Tips for Organizing Kid Spaces

By Kate Riley March 16, 2011

I often get that question, “Hey Kate, are your kids’ rooms always as organized as they appear?” and I have to smile.  In truth, I find it completely impossible to keep kids’s rooms clean and organized all of the time.   Most days you can barely see the floor because my two little monkeys have managed to pull everything out.  They’re kids, they do what kids do best.  They eat, they play, the sleep.  And in between, they make a whole lotta messes.  

I have a few tactics I use, but to answer the big question on how to best keep kids’ spaces organized, I invited my good friend Cristin from Simplified Bee to offer a few tips.  Cristin is a busy mom of two girls, and a professional organizer too.  She’s a real pro when it comes to this topic. 



So Cristin, tell us all your secrets.  What are the best ways to keep those kid spaces clean and organized? 

“Keeping kids’ rooms organized is a challenge for most parents. How many of us have cleaned our child’s room only to find it turned upside down in minutes. And if you have a collector {dolls, rocks or toy cars} it can be especially painful to keep the space neat. Here are some helpful tips to help organize kids’ rooms:

cg organized kids bedroom


Before you purchase baskets, bins and furnishings, take inventory of all clothing, toys and books in your child’s room.  Start by sorting clothing based on condition {torn, stained, etc.}, size {too small} and use {winter jackets, sports/dance}.  Donate, sell or giveaway clothing that your child has outgrown and is still in good condition.  Discard all clothing that is torn or stained beyond repair.  Place all clothing that your child has not grown into yet in a clear plastic container and label {child’s name and size clothing}.

These bins should be stored on the top shelf of the child’s closet or in another area of your home.  For clothing your child is currently wearing, it’s best to hang coats, sweaters and dressy outfits.  Designate drawers in a dresser for socks and underwear, tee shirts, pants and sport or dance uniforms.

As for the toys, the process is very similar.  Sort all toys into groups.  Donate, giveaway, keep, toss or store the toy depending on its condition, size and how often it’s used or loved.  For example, you may want to store toys that are larger in a playroom or garage.

If age appropriate, get your child to help you sort items.  They may enjoy the process and learn why organizing and storing items into groups makes it easier to find items when we need them.

child's organized bookshelf LONImage

I am a huge fan of vertical storage options such as shelves and bookcases. Please make sure however, that they are secured to the wall for your child’s safety.

Organizing from bottom to top based on the child’s age and interest is the best way to get started.  Smaller children will enjoy having age appropriate toys and books at their level.  And if they can take them down, they can usually put them back.  Save higher shelves for items that are fragile, nostalgic or toys used less often. 

cg stylish kid storageImage


Shelving units are also a great area to incorporate and utilize compartmentalized storage products such as baskets, bins and pails.  Before purchasing storage bins, be sure to measure the height, depth and width of the shelves to ensure you buy the right size and number.  Sort toys, books or collections based on type and designate a bin for each group. 

 Labeling each bin {i.e. books, Barbies, Legos, etc.} might make sense for older children.  Toddlers however, might struggle to just assist in putting toys away. If the label becomes too much of an issue, then simply aim at getting the toys put away rather than in the correct bin.


laundry hampers for kidsImage


Every bedroom needs a trash can and a laundry hamper and kid’s rooms are no exception. Children can learn at a young age where to throw tissues and put dirty clothing. Invest in a hamper that allows your child to divide his laundry into darks and whites. This will help keep the floors clean of dirty laundry and will help educate them on how to wash clothing properly. In terms of trash cans, purchase one that can be wiped down easily and is small enough for a child to carry to the garbage can. Children should be educated on what is trash and what items can be recycled.

cg hooks for kids roomsImage


Hooks are another great way to help organize your kids’ room.  With so many cute styles to choose from, I’m sure you will find one that goes with your room’s decor.  Hang hooks on the back of the door, in the closet or on a wall.  In any case, hang it at the level the child can reach it when possible.  This will make them feel more important and in turn want to use them!

Regardless of your child’s age, make it a daily routine to clean their room.  Kids over the age of about six should be able to clean their room with little help from parents.  Toddlers will need some assistance.  In any case, schedule a time each day {ours is before bedtime stories} to pick up the room.  Putting toys and clothing away at the end of the day will allow for a more peaceful bedtime.

