Being an elementary-school teacher, I have been fortunate to teach many different aged children (kindergarten, 2nd, and 4th grades). Each age presents their own joys and challenges, but my favorite part of the year was always setting up the classroom. I LOVED getting into my classroom to set up and get organized every August. Including my student-teaching placement, I was in 5 rooms in 5 years, so I have had lots of different chances to change around my classrooms. If you are curious, you can see my last 4th grade classroom on my personal blog.
Now that I am no longer teaching in a school, I get to take that organization and those ideas to our house… for better or worse. Yes, we have lots of labels and bins everywhere. You can take the teacher out of a classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of a teacher.
Although our babies are too young to have a need for a work station, you can bet that I’ve already started thinking about how I would want to organize it. I learned that it is really easy for students of all ages to get their work areas messy, if you allow that option. However, I then discovered that if you can organize vertically instead of horizontally, that messiness is a lot easier to combat.
I’ve compiled some of my favorite ideas into this post.
This is perhaps my favorite work station that I have seen. I love how totally DIY this entire area is, and how it really doesn’t take up much room. This is an older side table, painted in your favorite color with a chalkboard-painted top. I love the use of pegboard and the complementary-color of the clipboards. Plus, isn’t that a perfect way to show off your child’s art or A+ papers?
Here is a closeup of the peg board, with the diagram of what is included. For an art station, it really has everything that your child will need. I would go one step further, however, and label what goes where. I love a good label, especially for the child that is learning their letters and how to read. Any type of labeling you can do in your house helps build their phonemic awareness. Pair those words with pictures (photographs are the best) and it is even better for their early reading skills!
If you only have a small corner, this is a good overall household organization. I particularly like the use of the Thirty-One Keep-It Caddy for library books to return.
Ah, nothing makes me happier than a good list. This one is no different. Of course, your children need to be able to read in order to make this work (you could use pictures for younger children), but it is a good everyday check-in for their responsibilities.
This isn’t a very expensive overall look for pegboard organization, and it covers so much! You have the cups that are labeled, a place for scissors and stickers (in the baggies), some baskets for jars and glue sticks, and the paper organizer.
This is a nice colorful space, although I think it’s more decorative than totally functional. Still, I like the use of a magnetic board above the desk.
If you only are focusing on an art station, this is a very doable and simple solution. A small table with a curtain rod above it. Hang some cups off of it with your crayons, markers, and pencils. Above it, you can have an art display on string. This would work very well for younger children, before they start at school.
Here is another idea, focusing on an art station. This seems more appropriate for an older child, especially if you have a bit more room to work with. As a teacher, I love the paper organization to the right, but it doesn’t quite solve the limited-space problem, or my goal of organizing vertically.
If you are in a pinch, this would work, but I promise you that this would make a small area very crowded quickly, because you will be organizing horizontally (using the desk instead of the wall).
If you have a bit of a budget to invest, you could get this unit, which allows you to move the different types of storage around. This is very pretty, but I don’t think it is as versatile or useful as the pegboard.
I love this creative solution! This is a drying rack for clothes, that has been mounted onto the wall. Hang your mini baskets and cups, and you are set!
Like some other pictures, this is great for an art station, but not as practical if you want it for homework as well.
This one is called the Urbio Magnetic Modular System, and it has lots of different options. This is a system that can grow with you and your children. It’s from the Container Store, so it won’t be cheap, but it is very versatile. Plus, with that white, clean look, it would be very easy to label!
How fun is this work station for the little boys in your life? This would be very easy to replicate, as you can easily (and cheaply) get metal sheets at your local hardware store. You would then just need to invest in magnetic containers to attach onto it.
Ah, the past kindergarten teacher in me LOVES this one. It is Calendar Time… just in your home! This would be great for the summers or for your preschool child, to get them ready for what is to come once they enter kg.
Ah, the joy of wire baskets! They are inexpensive and can easily match each other. They are sturdy and can hold so much! For holding papers against the wall, I don’t know if you can beat them.
If you have a whole wall to devote to your work stations, then go for this! You probably don’t have that much room, but I do like the use of the chalkboard wall behind the desk and the set spot for each child.
True, this isn’t an actual work station with a desk, but it is what I would call “Command Central.” A whiteboard for each family member and pockets for papers or things they need to remember. For the larger family, this would be key!
