4 Tips for Organizing the Playroom

Christine Pafumi
March 12, 2013

One mom's tried and true tips for playroom organization as part of the Care.com Interview Series

For Samantha of Simply Organized, organization is an art form. When it comes to the unique challenge of handling her playroom for three kids, it means managing three times the volume of toys and three times the mess! But Samantha, ever the passionate organizer, has come up with four creative ways to keep up with the playroom:

1. Use Bins and Labels
When her kids' toys started to get out of hand, Samantha purchased mesh see-through bins and labeled each of them with toy category names. "When it comes to clean-up, the kids just dump the toys into each of the bins," she says. "The labels make it easy for them to identify what goes inside."

2. Clean As You Go
Samantha doesn't believe in leaving messes for the end of the day. "I'm too much of a neat freak to allow the house to be a mess for more than a day," she muses. "If [it] is a mess when we wake up, Mom is usually in a bad mood."

3. Make Playroom Clean-Up Fun
"The best trick to getting the kids to help successfully is to make clean-up easy AND fun," Samantha notes. With games like I-Spy and seeing who can clean up the most the fastest, Samantha finds that her kids tend to stick around until the job is finished.

4. Discuss Big Toy-Related Organization Without The Kids
After discussing the need for paring down the kids' Lego collection in the car, Samantha and her husband realized how much their kids really hear when nobody thinks they're listening. "Little did we know that as we were stacking sets to go to a local garage sale, [the kids] were taking pieces out of the bags and hiding them. Only later did I discover their hiding spot when I walked into a dark closet and stepped into the pile of a glass-like, sharp-cornered Lego pieces."

Read more of Samantha's amazing tips in our full interview below.

Tell us about your family and your blog.

Our family unit includes me, my husband and our 3 children - 2 boys (6 and 8), 1 girl (3). [We] have been married for 10 years... God love him for surviving that long with my obsessive organization habits. I've been an organizer by nature my entire life, so having this blog allows me to write about my passion for organization while also sharing with readers how being organized can be easy and simple.

What is the golden rule of cleaning and organizing in your home?

Keep it simple. I think most people who want to be more organized start out feeling motivated and then give up because it can be overwhelming if you have systems that don't work for you. Go with what works for YOU - not what you see in magazines, which often times can be unreachable. Find systems that work for each personality type in your house. And keep it simple so the maintenance won't feel like more work.

Once you're a parent, kid stuff seems to turn up everywhere! Tell us about the biggest problem areas in your home.

The biggest problem areas in our home have involved toys or sports gear. All 3 of our children have different activities they enjoy. Once I spent a few nights mulling over ideas (with a lot of wine consumed in the process), I brainstormed a system for both problem areas that I thought would work for everyone living here. Since the systems have been in place, (most of the time) everything is where it should be.

What's your approach for a more intense spring cleaning/organizing?

I tend to leave the kids out of the equation. Having the kids around means nothing will get donated or passed on to friends and family. Suddenly, that Elmo toy in the donation bag that they haven't played with for 8 months is their new best friend. The bigger projects usually happen before Christmas and birthdays, when I know more toys and games will be coming into the house. During this time I also scan through each clothing closet to see if items can go out with the donations.

Do you ever incentivize your children to help out? How do you get your kids involved in home organization?

What? Me, resort to bribery? Never.

Ok, truth is I'm not immune to that tactic, but usually don't resort to it unless Christmas or a birthday is coming up. So, I use those holidays to remind them they will be receiving a lot of new things and we'll need room to put away those items. We even talk about their "wish lists" while we're cleaning. When they start talking about their new gifts, they can let go of what was bothering them to begin with - in this case, me asking them to help me clean or purge.

Has there ever been a time when your kids were trying to help and it ended up being anything BUT helpful? Tell us all the gory details of your kid cleaning/organizing disaster story!

Uuuummm, all the time. Isn't it funny how sometimes they are NOT into helping you when you've asked...and then there are times you don't want or need their help and nothing you do keeps them away from the scene?

The little angels really do think their way of doing things is helpful, and there is some truth to that. But when it comes to cleaning and organizing (and getting it done fully and accurately) on a big level, sometimes it's best to let the kids sit in front of the TV with a carton of ice cream.

If you could give other parents one tip about getting your kids to help out, what would it be?

Make the organization systems in your home truly kid-friendly. Start when they are young by having little buckets or baskets and then work your way up. If you start early and they know to always clean up at the end of a project or at the end of the day, you will still get the groaning, but they will know you mean business and will help out. Leading by example is good as well. If your personal spaces are a mess, they might catch on and use that against you. If you keep your spaces tidy, after a while it will become contagious (we hope!) and they will keep their spaces cleaned up too.

For more organizational tips, check out the Care.com Interview Series: How to Clean and Organize Your Home from Top to Bottom »

Samantha is passionate about organizing and finding new ways to make it easier. She uses her blog, Simply Organized, to share her organization ideas and money-saving tips. She lives in California with her husband and three children. You can also find Samantha on Facebook.

Photo used with permission from Samantha.

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