My youngest son (7) has a pretty small room and keeping it organized is not the easiest thing to do. Since we also don’t have a playroom (we do have a rec room but it’s used more for hockey and soccer) all his toys need to “live” in his room. Small spaces can be challenging for sure because we have to be even more diligent about the decisions we make with regards to what stays and what goes. I love a challenge though and I love that my son gets to practice important organizing skills on a regular basis.
I can always tell when it’s time for a room over haul, not because he has limited space to play, but because clean up becomes too frustrating for him. My job as his parent is not to decide what he keeps and doesn’t keep, but to provide the boundaries and limits that make clean up a manageable process for him. When clean up becomes a battle it usually means he can no longer tell where things go or perhaps some items don’t even have an established home to go back to yet.
Regular clean up should not be an all day affair…no child has the perseverance for that. So there are a couple of options to help this:
- Simplify the number of toys available to play with
- Add limits to the number of toys that can be played with at one time
- Add visual boundaries and labels to assist with clean up
- Don’t set them up for failure!
My son is allowed to have one “set” of toys out at a time. So if Pokemon is his thing that day or week than he can leave them out to play with. I don’t make him clean it up every night because gosh they put so much work into the set up don’t they and sometimes you just have to look beyond the mess. However the rule is once he’s done with those, they get cleaned up before something else gets pulled out.
Anyway the pictures above are what his room looked like before I dug in. As per the PROCESS, I started with my plan and brought him in to discuss what we could do about it. We discussed how having more play space would be nice, how it’s hard for him to find the books he wants to read on that tiny bookcase with books that are double stacked and what toys he was comfortable parting with so we could make all these changes happen. I love this part of the process because I love hearing what is important to them, why they have certain ideas about the way things should be and what they’d like to see different. Sometimes it takes a little prodding but eventually the truth comes out :) Keep in mind though that I started having these types of conversations with him when he was just little so now at 7 it really isn’t that tough anymore. But don’t despair if you are starting later, it’s okay and it is possible!
The only time I had available to tackle his room was while he was at school. I promised him that if I came across something I didn’t think he no longer needed, that we hadn’t already discussed, I wouldn’t throw it away on him without his permission first. Since we’ve done this for so long, he knows he can trust me on it.
I got to work and decided that the first thing I wanted to do was get rid of the little bookcase to free up more play space on the floor. It really was too small for the number of books we had and even after we parted with a huge stack of books it still wasn’t ideal because you couldn’t see the books in behind without pulling out all the ones in front. We are big readers in this house! I know I just recently talked about going vertical for more storage but in a kid’s room that’s not always ideal because they can’t reach. If they can’t reach the toys to play with or put away, that instantly sets them up for failure.
I decided to use the 9 hole cubby unit for all the books instead so the fabric cubbies came out next and were sorted through. My son had outgrown a lot of it and was okay donating it. Because we’d talked about the plan ahead of time and he was excited about being able to access all his books, it suddenly made his decisions about parting with some stuff that much easier for him to make. Sweet!
As you can see he really doesn’t have a lot of toys. The tall plastic drawer unit holds his Lego and I made a shelf for him specifically for all his Pokemon stuff in the shelf alcove. He has a tub of Thomas Train stuff in his closet because, while he doesn’t play with it anymore, he’s not ready to part with it just yet. It was a huge part of his life for so long and I don’t really blame him. Since I had the room to store it, it’s not a big deal. However there may come a time when we have to re-evaluate should we need the space for something else.
Remember: only keep what you love and/or use and have the room to store.
It’s all about give and take, compromise and negotiations. These are all great skills for kids to learn especially at a young age when the stakes aren’t as high. I’ll go into much more detail about this in the ebook I’m writing on the subject, it’s just taking me much longer than anticipated.
So for now I’m happy that we have a much more manageable space and a tiny bit more room to play. Goal accomplished!
What do you struggle with the most when organizing your child’s bedroom?
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