Reward your children for their work with praise, hugs or stickers.  Track their progress on a chart or add the task to their weekly allowance.  If you value and recognize your child’s hard work, they will be more apt to clean their room the next day. It’s a win-win for everyone!”

Well said Cristin, thank you!!  


I agree, the keys to keeping kid clutter at bay are to 1) purge frequently when they’re not looking! 2) provide them with an actual space to put their clothes and toys, and 3) train those monkeys to clean up their toys as part of a daily routine.

My kids playspace rarely ever  looks this clean, but we do aim to keep it somewhat close to this. I’m a big believer in colorful bins to achieve organization.  Kids love them because they are so naturally drawn to bright cheerful color.   Stuffed animals, crayons, random collections they make ~ it’s all got to have a place or chaos happens.   And yes, there is a game of musical rugs going on around this house. 

kids playroom media center

I use all kinds of different storage solutions, including magazine holders for the educational books, simple tags, and inexpensive bins for corraling movies and other plastic toys.  Colorful cloth bins are the greatest invention since sliced bread for any frazzled mom, and you can find them at all price ranges. 

Like Cristin advises, making sure they fit your unit is important.  I’ve picked up baskets and bins over the years in places like Target, the Container Store, Michaels, or Walmart, and also online at stores like The Land of Nod. 

storage solutions

And nothing beats the all purpose basket for storing just about anything from coloring books, to Legos, to building blocks.  

coloring books in basket


Hooks are a fantastic way to get clothes or costumes off the floor.

hooks on doors

In our boy’s room we take full advantage of a tall storage unit for trains, puzzles, Hot Wheels, and pirate booty. 

boys room shelves

In my girl’s room, I use sweet hatboxes (found at the Land of Nod) to store dollhouse furniture, and all those Polly Pockets she’s so into these days.  A homemade ruffled skirt around my old coffee table from college hides all sorts of other treasures. 

cg dollhouse

Barbies, jewelry, and even socks are stored in this desk.  My girl loves her collection of bells, but like Cristin mentioned, they are kept up above to deter playing with them.

cg girls room

Kids spaces never look as pretty or clean or organized as they do in pictures, and some days, you’ve just got to let it all go.  Most of the time I do.  I think it’s more important sometimes to just get down on the floor to make the messes with them. 

So c’mon busy moms, time for you to chime in.  What are your best tips for keeping your kid spaces organized? 

 Or is that asking the impossible?




  1. we only have enough room for certain amount of stuff in our super small playroom. i make sure that it all has a ‘home’ (storage bin or drawer or basket) if and when things get a little dissorderly i do a ‘toy purge’ and always find a few things that can be thrown out like broken toy or two and the occasional headless barbie. we have a rule (might be silly) but it is necessary for us in this small house: If a new toys comes into the hose, an old toy must leave the house! it is always messy, with two little ones but i know that everything has a place at the end of the day…so i can deal with messes for a little while.

    and i agree with the part about teaching kids at an early age how to pick up after themselves. great tips! loved this post!

  2. i do a monthly toy purge ( there always seems to be a few broken toys and/or headless barbies) and we have a rule: if a new toy comes into the house, an old toy must leave the house.
    love this post!! great tips.

  3. I switch out my children’s toys every 3 months or so – half go in the basement to store, half stay out. Every time I do that, I send some to consignment (if they’re in good shape, or outgrown and I don’t want to keep them for the next baby), some to charity, and some to the garbage can – anything with missing pieces/pages, etc. The kids know that the instant part of a toy breaks, if I’m around to witness it, into the garbage it goes unless it is easily fixable!

    Clothing always seems to be around! I like to go 10 days without having to do laundry if needed which means there are a few extra outfits always. But I do have my system – 3 boxes hidden under the crib (girl too small, boy too small, and next season for both), and one in the closet with the next size my baby will wear. Other than that, I’m at a loss! My kids are so small, 3 and 1 1/2, that only the toddler would be able to sort toys and since the baby would undo any of her work, I don’t bother to teach her yet. I also don’t keep a trash can in their shared room because of the baby, who loves getting things out of trash cans.

