Organizing with Kids 101: Everything You Need to Know for Staying Organized and Clutter-Free

By Katie Trudeau

When discussing least favorite chores, it’s not uncommon to list off folding laundry, doing the dishes, or even cleaning out the gutters. All of those are necessary chores.

Yet, there is another chore that often ranks on the “Least Favorite Chore” list: organizing your kids’ stuff. Just when you think you’ve got it all sorted out, another birthday hits, and the toy chaos resumes. Or, you’re struggling to keep up with the closet. If you’re like me,  you’ve got clothes that span from 24 months to 8/10. I feel like my three kids have their clothing boutique sometimes.

This year, one of my big 2020 resolutions was to stay on top of household organization, and that includes the kids’ toys too. 

If you’re ready to channel your inner Marie Kondo and stay as organized as possible, here’s a quick guide to share everything you need to know for staying organized with kids.

Getting Your Kids to Help

First things first: it’s completely reasonable to expect your kids to help with the organization, but I’d like to share a few caveats that will save you a lot of strife:

  • Kids’ ideas of organizing may look nothing like your definition of organizing. My oldest son “organizes” his nightstand. It looks like chaos to me, but he knows where everything is, and he likes his nightstand the way it is. Just keep in mind that your child may have a different system than you, and — permitting it’s not just a giant pile in the middle of the room —  it’s okay to explore different ways of organizing.
  • Younger kids may not have the attention span to keep up with a marathon cleaning session. Give your younger kids smaller, less-time consuming tasks to boost their confidence.
  • Make organizing fun. Sing songs, play a fun radio station, or simply chat while you work. I like to play an animal game while we clean. One person gives clues such as “I am a mammal that lives in the jungle” or “Some people call me the unicorn of the ocean”. The other players try to guess the animal. 

Get the Right Gear

I know it seems counter-intuitive, but sometimes you need to buy more stuff to stay organized. Depending on your room and how much stuff needs to be organized, you might need:

  • Bins 
  • Shelves 
  • Bookshelves 
  • Toy boxes or chests 
  • Underbed storage units
  • Hooks (to hang hats, coats, etc)
  • Shoe racks

In my sons’ room, we installed a closet organizer in the closet. We sorted toys by category into different bins (thanks, Ikea) and labeled them all. We hung hooks to keep hats off the floor, and we loaded costumes into the underbed storage containers. Shoes went onto a shoe rack, and stuffed animals went into cloth toy bins. 

The key: everything must have its own designated place, and when that happens, nothing is left on the floor. In theory, of course. 

What to Donate

Alright, you’ve got your storage gear, now what? Not everything will actually be organized into your room. Some stuff has to go. As a sentimental person, this is the hardest step for me. 

Items suitable for donation include:

  • Like-new toys that your child has outgrown
  • Like-new clothing that no longer fits your child
  • Like-new furniture, including child’s desks, etc. 
  • Furniture pieces (such as baby swings or bouncers) that are no longer developmentally appropriate for your kids
  • Strollers

Where you donate your items is up to you. You can go the traditional route and donate to GoodWill or other similar businesses. You can also donate items to friends or siblings with children who would benefit from these items. You can also donate from one child to another one. For example, if your oldest is outgrown her dolls, perhaps her younger sister is still interested. 

What to Toss

Once you’ve packaged up the “To Donate” items, it’s time to sort the “To Toss” items. Sometimes this step is best done not in the presence of your kids (particularly toddlers and young children) as this can be upsetting to see items being thrown away.

In general, my “to toss” items include:

  • Party favors, Happy Meal toys, and small “junky” plastic pieces 
  • Dollar store toys (I find these to be made of cheap plastic, which I’m not wild about my kids playing with)
  • Broken toys
  • Recalled toys
  • Hand-me-down clothes that are past their prime 
  • Games with multiple pieces missing

What to Keep

If you’re organizing and purging at the same time, you’re probably wondering how much stuff do your kids really need? 

Here’s a list of what I consider to be the must-haves:

  • Educational toys, including Legos, craft supplies, books, puzzles, and building sets
  • Toys that encourage teamwork, including board games and costumes 
  • Your child’s most treasured toys, including special Lovies 
  • Toys that encourage imagination play, including stuffed animals, dolls, and action figures 
  • Big purchases (such as a crib) that you can use for your future children, if you’re planning on having more

Ready to Tackle Your Organization Goals for 2020?

When you’re tackling a big organizational project, try breaking it down. For example, focus just on clothes at first. Then, move on to toys. Depending on how much children you have, this may be best as a month-long project, with specific tasks set aside for each day. 


Kathryn is a self-proclaimed book nerd who has a passion for natural parenting and writing. As a homeschooling mother of two, Kathryn understands the dynamics of a busy family life. She is the founder of the Cor Domum movement, a mission that guides families through life so that they can parent with joy. Read more at 

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