Tired of tripping over LEGOs? Can’t figure out how to organize your kids’ coats and shoes? Want to reclaim your living room and create a grown-up space that looks and feels great, but is also kid-friendly? Interior Designer and Home Organizer Sara Eizen exclusively dished to us on how to start tackling these issues as well as the clutter in your kids’ rooms and play spaces (and how to prevent it from getting out of control again). Scroll down to see how you can get started, what to do when your big kids won’t back away from their baby toys, how to organize with ease and efficiency and when to call in the pros.
1. What is the number one mistake parents make when they try to organize their kids’ rooms?
Sara Eizen: “Making a system that is too complicated for kids to keep up with. Staying organized is all about maintaining the system which means kids need to be able to pick up after themselves when play time is over. Consider your child’s age and stage before choosing an option. Bins and baskets are easier for younger kids to use and maneuver; drawers and storage carts work better with older kids.”
2. Should the kids be involved, or should you do it yourself when they’re not around?
Sara Eizen: “This is tough question because it depends on your child and what your ultimate goal is. Is your goal to have a clean and organized space that you feel good in? Or is your goal to teach your kids the value of getting and staying organized? I’ve certainly worked in both ways, and I can tell you each family is unique.”
3. What if my child refuses to discard or donate anything?
Sara Eizen: “When a child has a difficult time letting go of items (which is just about every kid I know), brace yourself for those foreseeable words…“that’s my favorite” or “I love that one” (even if he or she hasn’t played with it in years). For some kids, it can be helpful to explain where the items are going. Telling your child that his belongings are being passed along to a friend or neighbor or handed down to a younger family member can be more comforting than simply throwing them into a garbage bag. Also, involving your child in the decision about which charity to donate items to can be helpful. Red Tricycle published a story on where to donate kids’ toys and gear and lists several outstanding organizations that will give your kids’ old toys (and other items) a new life.”
4. We’re ready to start. What’s the first step?
Sara Eizen: “My client relationships begin with a brief questionnaire (which I ask my clients to fill out prior my arrival) and an initial consult, during which we will pinpoint organizational challenges and goals and determine which systems are working well and which ones are not. My clients and I will then prioritize which space(s) should be tackled first and together create affordable, efficient systems that not only look good, but are easy to maintain. I will also ask a lot of questions. And once a project is underway, I will ask even more! I do this to ensure that I’m creating systems that are reasonable and easy for my clients to maintain. I will work side-by-side with my clients and/or independently of them, depending upon the goals and scope of the project. As my clients’ lives grow, change and evolve, I can help modify those systems over time. Once we have organized a space, every single belonging in that area will have a clear and obvious home. Whether it’s clearing clutter for good, creating a command center, curbing morning chaos, taming toys or making the garage a space that really matters, helping busy families reclaim space and style in their homes is what I love to do. And it makes me wildly happy when my clients fall back in love with their homes!”
5. Favorite ways to organize LEGO bricks and manuals?
Sara Eizen: “If you’ve got LEGO obsessed kids, the struggle for storage solutions is real. I like to use the large Swoop Bags. Made by a local mom of two active LEGO-loving kids, these durable, modern and simple toy bags and playmats work great for kids who don’t have a method to their LEGO madness. For little builders who like to organize their bricks by color, size and/or build, IKEA’s Trofast system is an excellent option. I also like the storage carts on wheels which give kids the option of moving them around and then tucking them under a table when they’re done. Large three-ring notebooks and plastic sheet sleeves work great for storing all those LEGO manuals.”
6. Toss or Keep? Best ways to organize the stacks of school papers that come home every day?
Sara Eizen: “I believe that every house could use a good command center to help maintain and control the chaos of running the family business. I highly recommend setting up a command center in your kitchen or adjacent to your kitchen because this is where I find families spend most of their time. To create a simple command center all you need is some wall space—a spot where you can take advantage of vertical space and not let the clutter pile up on the kitchen counters or dining tables. Three by Three Seattle makes magnetic magazine pockets that work great for storing papers and posting notes. I recommend one for each child in your family, and if room allows, one for each person in the family. I also like the Poppin Wall Organization Systems from The Container Store as well as the Urbio and the Perch options. And even though most parents use some form of digital calendar these days, I still like the idea of displaying a family calendar in your command center, so kids can see what’s going on.”
7. Coat racks, hooks or closets? Favorite ways to organize shoes, muddy boots and all those coats Seattle families seem to have?
Sara Eizen: “This is a great question, and one that comes up often since many of Seattle’s older homes have front doors that open into living rooms. For my clients whose homes are lacking entryways or coat closets, I suggest installing wall hooks or racks near the front door. By doing this, your guests will be less tempted to drape their coats and belongings over your chairs or leave them in front of the door. IKEA has some great options that work well in small spaces. The IKEA Tjusig coat hanger is currently one of my favorites. Its unique design doesn’t take up a lot of space and when it’s not being used to hold coats, it looks like an interesting piece of art. Shoe storage can be a bit trickier, but I’ve found that plastic shoe liners, shoe racks and mountable drawers that fold out and hold multiple pairs of shoes are great options. Consider the Hemnes or Trones shoe cabinets from IKEA.”
8. Help! Our cabinets and drawers are filled with our kids’ drawings and paintings. What’s your favorite way to display kids’ artwork?
Sara Eizen: “This is a great question and one I often get asked. Taking photos of your kids’ art pieces, especially 3D ones which are hard to save, is one of the easiest ways to preserve them. The Artkive app, which takes your photos and turns them into stunning keepsake books, is a favorite of mine. The DIGNITET from IKEA is also another favorite. The stainless-steel curtain wire can be mounted to a wall or ceiling and works perfectly for displaying and rotating art. It’s also super affordable! Magnetic sheet metal which can be left as is or painted is also another great option. If you’re looking for ways to store your kids’ art, purchase an artist portfolio, which can easily slide under a bed. At the end of the school year, go through the art with your child and let him pick a predetermined number of pieces to save. The rest can either get tossed out, sent to grandparents or photographed for use in a keepsake book.”
9. Okay! The organizing is complete. What’s the best way to maintain it?
Sara Eizen: “Staying organized takes work and responsibility. It helps to remember how good it feels to be organized and to commit yourself to making organization a priority in your day. Changing a few habits can also be key. For my clients who have decided to create a command center, I would encourage them to abide by a ‘don’t put it down, put it away’ mentality so that items don’t pile up over time. But for the items that do, I would encourage them to carve out a small amount of time each day to place items back where they belong.”
10. Why and when should people call in a professional for help?
Sara Eizen: “There are so many reasons! The first and most obvious is when it all seems too overwhelming and you don’t know where or how to start. Not having time to create or maintain organizing systems on your own and/or wanting to achieve a particular look and feel in your home that you aren’t sure how to attain are other great reasons. My goal is to help my clients love their home, so I will do whatever it takes to get them there. Whether they need help with a cluttered kitchen, a crowded bedroom or a disorganized playroom, we can work together to create a plan that not only looks good, but feels good too.”
How do you keep the clutter in your home from taking over? Spill in the comments below!
All photos courtesy of Sara Eizen.