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Kids Organization Hacks – Inspirational Ways To Get Them To Do More By Themselves And Make Our Lives Easier

Here’s a true mom anecdote for you: during quarantine, our kids asked for a glass of water 19 times a day, but the filtered water from inside the fridge was too high for them to do it on their own. It became a constant interruption and annoyance (I empathized because they got the “need cold water” gene from me). Fed up, we bought one of those filtered water systems on a stand – at a 5-year-old level, and BOOM – problem solved. It was a good lesson – that if we set them up properly to do things on their own, to meet their own needs, they can and will, AND it makes our lives easier. So when we were brainstorming with Target about their new organizational products as it pertained to my kid pain points we came up with some ideas, hacks, and areas to set them up for doing things for themselves, empowering them to be self-reliant, while hopefully keeping the house more organized for us.

A Utility Closet Turned Family Zone

Large Black Wire with Natural Wood Handle 2 in 1 Milk Crate | Make-A-Size Paper Towels| Toliet Paper | 3 Wire Drawer Organizer | Rustic Rivet J Decorative Hook Black | Red Backpack | Flower Backpack | Black Square Backpack | Navy Pencil Case | Active Noise Cancelling Over-Ear Headphones

Depending on your space, you might have the problem that I did – a hall closet that needed to house both the vacuum and the crafts. So considering the product that we wanted to feature, Emily Bowser came up with three different ideas that you can steal – A homework station, A craft cart, AND a chore cart (in addition to the hanging vacuum). Now in a perfect world for me, these would all three-match (I’d choose the white cart) because I like things to look streamlined, but they sent us different samples and we decked them out differently to feature more colors and ideas.

The Homework Station

Black and Tan Charing Cable | Green Charging Cable | Brown Charging Cable | Cosmetic Pouch | Blue Kids’ Bluetooth Headphones | Tan Pencil Pouch | Pink Kids’ Bluetooth Headphones

When Emily B. presented me this homework station I thought what a dream – could this really happen? It’s one drawer per kid (three in this case). It includes textbooks, noise-canceling headphones, pouches full of pens/tools, and yes, even a charging station on top for them to put down their devices to charge while doing homework (!!!). Part of me was like no kid would ever do this, and the other part of me thought hold up woman, kids will do anything if you train them properly. It’s likely an “if you build it they will come” situation. Maybe for you it’s not this curated or designated, but the idea of an organized homework drawer/cart in a closet near the family room feels pretty attainable.

Small Natural Wood Handles Crate | Tall Kitchen Trash Bags | Spray Bottle | Soft White Light Bulbs (set of 6) | 5 Pocket Open Top Expandable Folder | 1″ Fashion Flex Ring Binder | Square Dry Erase Calendar Board | Magnetic Dry Erase Weekly Calendar Board | Magnets (set of 8) | Adjustable Face Mask (set of 2) | Broom | Refillable Spray Mop | Cordless Stick Vacuum | Broom Gripper

The Craft Cart

White Metal Utility Cart | Plastic Kids Tall Tumblers | Gel Pens | 91pc Go Go Studio Mixed Media Art Set | Crayola 4ct Big Paint Brushes | Long Cart Divider Cups (set of 2) | Washable Markers | Watercolor Paint Set | Pink Lined Notebook | Elmer’s Washable School Glue | Washable Glue Sticks Disappearing Purple ( set of 3)

I’m so excited about this – crafting is Birdie’s and my love language. Target has had this cart for a while, but now they added accessories that you can add onto it, including that pegboard with containers that easily mount and move for all your accessories (including clips to hang work). There are larger ones on the side for markers, tools, and custom-sized containers for the top. If you wanted you could even have this be your homework cart so you have three that match.

Pegboard Set | Kids’ Scissors | Jumbo Paper Clips | Fuzzy Sticks | Lined Composition Notebook (set of 4)

Magnetic Paper Clip Holder | Paper Clips | Binder Clips | Green Small Storage Trays (set of 4) | Quarter Circle Divider Cups (set of 2) | Stapler | Ruler | Pink Erasers (set of 3) | Pencils | Pencil Sharpener | Agua Spiral Notebook

The Chore Cart

Magnetic Dry Erase Weekly Calendar Board | Magnets (set of 8) | Green Cart | Gray Reusable Cleaning Glass Spray Bottle | Orange Reusable Cleaning Glass Spray Bottle | Green Reusable Cleaning Glass Spray Bottle | Spray Mop Microfiber Refill | Mini Hand Broom and Dust Pan Set | Round Airtight Canister (set of 3) | Premium Dry Dog Food | Tall Kitchen Trash Bag | Handheld Dust Wand

