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Controlling the chaos of children’s rooms

Nicole Anzia

THE WASHINGTON POST – It’s often difficult to keep children’s rooms neat and organised. Throw in a pandemic that has upended our lives and schedules for nearly two years, and many parents understandably have just given up on maintaining any semblance of order. But the new year is a good time to get things under control. Here are some tips.


Make it easy for your children to put items away. If they love books, choose bookshelves that they can reach and that can hold most of their favourite books. (Anchor heavy pieces to the wall to prevent tipping and injuries.)

Old dressers are nice to pass down, but if the drawers are hard to open, children are going to avoid putting away their clothes.

Clear, labelled bins are great for collections; open bins make cleaning up toys and stuffed animals easy. Wall hooks are also great for keeping clothes off the floor.

When children show they can carry out simple tasks, such as making the bed and putting clothes away, involve them in choosing storage products they’ll use in styles they like.

This does not mean that they are in complete control or that you need to spend a lot of money (you can choose from what you have or decorate old shoe boxes to hold items), but asking for their input and opinions will help them feel connected to the process and help get them excited about staying organised.


There will be a constant churn of clothes and toys for about a decade. The only way to keep children’s rooms in relative order, especially when they’re young, is to manage what’s coming in and going out. I know parents don’t have much time to keep up with the ever-changing clothing inventory, so keep a bag in a closet where you can put pieces that no longer fit as you come across them.

Experts in child development advise that kids don’t need – and shouldn’t have – a mountain of toys at their disposal. They get overwhelmed when they have too many choices and items competing for their attention.

The holidays are already upon us, and it’s too late to stop the onslaught of new stuff that’s about to arrive. We all like to spoil our children occasionally, but if we’re continually buying them new items, we can’t also get angry when they can’t keep track of or manage it all. Once the holidays have passed, pare down.

Put some items away temporarily. If they’re not missed, it’s probably safe to give them away. Donate or pass along the pieces your child has outgrown. And if there are ones they’ve outgrown that you would like to keep, create a memory box where you can store them.

Committing to buying less for your children in the new year will make it easier for everyone to keep everything under control.


If your goal is for your child’s room to look like something you see on social media or in a magazine, you’ll never be satisfied.

The goal should be comfortable functionality, not perfection. Both you and your child should be able to find what you’re looking for – and clean up – easily. If the room feels calm and relatively neat, pat yourself on the back.

It takes more time to tidy up children’s rooms when you involve them, which is why so many parents decide it’s easier to do it themselves. But that doesn’t teach your kids to value their belongings or to have the organisational skills they’ll need later in life.

Children need to feel ownership over their space and learn how to clean up after themselves in age-appropriate ways. Most children can start to help clean up toys and books as early as two. They won’t be able to pay attention for long, but they can put away a couple of blocks.

As they reach elementary school, children can make decisions about what to keep and what to let go of. Eventually, they’ll be able to categorise items themselves and do their own sorting and culling.

Some children will have a harder time keeping their rooms neat than others, not because they’re lazy or messy, but because learning challenges may require alternative approaches and additional tools. Cleaning up a chaotic space is difficult for adults with fully developed brains, much less adolescents or kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or developmental disabilities. Patience and flexibility are key. Try to establish a system that works for everyone but that still helps to create an orderly space.


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