This is another version of the “Command Central” for a smaller family (or for just the kids). A place for everything, and everything in its place!
Never underestimate the importance of structure and routine when it comes to your child’s homework. Whenever I had a parent that asked me about helping their child to do all that they had to get done, I always started by finding out about their after-school routine. Most of the time, if they were struggling with turning in assignments or “not liking school,” it was because they didn’t have a set routine once they got home. If you don’t have a lot of space for the work stations seen above, this is the perfect solution! It is a tri-fold board (you can even cut them in half for multiple kids), with some of the organizational items that your child needs for homework time. It also doubles as a privacy station, in case your child gets distracted easily. When your child is done working, it can be folded up and put away.
You can check out my Pinterest board “Kids: Work Stations” to see more ideas.
You can also look at HDYDI.com’s Pinterest board “Organizing the Home with Multiple Kids” for even more ideas.
Dory is the mother of “twinfants” Audrey and David. You can see her posts on her twin pregnancy, DIYing, raising twins, and documenting her life at her blog, Doyle Dispatch.
Reader Manojna P., currently expecting twins, asked us how we organize our kids’ clothes. Organization is key. Manojna, you’re already on the right track by asking the question!
That said, reader Michelle W., who has two sets of twins, commented, “Organise… what’s ‘organise’??” Several other readers made similar comments. There are times when you need to dress your kids right out of the clean laundry hamper and that’s okay too.
Modify your system as children grow
Ask any two parents how to organize kids’ clothes and you’ll get two different answers, even from parents who share a home! Different organizational systems work for different families. Different systems work for the same family at different times. Don’t be afraid to change things up if what worked a month ago isn’t cutting it any more.
Some siblings share all their clothes. Others have separate clothes from day one. There is no wrong way or right way to approach this.
Early on, RachelG dressed both her son and daughter in gender-neutral stuff, so keeping their clothes apart didn’t matter. Sadia‘s girls share clothes to this day, at age 7. Wiley‘s girls are slightly different in size, but she upgrades them both at the same time. Little Allie always looks like she’s growing into her clothes, but it’s worth it for the simplicity.
Reader Kristin G. wrote, “When my [quadruplet] daughters were first born I had everything organized in drawers labeled by the type of clothing: onesies, sleepers, socks, etc. Around preschool they started picking out their own clothes, but I realized that they were only picking from the clothes at the top of the drawers. I now hang all of their tops in a closet and, because I once worked retail and can’t fathom hanging any other way, the tops are hung by color (ROYGBIV). It makes it easier for my girls to figure out what will match with their pants and skirts. For whatever reason they have figured out which tops and dresses are “shared items” and which tops belong to a specific sister (given to them for birthdays, Christmas, etc) and so far there have been no arguments over one sister wearing another sister’s special top. This, I am certain, will change once they get closer to their teen years!”
Find an organizing principle
Keep things predictable so you don’t have to scrounge up brain power in the middle of the night when a baby needs a new outfit after a diaper blowout. Keep like with like, whatever that means to you.
For Beth, organizing is her closet hobby (ker-ching!). She reorganizes closets and drawers as often as once a month, searching for that perfect set up. She’s still searching, but the process of seeking order works for her. Check out the great closet section dividers she made.
Jen Wood has always hung all her boys’ clothes except for diapers and underwear. When they were in infant sizes, she organized clothes by size with dividers. She stores similar/coordinating outfits together.
SaraBeth has one drawer for pajamas, one for tops and one for pants. She has two separate drawers for fall/winter clothes in the next size up and spring/summer clothes.
Sadia has one small drawer of pajamas, one small drawer of socks and panties, one large drawer of tops, one large drawer of bottoms and dance clothes. Dresses, jackets and dress-up clothes are hung on a clothes rack inside the closet, since the built-in rod is too high for her daughters to reach.
RachelG doesn’t have a dresser. She confesses that she lives out of bins and baskets and is unsatisfied with the current arrangement.
A note of caution. What makes sense to you may not make sense to your spouse, other caregivers or even the (older) children themselves. Balance the effort of finding a compromise with the effort of finding the clothes you need. If you’re the primary caregiver and your spouse only needs to look for baby clothes every few days, do it your way. If you anticipate a more equitable division of duties, talk it through until you find a mutually agreeable system. If your children are old enough to be responsible for dressing themselves and/or putting their own clothes away, let them have a say in how things are organized. Sadia‘s daughters tried sorting everything by colour alone before they agreed that it wasn’t a sustainable system.
