organizing a 6 year old . . . and her mom


Liz Jenkins


A client asked me to help her daughter (age 6) get organized. Never too young to start out right, I always say. So I went over to her home to check out the situation. My client, “Jane”, was concerned because her daughter didn’t seem to like to play in her room, and would leave toys all over the house. She didn’t seem to care a whole lot about her things either – they were constantly getting broken or misplaced. Temper tantrums were ensuing from the constant reminders and reprimands. Jane was at her wits end.

Here’s what I saw: “Sarah”, the daughter, had a lot of toys. Lots and lots of toys. It looked like “Toys R Us” had exploded in Sarah’s room. There were some bins, some shelves, and various attempts at storage. This wasn’t so much a problem with organizing and storage, this was an issue of trying to pack too much stuff in too small of a space. But it wasn’t just that. Before I “organized” Sarah, Jane and I needed to have a sit down and determine just why there was so much stuff in Sarah’s room, and where it all came from.

Here’s what it came down to:

  1. lots of hand-me-downs from various friends and family members and the inability to say “no” to them
  2. purchasing toys and games because they were cheap, convenient or on sale, and Sarah might like them someday
  3. rarely (OK never) evaluating and removing broken or unused toys because they might be fixed or come in handy one day

So to resolve this problem, I watched Sarah for a while and Jane watched Sarah for a while. We kept a record of which toys she played with and those she didn’t. The ones she played with, we set aside. Then we took every other item out of her room. We evaluated each toy, book and game to determine if it was a. age appropriate, b. in working condition, and c. something that Sarah maybe didn’t play with because she couldn’t find it. Everything else went into the garbage or to charity. Sarah then was given some choices. We had room for four games. Which four would she like? We had room for 10 bins. What would she like in each of those bins? And so on.

After placing each of the groups of items we ended up with (Barbie’s, Polly Pockets, books, etc.) in easily accessible bins and locations, Sarah now spends most of her free time in her room. She puts her things away with a minimum of resistance since she now knows where everything goes. And Jane has put a hold on new items coming into her room. I’m not always strict on the “one in – one out” rule, but in this case, it’s appropriate and it works.

Have a kid’s room question? Ask – and I’ll see what I can do!