5 Tips from a Professional Organizer to Tackle “Kid Clutter”

You know the one thing that’s harder to do than sleep when you have kids?

To keep your house organized.

(You will also learn the dire importance of keeping your toy space relatively clean after you step on your first Lego with a bare foot. DEAR GOD, THE SHEER HELL OF THAT PAIN.)

Adding to the challenge of keeping our house “in check” is the fact that the only shared space we have to store both the kids’ stuff–the toy “nook” in our family room–is a triangle-shaped nook, also known as The Most Difficult Shape in Which to Fit Any Piece of Reasonably Attractive Furniture.

So—in addition to our pie-shaped architectural conundrum—when you throw in piles of plastic toys, some of which that are years old, you get a special kind of hell.

To fix this one, I had to call in the big guns.

Enter Jennifer Pape, of Orlando’s Extra Organized!

Oh, hai Jen

I had the pleasure of working with Jennifer to get our Awful Toy Nook cleaned up and organized, and we ended up doing pretty much the whole house, in addition to the toy space, she’s that good. More on that later.

So I wanted to walk away from this experience not only with a good piece of furniture to store toys, but also a philosophy to help keep our space clean long after Jen left. I’m happy to report, that’s exactly what we got!

Jen found the Ikea “Besta” furniture piece, which solved our toy organization problems. It’s the best-a! Wah wah
No, the glass vase isn’t normally there. The kids love being able to see which toys are in which bin, and they’re easy enough for them to open, too.
Note the pie-shaped weirdness of the nook

(Here is the Besta on Ikea’s website. Jen customized it for us without legs or doors/shelving, which brought the price down to just around $100.)

Of course this info was too good to keep to myself, so I shamelessly pestered Jennifer to answer some questions so I could pass on the knowledge to you guys, who I know are dealing with the same kind of… let’s call it “Visual Noise”… in your house too.

So, without further adieu, some tips on:

1 – The One-In, One-Out Rule

It’s as simple as it sounds. No, it won’t work every time you child gets a new toy, but try to donate one toy with the purchase of each new one, even if it’s something small.

2 – Label, label, label

Jennifer put the kids’ toys in clear plastic boxes by category, and then labeled each one. For example, in my son’s room, we have “Turtles,” “Star Wars,” “Legos,” etc. In my daughter’s, “Dolls,” “Minions” [SO MANY MINIONS], “Play Doh.”

The benefits of labeling are threefold:

  • Organizing into finite spaces helps you to realize—or at least in my case, it did—how many toys your kids actually have, allowing you to more easily part with all that stuff.
  • Labeling teaches your kids that there is a place for every toy, helping to encourage cleanup. In Jen’s words:

“Creat[ing] zones for playing and using labeled clear containers helps create the boundaries for easy pickup. Making a routine of putting toys back is also the key to teaching your kids the importance of staying organized.”

  • Labeling also forces you to keep the toy stash small; when you run out of room in a box, you know it’s time to try to comb through and donate again.

3 – Utilize Jennifer’s “4-6 Month Rule”

Have your kids played with the toy within the past 4-6 months? If not, donate! Chances are, if they’ve been shoved into the back of a closet or toy box for that long, they won’t even notice they’re gone.

4 – Find the right time

This is where you call me Evil Mom, but hear me out. Wait until your kids are out of the house to comb through their stash. You know what toys are most important to them—and of course you keep those—but you also know which toys they aren’t playing with as much these days, and it’s easier to get rid of those ones without them there, begging and pleading to keep every last one.

5 – Find the lesson

I love this tidbit from Jen: “The real breakthrough is when we can teach kids [that if they don’t] get attached to things… the better off they will be in life.”

It’s never too early to explain to our kids that there are many people less fortunate than they; don’t underestimate their ability to understand that concept. Use the opportunity as you organize to tell them this, and see how they absorb the lesson.


I would say, “Go forth and conquer,” but I know it’s not gonna be that easy. So I’ll put it this way: Put the kids to bed, pour a GIANT glass of wine (maybe not in that order), and get started. If I can do it, you can too.

And stay tuned for more from Jennifer in upcoming posts!

And if you’re in the Orlando area, check her out at Extra Organized HERE and HERE!

Sonni Abatta is a wife, a mom of three, and an Orlando lifestyle and mom blogger. She is currently in the midst of a slash-and-burn mission in her own house to get rid of crap, with only moderate success. Wish her luck. Have a question, concern, or want to collaborate? Reach out to Sonni@SonniAbatta.com.

Main photo by Shay Captures.

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