Systems by developmental stage
Infant clothes may be the easiest to sort because you don’t have little hands constantly undoing your work. They’re also the hardest because you don’t really know what to expect. Aim for convenience. If you’re going to be changing your babies’ diapers and clothes on a changing table, store clothes and diapers within reach of (or inside) the changing table. If, after the babies show up, you realize you’re more of a sit-on-the-floor changer, move the clothes around to put them within reach. Don’t forget to have a convenient laundry hamper nearby for the dirty clothes!
Itty bitty clothes may not be worth folding. If you’re the type of person who folds your panties, fold those preemie and newborn shirts and pants and bloomers to your heart’s content. If you think that’s ridiculous, consider storing onesies, burp clothes and cloth diapers flat (or even crumpled, if you have the room) while hanging footie pajamas and other outfits. MandyE hangs just about everything that can be hung.
We all streamline where we can. For pants and onesies that went together to make a single outfit, Sadia used to place the pants flat on the onesie, fold both in half together once, and place them in the drawer. There was no need to search for the pieces of the outfit because they were always stored together.
RebeccaD started out with the top drawer for daytime clothes, the second drawer for nighttime clothes and the third drawer for bundling layers. When her fraternal boys got to be different sizes, she switched her system. Her top drawer became for diapering stuff, medicines, and the like. The second drawer was for Baby B and the third drawer, for Baby A.
Beth uses a closet and tall dresser for her boy/girl twins. The top drawer has 3 baskets, one each for her socks, his socks and hats, bibs, and whatever else lands in there. The next drawer down has her pants on the left and his on the right. The next drawer down is clothes they will grow into soon. Most baby clothes go in the closet, with each baby having his or her own rod. Within each section Beth groups onesies, then shirts, then overalls and dresses and, finally, pajamas.
Mytwintopia takes a minimalist approach. She limits her daughters’ wardrobe to enough everyday clothes for one week. That way she doesn’t procastinate with laundry or end up with too many clothes. She hangs almost everything, and hangs the clothes complete outfits on each hanger to avoid the struggle to match clothes in the morning. The underwear and socks go in bins or drawers in the same closet. For now, the girls do decide who owns which item without parental intervention.
Toddlers’ clothes can be tricky. You may find yourself needing to toddlerproof your clothing storage if clothes turn out to be an obsession. Sadia had to put child locks on her daughters’ dresser drawers because of midnight organizing extravaganzas on the part of her daughter M. Shoes had to go in a childproofed drawer too, after Sadia caught both girls trying on different shoes in the middle of the night.
Generally, though, infant clothing organization strategies still hold.
Your kids’ growth will probably slow and you won’t have to switch to the next size up quite as often. However, as your toddlers lose their baby pudginess and begin to run around, you may discover that you need to be pickier about finding clothes that will stay on and be comfortable. Around this age, those of us with slimmer children can find that pants and skirts with adjustable waists work best.
If your kids share clothes, there’s no need to find a system to keep them separated. Many boy/girl twins, though, will have separate clothes, especially as they get older. Also, your twins may end up being drastically different sizes such that they’re wearing different sized clothes. They may simply have different preferences, or you may choose for each twin to have individual clothes. In each of these cases, it may be simplest to organize all your multiples’ clothes similarly, for the sake of consistency, as Beth described doing above.
Preschool and school age
Reader Nancy C. commented on our Facebook page, saying, “When they shared a room, each had a dresser and half the closet. Although identical, my boys did not wear the same clothes as each other. In fact, they would adamantly protest if I had accidentally put one of their brother’s shirts in with their shirts.”
Mommy Esq. started out with her boy/girl twins splitting their closet. One had the upper half, the other the lower. Each had a drawer. As she points out, “That only works though for the ages/stages where mom dresses them. Now everything has to be at their height since they pick their own clothes.”
Sadia’s daughters, at 7, are old enough to dress themselves. They share everything but panties and socks because they have different preferences for those items. All their clothes are within reach of the children. They have a clothes rack inside their closet since they can’t reach the built-in rod. They share their drawers. Their socks and panties get lumped together; they know which belong to whom.
