Spring has sprung and the season of rebirth suggests you’re supposed to declutter, organize and spring clean your home! But where do you even begin? Whether you have no idea how to tame the tower of kid art that lives on the kitchen table, or you don’t know how to get your family to maintain a tidy house after tons of hard work, local professional organizer and a mom herself, Beth Deig of Sorted Nest gave us the scoop on the hard-pressing questions parents have when it comes to decluttering and organizing all of your family’s stuff! Scroll down for her top tips for making your home a more peaceful sanctuary.

photo: NeonBrand via Unsplash

1. If parents are overwhelmed by all of the spring cleaning, organization and decluttering that needs to be done, where do you suggest they start? What are the best first ‘baby’ steps?

Beth Deig: If you are feeling overwhelmed by the big picture and you have several rooms to tackle, start small. Pick an area that feels a bit easier, set a timer and just start. Work for 30 minutes and see how far you’ve gotten. You may find that you’re motivated to keep going. The issue is often not just the task at hand, but the lack of focused time carved out to complete the task. Don’t take phone calls, don’t check email. Perhaps turn on some music or a fun podcast if it’s not distracting for you and dig in. Celebrate the small victories and use them as motivation. Realistic expectations regarding how much can be accomplished in a session are key. And if you are really overwhelmed, call for help. There are professional organizers standing by to help you tackle the project.

photo: Who Arted

2. What should we do with the paper trail? All of the artwork and drawings our kids make and the birthday cards from grandparents, etc. that we don’t want to part with?

Beth Deig: This is a tough question. As parents we put so much value on all the things that our children create. Their growth and development are fleeting and we don’t want to miss a thing. It is really important to keep in mind the end goal of saving ALL THAT PAPER, though. Fast forward 20 years, your kids are perhaps in college or long done with college. What do you want your collection to look like? A plastic tub for each child perhaps? Or a few nicely crafted scrapbooks? There just is no sense in saving every piece of paper they’ve touched and every card they’ve received. I have made a commitment to saving perhaps 25-35 items from each school year and I can promise you that that will probably be too much by the time they’re 18. I am discerning about what I keep. Original artwork (not colored in pictures with stickers on top), A FEW handwriting samples when they’re 3-6 and written stories and reports as they get older. Handprints when they’re little and those cute little creations that capture their interests at those ages. Self-portraits.

I do NOT save math and spelling tests, school worksheets, 25 different versions of the same mermaid drawing. Less is more. And when you look back in 20 years, a few samples from each phase of your child’s life will be precious and cherished by all. As far as greeting cards go, I don’t save any. I know I may sound like a scrooge, but they are generally not worth the space. Cards are to be received, enjoyed and then tossed. Now, do I save handwritten cards that my children have made me? Absolutely. They have a nice little spot in my memory box in my closet.

Editor’s Tidy Tip: Help clear the clutter off the dining room table with these super cool ways to display your kid’s art.

photo: Alexas_Fotos via Pixabay

3. Tips for organizing stuffed animals and toys? What to keep/what to ditch and best ways to store what we keep?

Beth Deig: Just as with anything else in the home, keep what you love and use. And if it’s something your kids no longer use but you still love, you can select a few to save as memorabilia, but limit yourself. If you are considering more children and want to store toys away for the next one, you absolutely should. Keep those items that are not damaged in labeled, plastic bins that can be stored in a closet, garage, or attic space. Those toys and stuffed animals that are being kept because they are still being played with and are still loved should be stored in bins that are easy for kids to reach, find, and take items in and out of. They can start putting away what they’ve taken out at a pretty young age.

photo: Design_Miss_C via Pixabay

Beth Deig: (cont.) The truth is that kids tend to get overwhelmed by too much stuff, just like adults. It can be really confusing for a child who has so much to choose from. They may actually be stunted in their creativity. It can be aggravating to parents because they see it as a sign that their child is spoiled because they’re swimming in toys, but they’re not playing with them. I recommend that if you have more than you can neatly leave out in accessible bins for the kids to access and you don’t want to get rid of the toys, to rotate them in and out of the child’s play space to give them variety. When you watch them play and get a sense for the types of toys they really enjoy, you will have an easier time letting go of the extras. Let your child be the guide. You also need to let go of guilt around donating items that were gifts from loved ones, but that your child is just not connecting with. At the end of the day, it’s all just stuff. I can’t remember where I read this, but I love this quote, “A gift wrapped in expectations and guilt, is really not a gift at all.” And if you feel like the grandparents or someone else is overloading your child with toys, it is absolutely OK to tell them you are trying to get more organized and would appreciate other types of gifts like memberships, experiences, or just time spent with the kids.

photo: li tzuni via Unsplash

4. Should parents tackle the decluttering/organizing process with their kids or while their kids are at school or not around?

