Organizing Kids’ Stuff: The Big Kids Room Purge

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When it comes to organizing kids stuff, the biggest challenge can be getting kids to discard what they love most. In this post I’ll be sharing with you how I helped me kids organize and purge and get rid of what they’re done with. When you’re done, check out my tips for craft room organization. This post contains affiliate links.

Do you find that each time your kids look for something, they dump everything out and can never clean up? Time for a huge purge.

We just did a mega purge of the boys’ (ages 9 and 6) room.

By mega, I mean that we threw out two stuffed kitchen garbage bags. Donated a few items. Had a contractor’s garbage bag equivalent of recyclables. Moved a kitchen garbage bag’s worth to appropriate playroom play areas… The before and after is telling.

The bins:

The bins after

The desk:

The shelves:

About our Project

You might be used to seeing picture-perfect storage solutions, with matching acrylic containers with perfectly square edges because clearly that will fit the max…

But I’m not a professional organizer. I’m a mom working with my kids on a budget, not trying to get aesthetic results for a client. So the goal was FUNCTION and of course, if you want to get that beautiful look, go ahead and get nicer containers!

My tricks will still help you.

There’s a very specific system that I used that I figured I’d share with fellow moms.

Why the Kids MUST Help with Organizing Kids Stuff

Before I get started with my system, it’s important for you to understand: what exactly gets stored in the boys’ room? Why did I involve them? And are these toys we’re purging or not?

Many parents have advised things like “I purge without my kids” or “you just gotta sneak things away” or “DON’T STORE TOYS IN THEIR ROOM!!”

Shared toys in our home are stored in the playroom – and most toys are shared. However, items that belong specifically to one child gets stored with their “stuff” – in their own spaces in their shared bedroom. This includes some birthday gift toys, but is mostly kits, prizes, fidgets, keychains, memories, and those small “treasures” that kids insist on keeping. The main LEGO is in the playroom, but those few personal sets are with their stuff.

Balls – a small selection of rubber balls – with no duplicates kept. Transforming toys: most are with the main toys, but a few personal Bakugans and similar are stored here. Activities: also, mostly with the art desk and room desk but a few personal ones are here. Treasures are small rocks, marbles, foreign coins. Keychains – duplicates removed. And 2-3 small personal LEGO sets.

In a nutshell, I believe strongly in allowing kids to have their own storage spaces and “valuable property” to teach them about personal privacy and rights. They need to know that there are things that are THEIRS and that they do not need to share it if they don’t feel comfortable doing so.

Giving them this value in a tangible property-focused manner helps them learn about the value of privacy and body rights as well.

Therefore, I would not touch it without them. I would not throw out THEIR stuff or give it away without their express permission. We worked one-on-one, which also carved “together” time in a calm, non-timed manner.

And a final perk: Organizing kids stuff with the kids’ help means that they know how it works. They understand the systems you’ve created – they even participated in the decision making process! This means that they can maintain it, figure out where to store new items, and know how to organize in the future.

They are both absolutely delighted with the results. And their room has stayed MUCH cleaner in the month plus since we did this. Cleanup takes five minutes max.

A Bit of Background on the Bedroom Space

We moved into our almost-hundred-year-old home two years ago. Parts were renovated by us, parts were renovated recently, and parts look like they haven’t been touched since the 50’s. The boys’ room falls into the last category.

It has charm (think a metal pencil sharpener, built-in bookcases and dressers) but it also has quirks (wood paneling in an awful color, linoleum flooring.

When you move into a new house, you don’t really know the systems you need. You kind of just need to unpack. It takes living there a bit to learn the new space.

So this is our first reorganization since we just “landed” in the room.

Organizing kids stuff is just the start. One of the tricks to staying organized is to have good systems, some of which I share with you here.

How We Got it Done

Process Outline for Organizing Kids Stuff

As I mentioned, I worked with each child individually on their things. The only exception was the desk, which is shared. Because we hadn’t partitioned it until now, we worked on it together, carving out shared spaces and individual spaces for each.

Y arts more so his personal bin is fuller. We dismantled his art kit since the box was broken and put the parts in cases instead.

They also each have a built- in bookcase, and three large bins from an IKEA TROFAST unit.

This is our system for organizing kids stuff together

I highly recommend this printable visual workbook for doing this with the kids! Print as many of each page as you need. It was designed with Passover in mind but there is a year-round cover for you to use PLUS it follows the same process and includes purging tips for kids!

  • Work kid by kid, space by space
  • Remove items from shelf or bin
  • As you remove, sort into keep, donate, trash, store as a family toy
  • When storage spaces are empty, sort the “keep” items into piles based on category.
  • Find appropriate storage for each category once you have a pile and know how much there is. Choose something that will have a little extra space.
  • Return them to the shelf in a logical manner.

Here are some of the categories we used

Toys and prizes: We ended up with small bins for private LEGO sets (most LEGO is shared), fidgets, small toys and medium toys. Larger toys sit loose on the shelf. They are all single part or self-storing toys. Toys with more parts would get a case and a label.

We could have put the larger toys in the Trofast bin, however, I’m trying to see if we can actually get rid of that whole unit. Right now only one bin is in use. I don’t want the kids dumping in and out.

