Camp Cleanup: Summertime Organizing for Families
Tag Parents! You’re it!
As a former teacher, there’s no such thing as summertime sadness here. Sunshine, frozen cocktails, extreme humidity, temperatures in the hundreds, stuck in the house, oh wait. Summer is the perfect opportunity to get those kiddos organized, especially on those days they tell you “I’m bored.”
I’ve got some handy tips on how to get the entire family involved in the process. You’ll get those spaces de-cluttered and teach your kids how to be responsible for their belongings. It’s a win-win. Taking the time to work on this now is critical. One day your precious little baby is going to be someone’s student, employee, and/or spouse. We have to teach them responsibility, and there’s no better time than the present. Your children will thank you when they’re adulting like champs and you will thank yourself when all the cleaning isn’t on your shoulders.
Begin by setting the declutter date on a family calendar and build up to the day so no one is shocked when it’s go time. The kids will be prepared and there will be less complaining (“What?! We have to try ALL our clothes on NOW?!”). Next, set up a reward for this family decluttering session. Talk to your kids about what the reward should be for when all the chores are done. Whether it be an outing for ice cream or a trip to the movies, let them choose what they would like to do. Notice I said something they would like to DO, not an object they WANT. You don’t want to clutter up that clean space already! Here's where to start: Family Room/Living Room
Set expectations for the types of toys that will be allowed in the family room, if any at all.
Have a designated space for those items to be put away each evening. I would suggest a large basket, bin, or a space on a bookshelf.
Make cleaning up the common areas part of your nightly routine.
Stick to it! Be consistent with those expectations! Your kids and your sanity will thank you one day!
Involve your child in deciding what clothes they love and want to keep. Separate them from those that they’ve outgrown or never wear, and either donate or sell them at a consignment shop for extra money. Designate the lower drawers to items they usually get themselves, such as pajamas or undergarments. The higher drawers can be for clothes they wear less frequently or you want to keep out of reach so they’re not changing 25 times a day.
Make sure you set up a system for dirty clothes. Children as young as four, honestly, probably two or three with direction, should be picking up their own dirty clothes. Strategically placed hampers will do wonders for those clothes that usually find themselves on the floor.
Donate or sell any shoes that your child no longer fits in or doesn’t wear. Assign an area of the closet or in their room where they should match and line up their shoes. If shoes are kept at an entryway or mudroom, make sure there are baskets or bins where they can be kept. Make a game of it! Mix up all their shoes in a pile and see who can find the most pairs first!
Get a box or a bag and have your kids fill it with toys they no longer play with anymore. Explain to them that you will give them to another child who doesn’t have any toys and how kind they are for helping a friend! If this doesn’t work, wait until they are sleeping and get rid of anything that takes a battery or makes noise. Just kidding (not really). Consider donating to Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital. They accept donations of gently used toys, books, and games for their patients.
For children under the age of 3, you may want to have just one toy box or tub that they can put all of their toys during clean up time.
For children four and up, create categories for your child to sort their toys into different bins, such as dinosaurs, dolls, cars, action figures etc. Label each bin with a picture and the word of what should be inside of it. Sorting and classifying is an educational standard for this age group give yourself a hand and give them a head start for school!
Another idea is to box up and store some of their toys. Every once in a while, introduce a new set of toys into the rotation while boxing up the others. This results in less toys/clutter to pick up and new found excitement for a toy they forgot about.
Gather all of your child’s books, and donate any that no longer interest them. Show your child where the books should be kept, whether on a shelf in their room or on the bookshelf in the family room or playroom. Keep a little basket by their bed for each night’s reading selections. I’m going to use my teacher voice to inform you to read to your child for 20 minutes a day! NO EXCUSES! But I know you already knew that.
It’s all fun and games until the pieces are everywhere. See what I did there? Donate any unwanted games (make sure all the pieces are there) to your local thrift store. For younger children, I would recommend storing games up high where they can only be played with supervision. I’ve seen so many brand new board games thrown away because the pieces mysteriously were thrown all over the place. Y’all must have ghosts!
Ask your child’s teacher or school if they could use random game pieces. Many teachers use dice and game pieces to make center games and would appreciate the donation.
Repeat the process as told above with the toys in your children’s rooms. Have them decide which toys they want to keep and which they would like to donate. Explain to them what happens when we donate toys that we don’t play with anymore. They will feel so good to know they are helping out another child who might not have any toys. Pat yourself on the back, and kiss your brain!
Think of your child’s classroom or day care. There are sections where certain items are played with and kept. Create areas of the playroom just like that! Some ideas are an art and writing section, house play, dress up, and building. Have storage systems in place for these items to be put away nearby.
A place for everything, and everything in its place! Clearly label toy bins or boxes with pictures and words. It’s called a Print Rich Environment, and your child’s teacher will thank you for it!
Another fun tip? Timers do wonders for kids. Whether it be a stopwatch or an online timer, set them to see how fast they can put up their clothes or pick up their toys. Last but not least, parents you cannot expect your children to keep their spaces tidy if your own office, bedroom, and other areas of the home are a mess. Set the expectations, and lead by example. What to do when you are all finished? TREAT ‘YO SELVES! Overwhelmed and need someone to work with your child(ren)? I might know someone :)