  4. Toy purges are my FAVORITE! Sometimes I let Indy choose the toys to get rid of and sometimes I just throw away junkie toys while he’s outside playing. We have the IKEA Expedit shelving in his room (a 2×4 and a 2×2) and we used to have red and blue bins in them (back when he had a pirate themed room), but now he has an adventure/explorer room and we wanted to change the boxes without spending a lot of money. IKEA has some small heavy duty cardboard boxes with attached lids for about $1 each that looked very cart-out-o- the-expedition, and fit into the Expedit shelves. We sorted all his toys by type (Lego’s, Indiana Jones, Cars/Transportation, Dinos, Etc) into the boxes and put them in the shelving. I also don’t get too fussy over what drawer his clothes go in. He now folds and puts his own clothes away and it used to drive me crazy if there were shirts in 2 drawers and pants in 3. I decided to let that one go though. As long as the clothes are folded and put away, I’m happy.
    He has to clean his room every night before bed. Anything left out gets confiscated for an unspecified amount of time. This is BIG motivation for putting stuff away.

  5. Hi Kate! I am a stickler when it comes to everything having a “home” and I LOVE to organize. My girls’ rooms have the baskets, hatboxes, boxes and hooks. For the most part I try to think of where something will “live” in their room before we bring it home. Of course that all goes out the window at birthdays or Christmas, but then I’m in heaven, I have to organize to make room for all the new things! Their rooms are both soo cute, when they’re tidy. But why is it the 12 year old’s room always looks like a bomb hit? When she was younger she put everything in its place and now apparently she thinks that place is the floor! My five year is much better and clean up and I hope it stays that way. Great topic. LOVE you blog and your house is gorg!!! You’ve inspired me to redo some furniture for the first time ever. I’m in Canada and can’t wait for it to warm up enough so I can get out in the garage and paint. You’d love a solid wood side table I picked up for $15. I’ll post before and after picks of fb when I done with it. Have a great day! : D

  6. You can never have too many hooks or baskets, especially in a kid’s room. I love the way you’ve repurposed your old coffee table – great idea!


  7. All of our kid spaces (three bedrooms, plus their playroom) have the Ikea Expedit shelving units. They are such a neat way to store a lot of different items.

  8. I have four kids (with various opinions on the subject of how clean is ‘clean’) ages 10, 8, 5 and 2. I actually find that sorting through toys (to donate and some to trash) is a fun activity for them. They make the piles and have at it and I come back at the end to make sure they haven’t trashed ones I want to keep (Usually I have to remind the older ones that the younger ones still like to play with the toys they themselves have outgrown). We do this every year after Thanksgiving and before Christmas.

  9. Before my girls could read, I took close up photos of what went in each of their storage bins, printed them and laminated them and attached them to the fronts. They couldn’t read the letters that spelled blocks, but they could match a photo of blocks. It helped tremendously for that “in between” stage where they’re old enough to participate in clean up, but young enough to need a lot of guidance.

  10. Great tips!
    While my children’s toys and books are stored in their respective rooms, the little guy loves to play in the family room, where we only store board games and try to keep it neat because it is the main tv/living room. So I keep a large basket that ties in with the decor in the room and he’s only allowed to keep as many Legos and action figures that will fit in basket/in the room at one time. When company is coming, or when we feel it is time to rotate toys, we can carry it up to his room to be emptied.
    The 12 year old girl is a challenge since she likes her room to “look like someone actually lives in it” according to her. Things that have a “home” are invariably scattered all over the floor or desk/dresser surfaces instead of in a bin or a drawer or on a shelf. Drives me batty! What to do?

  11. Great ideas – as a Mom of grown girls….

    I found the hook thing works best for towels in the bathroom too. Kids can’t do a towel rack.

    Another pointer for young school age children that have learned to read – sit in their room and make a simple list of what they need to do. (make is specific and keep the number of chores at age they are) They like to mark off a list just like Mom does and it helps commuicate what you want them to accomplish.

  12. I have a hard time getting rid of toys right now because mine are 2 years apart…and not yet old enough to share toys. My youngest is just turning 1…so the plastic food that my 3 year old use to love but now just likes to dump it onto the floor will be good playthings in a couple months…but not now. So my storage space is chock full of “old” toys waiting to be cycled out again someday. I think that annoys me the most is that my back storage room is just full of old toys waiting to come back out. But for the most part, the Martha Stewart bins have a place in my heart for being stylish and keeping the majority of the toys in their place. I just can’t wait until both boys are old enough to play with each other’s things! Life will be so much easier!