If you are a mom, you are either laughing or nodding in approval. Pre-quarantine I would have laughed because our kids were so bad at doing chores. But during lockdown, we had more time to really teach them and suffer through them doing their own chores. I bought them each little cleaning carriers of their own, stocked with their own gloves/sprayers/sponges and while Sunday chores were still a struggle, they felt ownership over the tools and it made them feel like big kids (and they were awarded sundaes on Sundays). For older kids, this chore chart is GREAT and having everything in one area I think is genius. Also, I want my kids to spend the summer at Auntie Emily (Bowser, our stylist who came up with this chore cart). And fun fact, Target has a ton of green and eco cleaning supplies, including bio-degradable and recycled sponges.

Digital Multi-Purpose Timer | Orange & Rosemary Multi-Purpose Cleaner Concentrate (set of 2) | Orange & Rosemary Glass Cleaner Concentrates (set of 2) | Citron & White Rose Tub & Tile Cleaner Concentrates (set of 2) | Magic Sponge Cloth (set of 3) | Medium Storage Trays (set of 3) | Cart Divider Cups (set of 2)

The Family Calendar Station

While I did push back and say that I was unsure putting a calendar in a closet would work for convenience reasons, for the sake of our shoot I loved including it here to help show all the ways you can organize your life, whether it’s in a hall closet or even better, a large pantry. I really liked how this was just for the week – we have most of the events on our shared google calendar, but not the little stuff (like repeating soccer practice or library books due back) so I ordered this after this shoot.

The Snack And Kids Drawer/Cupboard

All Purpose Storage 1/2 Storage Bin | White Top Airtight Canisters (set of 5) | Light Blue Lunch Bag | Stainless Steel Colby Kids’ Water Bottles | Green Long Storage Trays (set of 3) | Green Medium Storage Trays (set of 3) | Creamy Peanut Butter | Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Spread

If you are designing your kitchen now and have kids or might want kids, think about “the snack drawer” or cupboard. It needs to be low and easy to access. We styled this below the microwave and decanted all their snacks (something I for the most part kept up within the pantry).

YumEarth Organic Cummy Fruits | Apple Butternut Squash Organic Applesauce Pouches | Apple Spinach Organic Applesauce Pouches | Organic Chocolate Chip Whole Grain Baked Bars | Dark Blue Lunch Bag | Plastic Kids Tumblers | Tumbler Lids | Reusable Silicone Sandwich Food Storage Bag | Reusable Silicone Snack Food Storage Bag | Bamboo Melamine Kids Dinner Plate

The new Bright Room line has these wonderful stackable acrylic containers perfectly sized for cereal and snack boxes. Then on the bottom, we gave the kids a full drawer for their lunches – everything from lunch boxes, water bottles, snack bags, sandwich bags, and bread/PB & J for them to make their own sandwiches (which we would do except that we have to leave for school at 7:45 am which is CRAZY EARLY).

White Cheddar Cheese Slices | Oven Roasted Turkey Breast Ultra-Thin Deli Slices | Organic Yellow Mustard | Mayonnaise | Clementines | Mini Babybel Original Semisoft Cheeses

The idea is that they have ownership over that drawer and can make themselves lunch or a snack when they need it. Our rule in our family is that if they make their own lunch they can choose what they eat (they have to at least have a couple of carrots or apple slices to ensure we don’t feel like the worst parents). We give up control over this in exchange for them feeling autonomy and competence (and yes at times it’s more work but we are playing the long game).

Cheddar Penguins | Organic White Cheddar Popcorn

In the same line, they have fridge containers – that hold everything else for lunches that need to be refrigerated – condiments and fruit. We have fridge drawers for this exact reason – so they can reach, but if you have french fridge drawers or a fridge column it helps give them access to this stuff. The whole Bright Room collection is super versatile with the goal of making our lives easier and to control the chaos.

Like the wise Kevin Costner once said, “If you build it they will come” and in a world where I’m seeing competence and self-reliance become increasingly important (and less normal), setting them up to do things for themselves in a way that is both pleasing to the eye and helps calm the family clutter is a really good thing. For those of you interested, here is what we used, and please go check out the whole new Bright Room collection on Target.com.

*Art Direction by Me
**Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp
***Styled by Emily Bowser

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omg. my kids are a little older than yours and still don’t do anything for themselves. i’m stealing these ideas. competence is so important.