Sadia is working toward giving her girls complete ownership of their clothes, apart from wash/dry time. She still helps them fold clothes, but putting them away is completely the children’s responsibility. If the girls complain that they can’t find room for things, she encourages them to purge items they no longer wear to make room. Sadia no longer answers the question, “Where is my [insert name of clothing item here]?” mostly by responding with, “I am out of the business of knowing where your clothes are. Your clothes, your business.” If a child wants to be sure a particular item of clothing is ready to wear on a certain day, she must give Mommy at least 24 hours notice.
Claroux also has 7-year-old girls. She writes:
They share an 8-drawer dresser. I have these nylon bins from Ikea in each drawer to separate the sizes since they wear two different sizes now. That is, the underwear drawer contains a bin for M’s panties, a bin for C’s panties and a bin for undershirts. The same is true for socks, pajamas, leggings and tights).
Everything else is hung by type (dresses, pants, skirts, tops) and then grouped by color. That makes it easier if one is looking for their ‘purple soccer shirt’. As far as ownership of each item, they just know what fits them and what doesn’t.
The oldest of our combined kids is Sundy‘s son, making her the resident expert on all things teen. In short, teenagers are old enough to take care of their own clothes. Arrangements can run the gamut from the teen being required to wash, dry, fold and store his or her own clothes to being required to honour Mom’s organization scheme. As above, you’ll make more headway partnering with your child to develop a system that’s mutually agreeable than by decreeing a system from on high.
Children of different ages
Several of us with multiples often have kids of different ages living under the same roof.
When Wiley‘s oldest son, Trajan, outgrows things, they are stored in boxes for his younger brother Chiron. Once Chiron has outgrown those clothes, with a few exceptions kept for his younger twin sisters, they are immediately evicted to find new homes with children that fit them.
For day to day storage, Elizabeth uses dressers in each room. Her two older boys share a room so their clothes are kept together. They wear the same shirt size but different pant sizes. They each know what size they need and check the tags. She puts labels on each drawer so they can put away their own clothes. Mom doesn’t care if the clothes are folded but the drawer has to be able to close. Key to making any system work is knowing which battles are worth fighting!
Elizabeth’s 2-year-old Oliver’s clothes are in a labeled dresser in his room. The boy/girl twins share a dresser. The top drawers are boy clothes and the bottom drawers are girl clothes.
All the kids’ shoes and socks are kept in baskets by the garage door. Elizabeth’s house has a mud room with a bench and shelves, so storing them there is easy. Backpacks, Elizabeth’s purse, the diaper bag, and infant carseats are also kept in the mud room. One shelf in the mud room is filled with kids toiletries (brush, hair spray, lotion, tooth paste, tooth brushes). The children use the half bath in the mud room for teeth and hair. She organized things this way so that everything the family needed to get out the door is in one contained place. She hated running all over the house for shoes and trying to keep up with who still needed to brush their teeth.
By size, season and child
Most of us have various sizes of children’s clothes in the house, even if we have only one size and gender of children. Whether we have hand-me-downs from friends and family, clueless friends who bought clothes much too big, or we’ve shopped in advance of the next growth spurt, we likely have clothes that aren’t in circulation.
All the HDYDI moms divide kid clothes in our houses into those that currently fit, those that are too big and those that are too small. Those that don’t fit are separated out and put away. Some of us also sort things by season, putting away bulky coats in the summer and shorts and sleeveless tops in the winter. Let’s talk about how to manage the clothes that aren’t in use.
Clothes to grow into
To manage clothes that don’t yet fit, SaraBeth and Sadia both use big plastic bins stored in the garage, sorted by size and clearly labeled. Victoria has a different bin for each size, which makes it very simple to grab the next size she needs. With space at a premium in ldskatelyn‘s apartment, she stores some extra clothes at her in-laws’ house.
SarahP has three drawers in her kids’ dressers that contain both the size they’re currently wearing and the next size up. The rest of the clothes are organized by age in a box in storage. She always has the next size up because she’s found that her kids grow into some items faster than others depending on the brand. Clothing labels that display the same size may be attached to drastically different sized clothing.