  13. I’m a big fan of bins! We have a large built-in bookshelf in our addition that houses lots and lots of those fabric-sided bins. We have separate bins for Polly Pockets (we have enough to start a Polly Pocket colony), PetShop, Barbies, dollhouse furniture and people (again, enough of those to form their own commune), art stuff, etc. It helps SO MUCH to have those bins, and the girls don’t have to dig through a giant box to find their favorite stuff.

    We TRY to follow the “put this back before you pull something else out,” but my hubs is more into that rule than I am. I don’t have time to play the toy police all day…we do our best to clean up before bedtime…but sometimes it just doesn’t get done. :s

    This was a great post–will feature it for sure on Friday…also motivated me to post about our built-in! :)

  14. This is a great post! The only thing I would add is that I find it’s a good idea to get the kids involved in the toy purging from time to time. I think it’s good practice for them to be able to cull their own belongings and learn when it is appropriate to let something go (either because they’ve outgrown it and they can bless someone else with it or because it’s broken, etc.) A useful skill I hope sticks with them as they get older!

  15. Great tips! It’s a constant battle keeping my 2 year olds room and playroom organized. On a side note, I am head over heels for your daughters bedroom. Not to mention that desk. I am in love with it! That’s what got me hooked on your blog! The color is perfect!

  16. Hello Kate,
    I love all the tips and loved seeing how adorable your kids rooms/spaces are. I’ve always been an organizing junkie but have recently decided to be a de-clutter/downsizing junkie. I’ve decided NOT to store anything anymore. (after years of storing everything) My girls are 6.5 years apart in age and I’ve been storing all the hand-me-downs for years. I’ve decided I’m done with that and donated them all. Living in America we are all so blessed that I’m not going to keep hording anything. lol (that’s just me overcoming being selfish) I think I’ve entered the simple stage and that’s how I’ll be organizing.

    Love your blog, thanks for sharing!

  17. So many fabulous ideas! As the mom to 3 now teenagers, getting the kids involved in any way from clean up, to organizing, to purging is really helpful. These days, even though on a daily basis, their rooms are not always neat and organized, once a week or so each of them does a thorough straightening, and I don’t always have to ask!


  18. Beautiful pictures and tips. I can’t wait until my daughter grows a little older to have her room beautiful as this. I already bought different decor and have to deal with it until later. But, I love these ideas!! Thanks for the pictures Kate.

  19. Agreed, Skooks. Kids can learn so much more than just organization when you have a discussion with them about kids who can’t afford nice toys to play with, or kids who lose their favorite stuffed animal in a fire or flood, or kids with no parents to buy them new shoes. Let them be active in finding their things a new loving home.

  20. My daughter’s room is pretty much always organized because she spends little time there. We have a playroom filled with toys which is almost never organized! But to help out when I’m cleaning in there I’ve re-used her old changing table as storage shelves. Just a few bins and buckets and there’s a place for her crayons and Toy Story toys.

  21. Wow, I love your little girl room, do you have more pictures? I’m planning a redo for my 4 & 2 year old girls to share and love the colors in your room.

  22. Hi! Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog! I’m embarking on my own adventures with spray paint after studying (no, really. like taking notes and reviewing and making flash cards, stuydying) your blog for awhile! I’m trying to blog about it a bit, it’s a work in progress (both the painting & blogging)! Thanks for all the great tips.

  23. Can I ask, Where did you get the Flower Wall Hooks in the picture of your daughter’s room?

  24. I am so bookmarking this!!! This is a daily challenge for me. Actually my whole house. We moved from a 2-story to a 1-story and I’m finding toys in every corner of the house. Ahhhhhh!!! Part of it is that I have an 18 month old though…

    The Cheeky Cafe

    P.S. My adorable tote giveaway ends tonight, so make sure you enter;)

  25. This post spoke to me SOOOO much!!! With an almost 3-year old, almost 2-year old and a six month old (yes, you read that right!) I feel like the toys are taking over my house sometimes. We are living in military housing in San Diego, aka: tiny!! and I don’t like toys in the kids’ bedroom. I would prefer having one room for sleeping and one for playing but our space doesn’t allow for that right now so all of the toys are in our living room. Awesome. I am definitely going to have to take some of these organization tips and use them in our home. Thank you so much for a wonderful and helpful post!!! I love your blog…you are truly talented! Much Love!