Books simply sit on the bookcase. This includes things like their Pokemon card albums, personal books (most are shared but there are a few personal ones), memory books, etc.

Memories and other papers: This was a HUGE clutter maker and the kids really purged a lot. But there was a bit left. Each kid has a small coupon file and a larger expanding file for memories, photos, and artwork. When it’s full it means it’s time to purge. Both of theirs were really far from full by the time we finished. You want these to be easily accessible so that they’ll put future memories away nicely.

Treasures: One thing that the kids love to keep but really doesn’t get used much and is just a mess-maker is those little treasures. Think: gems, pretty rocks, cool (or uncool foreign) coins, etc. This got its own container.

Cards: Any category that didn’t have enough for its own album got a pencil case.

Art supplies: I encouraged most of them to go into a single bin in the shared portion of the desk. This means they’re sharing with each other, but still not with their marker-monster toddler sister. Anything not shared got a personal pencil box in their desk drawer. All coloring and sketchbooks went there too, with some reverting to “shared”.

Kits: There were so many craft kits in the room! I convinced M to consolidate some that I couldn’t get him to purge, and most of them were moved to the basement art desk, which is where they do this stuff anyway. Those I allow them to keep for themselves as they are high up and not with regular toys

The blue vertical box and the booklet to the right used to be a “Balloon animals” kit that took up a whole shelf – almost. It didn’t close properly and the balloons were all over. He did not want to purge it, so we consolidated. The brown box is one he built and wanted to keep so we made that his “treasure” box.

A few tricks

Open storage: one of the best pieces of advice that I got when starting this project was to use OPEN STORAGE! This makes it easier for kids to just dump things into the correct bin! I applied this only for “mixed” bins – that is, bins that contain a category of heavy-use item, not a single item. So the small toys bin, the fidget bin, etc would be open. The art case wouldn’t. That you pull out, use, cover, put away.

Click or zip shut storage – There’s no such thing as a lid that doesn’t latch here. It’s either open, or it closes securely.

Keep to use or to have? Another great bit of advice that I received was to categorize all “keep” items as keep to use or keep to keep. This helps you prioritize where you store it, allowing memories to not get in the way of heavy use items.

Y’s “I just wanna keep it” stuff – on the top shelf where they won’t cause clutter.
M’s top shelf is also keep to have and not to use. It also doubles as a bit of display.

Parental guidance: I definitely encouraged them and taught them as we worked. They LEARNED new skills themselves. How will you enjoy those toy dinosaurs more? In your small toy bin up here or with the other animal toys downstairs? What about the five Hot Wheels cars you have here?

When was the last time you used this? Does it get in the way when you want to find your favorite (enter favorite toy here)?

Kids don’t necessarily have those skills ingrained, and it’s overwhelming for them. Having full-time one-on-one parental guidance for this was essential to teach them these skills, keep them on track, and ensure that it’s done properly. But ultimately every final decision was theirs – even if I disagreed. Because it’s THEIR stuff. Period.

The Storage Tools We Used for Organizing Kids Stuff

Before we started, I pulled together the items I purchased special (listed below) as well as any spare storage supplies I had around the house and we set up a “store”. The kids REALLY had fun with this part! They did it – not me!

The kids did have some items that they wanted to keep that were really storage. Think: that pencil case I personalized for M in first grade, the wood box he built in camp… So we used those as storage as appropriate so that they’re not just saved.

I also did a huge stock-up on the smaller storage items before we started organizing kids stuff. Leftover items will be used as storage in other parts of the house.

Dollar store bins these help keep medium items corralled. I had these left over from other organizing projects.

Open containers – Ditto.

Traditional pencil boxes – these are the classic sized ones that we grew up with. I got a style that stacks nicely. We had it handy for items that required this size.

Smaller pencil boxes – these pencil boxes take up so little space and stack so nicely. They are FABULOUS for kids who have a zillion little categories of stuff. Use them!

Pencil cases – I also bought a huge pack of mesh pencil cases that’s great for small odd assorted items that just need to be consolidated. If you have more than just a few of these for a kid, you’ll want them in their own storage bin. However, since we just used a few per kid, they are lined up like books on the shelf.

Drawer organizers this was mainly used in the shared desk space.

Keeping Things Clean after Organizing Kids Stuff

Now the trick is to keep it clean! And it almost does that on its own.

First of all, the kids don’t dump a whole bin every time they want something. Previously, a couple of days after we’d clean it would already be messed up from their morning play. Now, they haven’t cleaned their room in the five weeks since we did this and there are only a few things out of place!

(I do have them do a weekly laundry pick-up on my laundry day.)

Second, every time I see they have a new prize, and it’s left around the house, I don’t just tell them to put it away. I ask them: where are you going to keep this? They usually give a good answer. The fidgets! The medium toys!

I’ve also told them that we have extra containers so if there’s something new they need to store, we should find a container for it.

It’s also important to acknowledge that there will always be clutter accumulating. The more flat surfaces (such as the desk, the TROFAST unit) the more clutter there will be.

But keeping that minimal makes cleanup more doable.

In a nutshell, this process was overwhelmingly successful, and I felt I’d be selfish if I didn’t share. I hope it helps!

Got any tips to add for organizing kids stuff? Comment below!

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