Pro Tips for Making Organization a Family Affair

Spring cleaning is a snap when there’s a year-round decluttering system in place.

Photo By: Rachel Rosenthal

Photo By: Rachel Rosenthal

Photo By: Rachel Rosenthal

Photo By: Rachel Rosenthal

Photo By: Rachel Rosenthal

Photo By: Rachel Rosenthal

Photo By: Rachel Rosenthal

Photo By: Rachel Rosenthal

How to Make Organization Easy and Fun For the Whole Family

With life coming at us fast, it’s hard to keep ourselves organized — no matter how many times you’ve watched that Marie Kondo show. Add kids to the mix and you’re likely to one day find yourself under a mountain of outgrown clothes, long forgotten toys and baby books that haven’t been cracked open for years. Luckily, there are people out there who can help, such as renowned organizational guru Rachel Rosenthal who lives with her husband and identical twin girls in the Washington, D.C. area.

Even someone like Rosenthal realizes that the idea of spring cleaning can be daunting, but she says the trick is to put a system in place that involves regular maintenance, so families won’t have to deal with a mountain all at once.

“No one wants to go home and do a big purge,” she said. “But, if people want to do a spring cleaning, put it on the calendar like any other appointment.”

She also recommends only cleaning for an hour or so at a time, trying to make a game out of it (who can collect seven screwdrivers first?) and offering a reward like ice cream.

See more of Rosenthal’s secrets to getting — and staying — on top of all that clutter.

Everything Has to Have a Place

One look at her daughter Ellie’s pink, polka-dotted room and you see Rosenthal’s first organizational tenet in action: “Everything has to have a place.”

A set-up like this with lower shelves and bins keeps toys and books accessible to littler ones, so it’s both easier for them to find things and to clean up. Jewelry is displayed in a neat way so it’s not “out of sight, out of mind,” and containers with tops are labeled as a reminder of where things are.

“The stuff that doesn’t have a place is what causes people the most frustration,” said Rosenthal, who has been in the business of restructuring peoples’ homes for 11 years.

Labels Are Key

The photo above shows Rosenthal’s basement with affordable drawers from Ikea. Right now, it corrals arts and crafts supplies, but that might change with the children as they grow because children’s organizational needs change all the time. For instance, both the metal bins and vertical drawers are currently labeled with things like shaving cream, glue and glitter, which many of you will recognize as ingredients to the trend du jour — slime. Rosenthal is a big fan of labeling drawers and even labeling the insides of her kids’ clothing drawers, so they know exactly where every piece of clothing goes when putting clean laundry away.

It’s a Lifestyle, Not an Event

While this room looks perfectly perfect, another of Rosenthal’s mantras is, “It is absolutely not about being perfect.” She is often asked if her house is always tidy, and her answer is an emphatic, “No!” But, unlike many of us, she sees organization as a lifestyle to be maintained daily through small actions — not as a huge project that will take 10 hours to complete. Rosenthal believes organization greatly reduces her stress levels, and this change in mindset sets her clients up for success.

“I haven’t seen anyone go back to how it started because we try to put systems in place that are easily attainable and not some crazy system that’s impossible to keep up with,” she said. “We try to make it part of their lifestyle, so organization isn’t this one-time event but becomes how they live.”

Turn Storage Items into Décor

When a child has a lot of small things that are used regularly, such as hair ties, a great solution can be to incorporate it into the aesthetics of the room.

“For this client, we knew her daughter had a ton of accessories,” Rosenthal said. “We wanted it to be a display, so her daughter could see them… Once you put something in a box that has no label, it’s gone forever.”

When stored like this, they are both accessible and decorative. In her line of work, however, it’s important for Rosenthal to recognize that every family has different challenges depending on the ages and personalities of the kids.

“With high-schoolers, we deal a lot with paper,” she points out, “and parents often aren’t allowed in their rooms, so it’s [about] trying to find a system that the entire family can work with.”

Maximize Closet Space

Rosenthal says closets can provide hidden access to items that are still used, but maybe not as often, as with these labeled bins.

“Everything is categorized so it’s easier to get dressed in the morning,” she said about the set-up. “That way, it doesn’t have to stay in these neat piles that are hard to maintain.”

She also likes to put a canvas bin in each family member’s closet for items that are no longer in use, including clothes, toys and trinkets. She reflected on how one of her daughters is growing a lot faster than the other, and this system of having all the discarded clothes in one spot also helps Rosenthal keep track of what she’s outgrown.

Color Coordination

While it might seem a tad precious – not to mention impossible to maintain – to display books color-coded by their order in the rainbow, Rosenthal says it’s a fun way to get little ones to keep things looking neat.

“That is a visual thing that’s also fun for the kids,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, I love that red book.’ They actually do maintain it because it’s fun. People don’t realize how easy it is to maintain.”

For the reams and reams of artwork that kids bring home from school, Rosenthal recommends a regular culling, with beloved items stored in bins labeled by year. They call them “save boxes,” and she strongly suggests that you keep them small rather than having a big, out-of-control bin.

Find Fun Tools with Character

Rosenthal grabs at any opportunity to make organizing fun for children — and admits that she’s slightly jealous of all the cool, fun organizing items available now that weren’t an option when her daughters were smaller.

“There are so many products out there with more character – it helps with wanting to go and put things back,” she said. “I think people think organization is boring but putting creativity in your system is key to maintaining it. I would much rather find a bin with an owl than a plain one if I had a choice.”

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