Amy
8 months ago

just FYI – Is that your actual phone # listed in bottom corner on the calendar?

Alice
8 months ago
Reply to  Amy

And the YumEarth Organic Cummy Fruits typo had me doing a double take as well.

Annie
8 months ago
Reply to  Alice

I once overheard a favorite public radio host introduce an “emergency clit” donation prize not once but TWICE in a segment on accident and it’s about the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I was cracking up in my car.

anon
8 months ago
Reply to  Jess Bunge

But those might be someone else’s numbers. Like Jenny! you know 867530 niiiine….. (useful for when you’re traveling and want to get a grocery store discount after asking what the local area code is 🙂 )

Here’s a wikipedia article on the 555 fake phone numbers.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/555_(telephone_number)

Sharon
8 months ago
Reply to  anon

I agree that they prob are someone’s numbers. Are there any Gilmore Girls fans? When Luke left Loralie his phone number, it was the donation line to somewhere. They reported an increase in donations! Something to keep in mind of you ever need to style with phone numbers!

Emilie
8 months ago

These photos look lovely, although I’ve come to realize that organizational schemes and special containers/gatchets are entirely for me and make basically no difference to my kids. Once my husband was in charge of having the kids organize the craft cabinet. He had them take everything out and put things away according to their own organizational scheme. They ended up cramming everything into two shelves and left several shelves empty. I was aghast! But they could find things and put things away with exactly the same effectiveness as when I had organized the cabinet. (Which is not very well, but it was kind of a relief to not try to enforce my organizational scheme.) It turns out that the thing that guarantees my kids do their chores and pick up after themselves is that the parents set and enforce that expectation. Which I find disappointing, since this is hard 🙂

🥰 Rusty
8 months ago

Great aspirational concepts and I agree with Jevin, “build it and they will come.” In my ‘previous life’ as a secondary teacher I had strict RULES (shouted that coz they were rather rigid), for the first two weeks of each term with a new class. They groaned and moaned bc teenagers, but after just two weeks, they were doing the things on auto-pilot and I eased up. They absolutely loved being in my class, I was a big time favourite teacher, and as a result of my RULES, my classroom was THE only one without a speck of graffiti or damage. Instead, they used to fight over who got to water the plants on Friday! Basically, kids of all ages do better and thrive with boundaries and love doing things seemingly ‘beyond’ their age. I think this system can really wotk – two weeks of strictly adhering to it. While I love the organic products, chirped over the silicone baggies instead of single use ziplock bags, and gushed over the practicality of it all … I have to call out the puree pouches! They can’t be recycled. 🌏 Kids have teeth for a reason and don’t need to suck on… Read more »

🥰 Rusty
8 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

*Kevin, as in Costner. Oops.

Courtney
8 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

You can recycle pouches! It’s not as easy as throwing them into the recycling, but it can be done: https://www.terracycle.com/en-US/brigades/gogo-squeez
This post just prompted me to sign up 🙂

🥰 Rusty
8 months ago
Reply to  Courtney

Hi Courtney,
Perhaps that particular brand is being super-responsible. Yaaay!😊 Thank you for pointing them out.
Unfortunately, a l.o.t. of brands have multi-layers in the actual bag part and that sends them straight to landfill and into future generations’ futures.

Another thing with pouches is what they contain – to actually chew and eat the same amount if pureed apples, pumpkin, etc. the kid or parent might notice the quantity, but when it’s effectively pre-chewed and all mushed up, the consumer is taking in a whole lot more calories than is immediately obvious. Same as fruit juices. They aren’t “healthy” when a standard glass of juice is comprised of numerpus pieces of fruit (and the fructose=sugar), often minus the fibre.
Most people wouldn’t eat 6 oranges in a sitting.

Emilie
8 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Also, recycling is a last resort (and one that often doesn’t get done even when things are marked as recyclable or go into a recycling bin!) Reduce and reuse come first because they are the most important 🙂

Courtney
8 months ago

OMG I need those storage containers! My 3yo goes through so many pouches (which pains me, and I need to look into recycling them). I’ve been taking them out of the box and putting them in a bin but currently our extra food goes into a hall closet–long story but we live in a 1930s house without a pantry. But I think we could actually set up a snack drawer in the kitchen that he could reach and save ourselves a lot of headaches. Maybe we could even put cups in there so he could get his own agua instead of asking 10000 times a day? And maybe also decant the bulk boxes of goldfish too?