Beth Deig: I say do it with your kids if you can. It depends on their age how much real help you get, though. You are not going to get a lot of time, focus and good decisions from a 2 year-old, but you can guarantee my 9 and 11 year-old are responsible for purging their own rooms. When my kids were small, I would do the purging while they played in the same room with me. I would perhaps ask a question here and there, but the most important thing was that I was modeling this behavior for them. By the time they were 5 years-old, they already knew the drill. Purging before birthdays and the holiday onslaught of gifts is a regular event in our home. And now my kids just do it on their own spontaneously now and then. Children can easily grasp the basic logic that we don’t keep things that we no longer use or no longer fit or are broken. And if we love certain items, but don’t want them out anymore, we have a keepsake box for each of them. And when new things go in that keepsake box, there is often something that comes out. Because we do this maybe 4 times a year, the task never takes longer than 30-45 minutes. I am confident that these skills will carry with them for a lifetime.

photo: Swoop Bags

5. What’s your favorite way to tame all those LEGO bricks?

Beth Deig: Contrary to what Pinterest will tell you, my experience is that most kids do not do well with their LEGO sorted out neatly into separate bins by color. As pretty as it may look to an adult, it just doesn’t function for kids. The bins will be all mixed up in no time, or the kids won’t even touch them. A lot of kids these days seem to build the structure once and either they want to display it or they don’t even look back at it. I encourage my kids to play creatively with all those bricks by putting them in one big bin. They think much more creatively this way. If they do want to keep a set together while they’re mid-project or after they’ve completed it and started disassembling it, I just use basic gallon-size ziplock bags to separate out by project.

Editor’s Tidy Tip: Swoop Bags (pictured above) offer an ingenious way for kids to store toys and LEGO bricks in one fell ‘swoop!’

photo: Brook Lark via Unsplash

6. What services does your business provide in helping busy parents organize their home?

Beth Deig: As a Professional Organizer, I come into your home and assess your space and your challenges. We work together room by room, sorting, getting rid of items, deciding where the best places to store things are and perhaps add some storage containers if needed. We talk through areas that aren’t functioning well and design new systems to try that best fit your family’s needs and challenges. We can organize anything together, from kids’ spaces, to kitchens, closets, garages and even home offices and paper. We talk through the hard decisions and I make recommendations along the way. At the end of each session I can take donations away, as well as shredding and electronics for recycling. You’d be surprised how huge that is for people, just seeing it gone at the end of the session. Once the work is done, I often come back for maintenance over time and sometimes need to tweak what we’ve done in the case that something didn’t quite work as planned. It’s a work in progress in everyone’s home, including mine.

photo: Skitterphoto via Pixabay

7. What are your tips for keeping the house tidy and clutter-free after you work your magic?

Beth Deig: It’s all about scheduling time and creating a routine with your family. Time of day can vary depending on schedules, but there should be time set aside each day for tidying the kitchen, putting away toys and projects and picking up messes. For us, this usually happens in the evenings after dinner. We eat, we do the dishes, we clean up. The whole clean up process may take no longer than 15-20 minutes. Set a timer, turn on some music and make it fun. On Sundays we do more like putting away laundry, cleaning up piles that have been formed throughout the week, checking closets for stuff that got crammed in during clean up throughout the week, etc. Again, this doesn’t have to take hours. When you do it every week, the kids start to expect it and don’t make such a fuss when it’s time.

One important piece to this that I haven’t mentioned is just that with kids, the less you buy, the easier this all will be. Kids don’t need nearly as much as everyone is marketing to us. It’s also a good lesson to teach that everything isn’t just disposable and replaceable. When you shop consciously and with intention, you value what you have far more.

photo: Beth Deig of Sorted Nest 

Beth Deig of Sorted Nest

What are your best spring organizing tips? Share in the comments!

––Beth Shea


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