Jen Wood keeps the next size of clothing in her sons’ closet. She always has a bin with the next sizes, picked up at clearance or on resale, plus hand-me-downs. She goes through the bin as needed.
Wiley has plastic sweater boxes from the Container Store which are all labelled by gender, size, and type of contents. Current clothes are kept in each child’s dresser or closet. The next size up resides in its boxes in the top of the closets while other sizes are stored outside.
If you have or are planning to have more kids, it makes sense to hold onto outgrown clothes for the next child. Otherwise, purge, purge, purge!
SarahP and many of the other moms donate their clothes to friends, Goodwill, or other charities. SaraBeth divides her kids outgrown clothes by gender (boy, girl and neutral) to simplify passing them on.
When Victoria notices that items are getting too small, she puts them aside to be donated and take out the next larger size. For instance, if she’s dressing her girls and notices that the pants she tries on are too small, she puts them aside immediately and takes out a larger pair of pants. If she didn’t do it right away, it could get out of control because she’d forget.
Sadia didn’t know any other girl/girl twins in her area who were smaller than hers, so she ended up dividing up all their matching outfits from the first year (except two preemie footies and two Christmas dresses kept for sentimental reasons). She sent each of two friends across the country a huge diaper box filled with baby clothes. She now keeps a donation bin in the kitchen next to the trash and recycling to make it part of daily life to identify things ready to be rehomed.
RebeccaD goes through her kids’ drawers to move out the old and bring in the new about every 3 months. “The key,” she says, “is to get rid of stuff immediately and be realistic about how many clothes your kids really need. Mine are only in T-shirts and diapers unless we leave the house anyway.”
Elizabeth has an especially effective system for handling hand-me-downs. She and her sister-in-law have 5 boys between them, all very close in age. They share clothes. They keep them organized by size in clear plastic tubs with lids. After an item has been outgrown it gets washed and thrown back in the tub. They don’t separate by season.
Once a size has been completely outgrown by one boy, the next mom who needs the size stores the tub. The sisters-in-law use their individual judgment as to when to get rid of an item or replace it. If they have a sentimental attachment to a particular outfit, they either keep it out of the bin or mark the tag with the word “save”. As you might imagine, this has worked really well for them.
Now that the biggest boys are getting older and have an opinion as to what they want to wear, they do find themselves buying and keeping more clothes. Elizabeth still keeps them sorted by size in tubs to hand down to 2-year-old Oliver.
How to organize kids’ clothes, in summary
The short version of everything we’ve said is this:
- Avoid clutter.
- Sort clothes by size.
- Keep handy only those clothes that fit.
- Give away outgrown clothes unless they will be reused in your home.
- Don’t keep more than you need or have space for.
- Find a system that works for you.
- Drawers, hangers, or some combination of those two seem the norm for current clothes.
- For clothes that don’t fit, labeled bins work well.
- Pick your battles.
- Change the system when it stops working.
How do you manage your kids’ clothes?
I’m a big believer in teaching by example.
If I’m going to talk the talk, I need to walk the walk. If I want my children to make healthy food choices, I need to make healthy food choices myself. If I want them to treat others with compassion, I need to do that in my own life. If I want them to be honest and open with me, I need to be honest and open with them. Whether or not my children are watching me, I try to model the things I want them to learn.
The problem is that I am messy. Really, really messy. I am good at many things, but tidying is not one of them. I am so bad at putting things away that two of my friends came over to help me move in and save me from myself. While the husband took all our kids to the nearest park to play, the wife walked me through my home, telling me where to put my things.
I’m great at cleaning, but lousy at tidying. In an hour, I can leave a bathroom sparkling and germ-free. My dirty laundry doesn’t pile up. Dirty dishes in the sink? Forget it! However, my bathroom counter is cluttered. When it comes to folding clean clothes and putting them away, I’m an abject failure. My kitchen counters are covered with mail, kitchen appliances, and spice containers. My dining table has a pile of books on it. My buffet is covered with paper. I moved into my house in August, and half unpacked boxes take up half my garage. The last time my daughters had a friend sleep over, she told me that I should really clean my room.
How can I realistically expect my children to clean their room when I leave the rest of the house, inlcuding my own room, a mess?
The one area of tidiness where I am consistently successful is the containment of dirty laundry. My dirty clothes always make it into the hamper. Therefore, I feel that this is an area in which I can insist the children follow suit. They don’t, though. Their bedroom floor is littered with worn clothes.
