Living with busy kids means lots of books and bags, supplies and shoes. Use these clever strategies to bring order to all that kid gear while encouraging your kids to take active roles in taming their clutter.
Because kids' storage needs change frequently, pick containers and labels that you can adapt quickly when seasons or interests change. Stock up on medium-size, open bins or baskets that are scrubbable or outfitted with fabric liners for easy laundering.
Editor Tip: Use miniature chalkboards or pieces of dry-erase plastic as easy-to-change labels.
Rather than carelessly tossing personal items in a junk drawer, use spring-loaded drawer dividers to mark out specific spaces for umbrellas, wallets, scarves, hats, and gloves. Make sure everyone knows what to store in each space by adding an adhesive label to the bottom of each compartment.
Reserve open cubbies in a bench, freestanding cabinet, or built-in for shoes that your kids use most frequently. (Let them pick the shoes that are most important.) And these multipurpose cubbies can hold more than shoes. Try stashing wallets, small purses, umbrellas, and rolled-up hats and scarves in the handy compartments.
Place several matching boxes or bins that stack into a single unit on a desk or table in your entry. Label containers for each family member to create a personalized drop-off zone.
Editor Tip: Let people be as organized as they wish within their boxes, but establish a family rule that everything must be in your container before going to bed at night.
Kids use wall hooks when they can easily reach them. Supplement adult-height hangers with extra hooks and pegs hung about 3 feet from the ground. As kids grow, you can use these low hooks to organize hats and gloves, allowing longer coats on higher hooks to drape over the accessories.
Install a shower basin and floor drain in your entry to collect wet footwear. Add a wall faucet and flexible hose attachment for rinsing off mud and debris. (It's also handy for a quick pet bath.) And don't forget to include a fold-down bench for putting on shoes or stacking a few cleanup towels.
Take a cue from your child's classroom and install a display rail (available at office supply stores) on a wall or cabinet. Simply slide permission slips, homework, tickets, and other important papers into the rail. Ball bearings inside the rail hold everything in place.
DIY Idea: For additional organization, install two rails in your entry -- one for incoming papers and the other for outgoing items. Label the rails appropriately.
Squeeze essential tools for communication into a sliver of wall space near a door -- or mount everything to a cabinet's exterior. To recreate this message center, hang a magnetic memo board for notes, attach a series of small hooks for keys, and paint the wall or cabinet with high-gloss latex paint and leave messages using dry-erase markers.
A visual barrier that's 2-3 feet tall can hide lots of kid clutter. Create an entry niche by pairing tall storage lockers or cabinets along a back wall with shorter bookcases or partial walls at the front of the niche. For a more streamlined look, position the bookcases so the openings face into the nook, so what's stored inside them will be hidden from view.
Designate sturdy stacking bins to corral items by function or assign a bin to each family member. Add casters to a few bins and fill these with less-used items, such as off-season accessories or gear for inclement weather. Reserve the upper bins for frequently used items, such as school books and backpacks.
Wet and muddy toys and shoes are facts of life when you have kids, so plan ahead. Include one washable canvas bin or plastic basket to collect soggy pool supplies, used rain gear, and messy sandbox toys. In the event of a major mess, the entire container can be hosed down or placed in the shower. This bin is mounted to a slated wall; you can also set the bin inside a large tray on the floor, which will collect all the dirt, water, and debris.
If your family has lots of footwear, choose a wood or metal rack with enough slots for every family member to store two or three pairs of shoes. Can't find a large enough rack? Combine or stack several small ones. For greater storage capacity, choose racks with long, open shelves rather than cubbies.
Editor Tip: Establish a house rule about the number of shoes each family member can store in the entry.
Drop toys, sporting gear, and other stuff you don't need to access every day into storage ottomans or lidded baskets and bins. Hang essential everyday items, such as coats and bags, on nearby hooks or place on open shelves.
Organize your little artist's supplies with a divided storage cube. The compartments efficiently store paper, notebooks, and other art tools in one spot and can easily be tucked away when art time is over.
Mount mail boxes, file holders, or matching baskets to a wall near the back door. Assign each family member a container and fill with essential items. Train kids to drop mail and important papers in the appropriate containers. Leave useful items for children -- such as lunch money, signed documents, or umbrellas -- and encourage them to check their container before leaving for the day.
Rest shoes and boots on metal or plastic cooling racks (typically used for baking) that sit inside larger baking pans, which will collect water and dirt, leaving your floor clean. To clean off dried debris and mud, simply place the racks and pans in the dishwasher or hose off.
Hang cloth or canvas organizers designed for folded sweaters inside an entry closet or near the back door. Designate compartments for each family member with hanging tags and fill the cubbies with hats, helmets, and other seasonal accessories.