Let's be real: Sometimes it takes all you have to simply keep the kids fed, bathed and entertained on any given day. Cleaning up and staying organized can easily fall to the bottom of the priority list when spelling tests, basketball practice and work deadlines loom large.
As much as parents may aspire to keep a Pinterest-worthy home, often it's not in their hands when kids have a funny knack for undoing their parents' best efforts at tidying up.
Whether it's spring cleaning, the prospect of hosting your friend's baby shower or simply a desire to regain your sanity that's driving your assault on the chaos of clutter, getting organized can feel sooo good. We took a look at some common kids stuff that junks up most family homes – and offer some solutions to get them in check.
What you USUALLY do: Let it overrun your kitchen fridge and walls or stuff it in a cabinet where it collects dust before reaching its final resting place: the trash can.
What you SHOULD do: Sure, you could buy one of those clothesline wall displays, but consider a more high-tech solution. Take pictures of your kids' artwork and upload them to the Artkive app for digital preservation.
Bonus Tip: At year's end, make a photo book of all your child's masterpieces.
2. Hair accessories
What you USUALLY do: Stuff headbands, hair ties, ribbons and barrettes in a drawer or cosmetic bag, practically guaranteeing you'll never find matching barrettes when you need them.
What you SHOULD do: Try this DIY solution we found on Pinterest from Loving My Domestic Life. Affix one or more long ribbons to a child's hanger and clip barrettes and hair bows neatly to it.
Bonus Tip: Come up with a consistent "color order" for your home where everything (clothes, barrettes, etc.) is organized in that order. For instance, "Red, Yellow, Blue, Orange, Green, Purple, Brown, Black." Teach the "color order" to your kids to encourage their organizational skills, strengthen their memory and, above all, make matching clothes and accessories easier to find.
3. Stuffed animals
What you USUALLY do: Unbury your child from her menagerie each morning or cave in and purchase a pet net.
What you SHOULD do: Avoid thinning the herd and instead store the animals in their own zoo, like this one made by British company Little Zookeepers. It's around $145 plus shipping.
Bonus Tip: Keep those filthy animals clean by designating a "critter bath day" in which your child has to wipe down each precious plushy with a warm, wet washcloth (with perhaps a drop of dish detergent in the mix). Great chore that feels like an extension of play.
What you USUALLY do: Although you may arrange them in neat rows in your child's closet or on the floor of the mudroom in your home, they never seem to stay that way – and your kids are constantly scrambling to find a lost shoe.
What you SHOULD do: Consider the Rakkiddo for Kids – a fun and functional solution great for those who are short on floor space. This wheel o' shoes can accommodate up to 20 pairs of kicks and will make putting away shoes fun (at least for a little while!).
Bonus Tip: Mudroom or entry cluttered with shoes? Establish a rule on how many shoes each family member can have out at any given time.
5. Miscellaneous toys
What you USUALLY do: Grudgingly surrender that there will always be a sea of toys to slog through and a stray Lego to impale your foot in the dead of night.
What you SHOULD do: Forget the traditional toy boxes or storage bins. Kids can't see what toys are where, so they dump them and pick through, meaning they don't address the mess most of the time. Instead, try Rubbermaid's new All Access Organizers; they have a clear, drop down door in the front for easy retrieval of those blasted Legos and other kid toys.
Bonus Tip: Enforce a cap that your kids can't have more toys than can fit in a certain number of bins (three? four?). Once they surpass that, they'll have to select some toys to donate to charity.
6. Craft supplies
What you USUALLY do: Store them haphazardly in bins or playroom cabinets, mixing crayons with colored pencils, glue sticks and markers.
What you SHOULD do: Make sure your kids' creative tools are on-the-go ready by making a cool caddy like the one we found on the Better Homes & Gardens Pinterest page.
Bonus Tip: Have one for each child. Let them customize it both in its contents (googly eyes for him; glitter for her) and by decorating the caddy itself.
7. Bath toys
What you USUALLY do: Let the toys lie in the tub gathering mildew.
What you SHOULD do: Welcome the Whale Pail into your home. This OXO organizer is cute, suctions conveniently to the wall and has drainage holes, so toys thoroughly dry between use. Runs about $20.
Bonus Tip: If mold and mildew have already crept onto your child's bath toys, give them a clean slate by washing them with a mix of 3/4 cup bleach to one gallon of warm water. Soak for a few minutes, rinse and thoroughly dry.