🥰 Rusty
8 months ago
Reply to  Courtney

Prepare your own and keep it in the fridge? Put some in a bowl and let your 3 yr old access the food from a bowl/spoon? I know, I know…it’s just easier and convenient.
I get the reasoning, but seriously, we can all do more (including me!).

Reply to  🥰 Rusty

i love you, Rusty 🙂

🥰 Rusty
8 months ago

😘

8 months ago

This is a really great post for kids. Very useful indeed.

BW
8 months ago

I’m confused – are y’all back to living at the mountain house? Or are you referencing when you were there last year? Or just giving examples of how to organize a space for kids (without really testing them out if you’re still in Portland)?

Dani
8 months ago

My kids leave for school at 7:45 too, so they make their lunches the night before. Less work for me + independence for them + a calmer morning = all around win!

Bekah Wallace
8 months ago

Loved this and found it so helpful as a mom who is constantly trying to FIGURE IT OUT. Nice Styling E.B.

8 months ago

Letting kids be self-sufficient is so important! It just makes everyone’s life easier. And the last thing any of us want to teach our kids is learned helplessness. All of my daughter’s cups, bowls, plates and utensils are in a drawer she can reach, and have been pretty much since she started using them. But if you don’t have room for stuff down low, don’t forget about stools. It seems like a stool would have been an easier way to solve the water problem. My daughter is almost three, and carries a stool around to get things she can’t reach out of the refrigerator and cupboards. She’s right in the “I want to do it myself!” stage, so it was her idea. Maybe there was a good reason not to use a stool in your situation, though.

Totally stealing some of these ideas. I just moved a cart that looks like that green one (but from Ikea) to our breakfast nook to store craft supplies. Going to have to see whether Target’s accessories will clip onto it.

Kj
8 months ago
Reply to  Rachel

Or just keep a water pitcher on a low shelf in the fridge?

Zoe
8 months ago
Reply to  Rachel

Agreed! We have a low drawer for kids cups / bowls / plates, but keep a step stool in the kitchen so our 5-year old can reach stuff in the the fridge (including the water dispenser) or food stored in the lower parts of our upper cabinets. He has been making his own snacks (PB&J, getting applesauce out of the fridge, taking fruit out and washing it – and sometimes cutting it up) for over 2 years. Now if I could just get him to put his art supplies back in the cart…

MJ
8 months ago
Reply to  Zoe

Letting kids be self-sufficient is so important!
And ADULTS too, we do NOT need government
telling us how to live our lives. The bigger the
government the smaller the citizen. I like being
my own good ‘big’ citizen in this great country.

Emma
8 months ago
Reply to  MJ

The government made me get a Brita filter and I’m MAD ABOUT IT!

Kj
8 months ago

If anyone needs a step stool, we have had two solid steel Cramer Kik-Step rolling stepstools for 15+ years. They are easy to roll (OK, we actually kick ours) around to where needed and lock when you step on them. Very high quality (the last stepstool you ever buy) and come in a ton of different colors. Cramer also makes the Scooter Stool in plastic.

Emilie
8 months ago
Reply to  Kj

Those look amazing! Too bad i already have a stool 🙁

8 months ago

hmmm. some of these are great ideas for husbands too!

anon
8 months ago
Reply to  janet

ROFLOL 😀

anon
8 months ago

The food storage items look more realistic, and I like the idea of the silicone bags. I have some silicone “covers” that can be used on most any bowl for storing leftovers or things I prepped for dinner, e.g. salad before dressing or some kind of dip.

The utility cart ideas are “nice” and definitely pretty, but that’s a ton of wasted space in that closet! I live in a place where every square inch costs lots of $$$$ to rent and that closet is not earning its keep. 🙁 The recent closet makeovers did a good job of showing how to organize and yet fill up a closet. I’d put those carts somewhere outside of the closet and fill up that closet with practical storage.

Lisa
8 months ago

Good solutions. When organizing my classroom I consider everything into 3 basic categories: kid zone with supported organizing, shared zone with specific organizing procedures, and teacher only zone (kits and delicate/messy stuff).
For my own home this has meant gradually releasing more items into kid and shared territory as he demonstrates responsible use. Art/craft supplies are an excellent example of stuff that is important to use but can cause trouble if not managed.
Rules are meant to be broken. Procedures are meant to be learned over practice. Some crayons have been sacrificed and messes tolerated to build helper skills with kind reminders and some forced cooperation under crazy eyed Mom supervision. I’m working on my own organizing skill learning while teaching him! (My Moms method of sending me to clean up my room alone and raging that I didn’t do it right left me lots to learn and messy closets)

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