A month ago, I laid down the law. My daughters are 6 years old and dress themselves. I think this means that they can take ownership of discarding worn clothes appropriately. I would no longer wash clothes that didn’t make it into the girls’ laundry basket. Over the last several weeks, I have pushed their dirty clothes scattered on the carpet to the side of the room instead of helping them into the basket. I’ve only washed what the girls toss in their basket.
The first thing they ran out of was pajamas. These girls LOVE their pajamas, so imagine their dismay at having to sleep in daytime clothes. (I used to make them sleep in school clothes. I’ll tell you about that another day.) Next, they ran out of sweatpants and tights. They live in sweater dresses and tights or sweatpants and T-shirts during Texas winters, so this was The End of the World.
It worked. Last Thursday, M told me that she had picked up part of the growing pile of worn clothes and moved it to the laundry basket. By the time she woke on Friday, I’d washed and folded every last item she’d taken ownership of. I placed them in the bin from which they are supposed to put their clothes away, and she dressed herself in sweatpants in deep gratitude.
My girls aren’t going to do what I say, unless I do it myself.
Now tell me: How do I teach myself to be neat so I can teach my kids?
Sadia fails to keep house in the suburbs of Austin, TX. She is a single mom of 6-year-old twin girls, and works in higher education IT. Her desk at work is disarmingly clutter-free, and her electronic folders well-organized. Her desk at home is another story.
Being a mother of multiples (or a MOM), has taught me one thing above all else – GET ORGANIZED OR DIE. It’s one of the reasons those of us with multiples say that there’s a reason God gave us twins (or more). It’s because we can handle it, even if we don’t think we can.
Organization in the kitchen became an immediate need when the boys came home from hospital. We went to bottles within the first couple of days with me pumping, so there was the nightly dance of cleaning bottles/prepping for the next day/washing the pumping equipment/storing the milk. Sigh. I’ve almost forgotten those days in a haze of sleep-deprivation.
Now that my guys are older (4 1/2), we’ve gotten to the point where our grocery needs are pretty consistent each week. I’ve made a little printable list that I just check off when it’s grocery day (Sunday for us) and then add to it with anything the hubby and I might need. I know you can find pre-printed lists out there but I found it was most helpful to make my own as I felt like I was always crossing more off than I kept. So feel free to download mine and make it your own. Just don’t judge me, please. (And by the way, “hexagon crackers” are oyster crackers – that’s what my guys call them because they are, I’m convinced, geniuses.) The grocery list has two complete lists on a single page, so you can print it out and cut it apart. Are you picking up that I like to make the most of my resources?
A few other lessons learned in the food department:
1. Juice – of course, we all know you’re not supposed to let your kids drink too much juice. I’ve never taken the time to find out how much juice is too much juice, because I’m lazy. So we just don’t have juice in our house. Except ORANGE JUICE. My boys are obsessed with orange juice and have been from a very young age. Their orange juice habit is about 2 cans per week right now. The big cans. Seriously. So here’s my trick – I water it WAY down. It’s probably got double the amount of water necessary to mix it up. My boys have always had it that way and have never noticed the difference in taste of the full-strength versions at MickyD’s (on those rare eating out occasions). Try it with your juice – it might just work! The only drawback, hubby and I don’t drink it anymore. Wait, maybe that’s a good thing…
2. Cereal – not sure if you’ve noticed this yet, but no one told me that cereal is so expensive! Geesh. $4 for a small box? I know, I know, it’s a whole meal in there, but I’m cheap. So I get the store brands whenever I can. I can’t tell any difference. This is probably a DUH for most everyone but me, but I’d never had generic cereal prior to having kids. Maybe if you have older picky kids, you could fake ’em out even more by putting the generic cereal IN the brand-name box? It’s worth a try…
3. Applesauce – have you ever tried applesauce as an adult? Check the ingredients. Can you believe they put SUGAR in there? It’s already sweet enough to make my cheeks hurt! We stick with the unsweetened kind. It’s the same as the baby food version, taste-wise. And we save some more money by getting the store brand of this as well. Generic, unsweetened applesauce – yes, that’s the very definition of a frugal mom.
Now if we could just figure out what to feed ourselves, the adults…