most necessary things. When all the necessities are back in, start discussing what might be good to give away, sell, or box up for storing in an attic or basement. Reassure the child that items in storage can always come out again later.

If the room includes a desk, keep it as uncluttered as possible, suggests Dr. Martin L. Kutscher, pediatric neurologist and co-author of "Organizing the Disorganized Child" (William Morrow Paperbacks, 2009).

Get a bin that holds hanging file folders to store finished papers that come home from school or pending homework. Another small bin can hold pens, pencils and a few other supplies needed for schoolwork. Otherwise, keep the desk clear.

Rethink the closet

To get children excited about actually putting things away in the closet, let them "paint it a neat color inside," says Kathryn Bechen, author of "Small Space Organizing: A Room-by-Room Guide to Maximizing Your Space" (Revell, 2012). If they love it and it feels personal, she says, they're more likely to use it.

Then, work with their habits: If your child isn't a fan of hanging up clothing, consider filling some or all of the closet with open shelving. Put bins or baskets on each shelf, labeling with words and/or pictures to describe what belongs inside.

Use the walls

Kids are more likely to use hooks than hangers. So add lots of colorful hooks at your child's level to store hoodies, jackets and even pants.

Also consider hanging a shoe bag on back of the door, but don't feel obligated to use it for shoes. Smallin says it can be filled with socks and underwear, small toys or anything else.

Another key item for the wall: a clock with hands. Kutscher says non-digital clocks make time a bit more tangible for kids, helping them notice the passage of time and hopefully stay on task. A large wall calendar that children can reach is also a great way to help them get organized.

Last item: a dry-erase board (WallPops makes one that's a repositionable vinyl decal) where kids can keep a checklist of tasks for bedtime and morning. Write out the checklist with them, then praise them for using it.

Get playful

Make straightening up fun. Consider buying one large trashcan for sports equipment and another to use as a hamper. Let the child label and personalize the outside. You can even add a plastic basketball hoop to the top of each trash can, so the child can have fun tossing items inside.

Have the child decorate a bin or basket where tomorrow's clothes and shoes will go. Then choose a permanent spot for it. Each night, toss in everything your child will wear tomorrow (including the school bag).

Once you've done it

For the first few weeks, Bechen says, "Run through the drill. Tell them, 'You come home, you put your things here... .'"

Repeat the steps each day, as patiently as possible. In time, your kids will keep their bedrooms organized out of habit.

"It's an executive function. It requires the ability to stop, plan, organize and actually execute a goal," Kutscher says. As that ability is growing, parents need to gently guide the process.

"We take the safety net approach," he says, "gradually letting the child master the skills, as we stand by as needed."

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EDITOR'S NOTE -- Melissa Rayworth writes lifestyles stories for The Associated Press. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mrayworth

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