  26. I need to reread this and try some of the tips. Right now my kids’ rooms are complete disasters. My kids get towers of gifts from their grandparents at Christmas, and several gifts for birthdays, too. I have tried to persuade them to give some of it in cash, but they refuse. Makes for great yard sales. @@

    I had to disagree with hanging sweaters, though. I don’t like the hanger marks on the shoulders, and the way my kids pull things off the hangers, sweaters would be destroyed.

  27. What I have come to realize is that allowing your kids to donate toys on a regular basis help minimize clutter in their spaces therefore it makes it a little easier to organize them. At the same time it makes the messes less!

    I purchase storage containers, but with my rough boys, they have to be very sturdy otherwise they become part of the clutter themselves!!!

    Your “boy’s” room turned out great! Did I already say that?!

  28. I love your blog! I have gotten a lot of inspiration from you.

    I love to organize and I am queen of the bins and label maker. You should see my garage!

    One way we have reduced clutter is eliminating it at the front door. My son gets three gifts from Santa at Christmas in honor of the Christ child receiving three gifts from the Magi. We started that at his first Christmas. He also has to purge out toys he no longer plays with before Christmas and his birthday to make room for new ones. For birthdays he often gets memberships to the zoo, or tuition for a sport or class from his grandparents, instead of toys. Also, for birthday parties now that he is older, he gets gifts from family, but he requests donations for the local food bank or other cause from his guests instead of gifts.

    I know those aren’t organizing tips per se, but it has helped us a lot.

  29. I’m not a mom, but I clearly remember my mom training us to clean up after ourselves and telling my brother and I to put things away when we were done with them. By the time we were five, we made our beds every morning, dusted our rooms on the weekend and kept our toys put away… everything had its place. Looking back, my mom is pretty amazing, because we never got an allowance— she always told us “you live under this roof, and we all make the effort to keep this house clean. No one is going to pay you to clean your house when you get older!” Boy, was she right.

  30. My cheap way of keeping the toys organized for the kids is to recyle diaper boxes. To make them more attractive I slap on a brown grocery bag (inside out so the store name doesn’t show) covering the box on the outside using good ol’ Modge Podge. The bag doesn’t wrap around entirely, so I use colorful scrap paper to make the ends meet–as well as to add the fun splash of color. Small strips of packaging tape at the bottom of the box (both inside and outside) keep the little toys from slipping out through the bottom. I put a picture on the end of the box with the colorful paper so they can easily find and put away the toys. (I usually grab the pictures representing the toys somewhere from cyper world, but they could easily come for a magazine).

    I have three boys 6, 3 and 1, so these boxes are not indistructable, but they are easily replaceable.

    To keep the chaos to a minimum we try to limit the number of boxes out to 2-3 at a time. Then the rule of thumb is “put a box away before you take out another”. (My 3-year-old is better at this than the 6-year-old.

  31. What’s funny is that the first phot you posted has been my inspiration for my office/guestoom for months. LOL!

    I love the idea of an organizd kids room. If only they stayed that way. Le sigh!

  32. I recently learned an invaluable trick from another blog, The Inspired Room. She said that when you want your house is destroyed and you want your kids to help clean up real fast (as opposed to the thorough clean-clean) have them pick up everything that doesn’t belong on the floor. Skip the surfaces like coffee tables and such. Simply picking up the floor makes all the difference in the world!

    I have been using this trick for the last 5 days… and it’s amazing how well it works!

  33. There is only one thing you need to do: Have your kids pick up their room every night before bed as part of the bedtime routine. Stop picking up after them. There is no reason any child over 18 months is not cleaning up after herself. Yes, you help, but not do it all for them.

    If you do it every night and work together, it takes a minute, maybe 2. It helps calm them down, brings a calm feeling to the room. After a month, it’s an ingrained habit.

    The earlier you start the better. We have done this with our child since she was old enough to pick things up and put them in a bin, which was sometime around 13 months – a game she played with herself during the day. She LOVED picking things up, putting them in a box, dumping them, repeat. She was clearly capable of picking things up, so we just went with it.

  34. I love the hat boxes in your girl’s room! I love storage ottomans. They don’t look like storage, but they sure hold a lot!

  35. I’m a huge fan of all these ideas! I wanted to add a tip that has made a huge difference in our house. We have a two-story home, and my daughter loves to bring miscellaneous toys downstairs ALL the time. Originally, I would make several trips upstairs to put them away, only to find more toys sporadically placed downstairs. I picked up a really cute (and cheap!) basket to keep in our living room. We call it the ‘Elevator Basket’. Whatever needs to be brought up to the second story can be tossed in the basket. At the end of the day, the Elevator Basket goes up and my kid (and my Hubby!) put their things away. I think the beauty of the basket is that it helps keep the house more clutter-free:) xo

  36. From my teaching days I learned these tips:
    Take a picture of the toy and use that as the label for non readers. Use the sticky backed plastic label sleeves so you can change the pictures easily.
    All small pieces go in ziploc bags with the directions or puzzle picture cut out and placed in the bag with the pieces.
    Hanging shoe organziers (the kind you put over the door) are perfect for rolled up tights, mittens, hats, etc. They also make great craft organizers, playdoh holders, etc.. Cut in half to hang at child height.

  37. Our main tip for keeping kids spaces clean is to make little messes and clean them up before they become gigantic messes. We have the kids clean up every evening before bed, no matter what! And on the weekends we sometimes clean up and lunch and at dinner. Some people really object to this method because they feel it restricts the kids from really “getting into it” but i think it is beneficial because the mess doesn’t get to the point of such utter frustration that the kids can’t clean it up themselves. (You know, that point when the barbie shoes are mixed in with random puzzle pieces, and lego parts, and random plastic things– no one knows what any of it is or where it belongs at that point– not even me!)

  38. I love your idea of covering an old coffee table that you’re not using. We have one and I’d love to do that. Any tips on how you made your ruffle skirt to cover yours?

  39. Did you paint the desk in your daughters room? If so, could you tell me the color? Both rooms are beautiful.

  40. Awesome Post! I am interested in the bed pictured in your child’s room….Did you cover that in fabric yourself? If so, can you post details? :)

  41. Can you tell me where you can find the kids playroom media center or something similar that I could use in a nursery maybe as a changing area? Thanks

  42. As an educator and a parent, in response to what read on another blog, here are my ideas about what to do to avoid being overrun by your children’s toys.
    1.Bathrooms need toys. Those of us who are alone with little ones usually leave the door open so we can hear what our little tot is up to. It’s good to have a special toy that will keep their interest rather than a new toilet paper carpet.
    2.Develop your child’s decision making skill and let them choose in cooperation with you what toys should be donated. Have a donation box easily accessible to your child. If they don’t play with any of the toys in an agreed amount of time (one or two weeks), then donate the toys. Try to take your child with you so he/she has a meaningful experience.
    3.If you want to keep your living room free of toys, restrict the size so toys can be stored in an ottoman, bench or basket. I made a toy train made out of cardboard boxes linked with cord so at clean up time, my son could put the top on the box and pull the train to his room or the playroom. He’d make stops at certain crossing (the kitchen and the hall to pick up “strays”). Always remember to give a 5 minute and a 2 minute “toot toot” as clean up reminders.
    4.The first playroom should be your child’s bedroom. If your child is very young, you need toys in every room because you need to be watching him/her. Organization will allow you not to feel like your are living in a toy store. Although you could look at toy stores for organization and stlyling ideas (what goes on shelves – what goes in bins). Any Montessori parent or educatior will tell you it is never too early to label where things go and train your child to put toys back. It’s a matter of “What I learned in Kindergarten” providing the life skills your child will need later on.
    5.Not everyone has room for a separate playroom, but whether you do or don’t the approach is the same. Younger children do better with bins that are open so they can see what in there. Older children can have containers that are closed. All containers should have labels with a picture of one of the objects pasted to the label. Large glue dots work well and can be removed without damage.

  43. Can you tell me where you got that white window shade? it is ADORABLE and I am looking for something similar. Thanks : )

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