the lazy gal’s survival guide : the kid zone

Hello lovely people! We’re back today with another installment in The Lazy Gal’s Survival Guide to Better Housekeeping! If you missed our first four posts in this series, you may want to check them out herehere, (Jenn from I Heart Organizing’s fabulous post) here, and our last post, here. 

We’ve decided that if we’re ever going to get anything accomplished in this home on the organization front, we’ll be starting with the places that are screaming for help in the functional department. I can use a few more ‘smooth runnings’ in our every day. (Read: less of Jamin walking around, confused. Less of me muttering bad things under my breath while I search for my screwdrivercurlingwandbrushpackingtapestuffedanimal.)

One of the areas in our home that are screaming for help, would be the kitchen. Our kitchen is the most multifunctional room in our house. Studio, gathering place, work room, conversation area, homework hot spot… it’s called the heart of the home for a reason.

Our biggest challenge with it all right now, is that we have no system. I’m constantly overwhelmed with school work and overflowing papers, and fund raisers and forms and just general ‘stuff’. The kids bring something home, and it sits on the counter for a few days. Then I move it to my drawer, thinking I’ll tackle it later. Let’s face it: I’m in big trouble, as the younger two are only in preschool. This is only a preview…a tiny glimpse into my clutter hoarder future. There is no tackling it later, because it gets lost. And jumbled. And shoved into a drawer. It’s the cyclic cycle of crapola in my life.

This weekend I’d had enough and I decided to go all psycho purge on that one area. I ventured to Target and picked up a few basic boxes to tackle a few main “zones” that I had mentally divided. I also picked up some drawer dividers because I feel like I’m much less likely to shove if there’s a compartment for everything. It’s like a baby gate blocking a forbidden room for me. I’m trying to stop my own bad habits.

I came home with bags in arms, all labeled Tarjay. When Jamin asked what was in them (his man alarm was going off with all the bags and that evil logo) I told him this is what it will take for an organized home. He was game.

So I went to town. And about half way through, I had a panic attack over the sheer overwhelmption of it all. I stopped, and took Jen’s advice. We busted out some Mumford and Sons. And Taylor Swift. And Michael Jackson’s Thriller…and…I’ll stop there before I seriously embarrass myself. In between my mad sprinkler moves our dance partay, the kids even pitched in. I did a basic basket for all things rando toys and they put them away.

You’ll be amazed with what you find in a purge. For instance, a check circa 2010 for fifty dollars. (Malone’s Birthday-Sorry, Nana!) No judging. It’s true what they say… There is literal money lost in the piles of junk.

So here’s what I did: (And if you’re wondering what our cabinets looked like before, they were nearly as bad as that photo of the drawer above on a grander scale) I took some basic boxes. I stopped freaking out and putting it off and looking for perfect, pretty containers. I went shopping and I made it work. And it was a big process…thinking through to a good system that just might work for us. The spaces under our cabinets are awkward and non accommodating. So I stopped waiting and started playing.

I have two zones for my kitchen’s kid area: 

1. The drawers: Jamin and I each each have an individual drawer where we keep anything we would need, as well as a combo with common household items (batteries, chargers, screw drivers, scissors) and then the kids have a drawer where they can easily get their hands on any school supplies they may need. (Glue, safety scissors, pencils, rewards.) The before (my drawer) is oh so shameful:

I utilized the dividers and lined the drawers with some leftover oil cloth I had. I thought these would be easier to wipe down with all the gunk these things seem to collect…and honestly, something in my little world made me feel better to do something with a touch of pretty.

2. Coloring book/photograph/coloring supplies zone. Here, you’ll also find all those school photos, photos with their friends, or those switched out from frames that I don’t want to part with. Hurray for the digital age, but we still have some prints, and I was having a hard time parting with them. (How much moolah did our parents spend on film and developing? And how many boxes do they have in their homes?) So I put them all in a box designated just for that. I’m sure those will grow, but I’d like to keep them at a bare minimum. (If our house catches fire, I’m diving for the hard drive.) I then gathered a basket for all our coloring books, and used an old container for crayons. This is perfect and accessible for them. We have to layer things, but I know where they are.

 3. School Zone. I purchased some file boxes, as well as some normal old plastic containers. I combined them with some canvas boxes, and assigned three containers, total, to each child. I used the labels you’ll find here to keep them separate. 

Within this “zone” I have three main categories:

1. Sentimentals. (File boxes) I realized that I was holding on to a lot of things out of sentimental value. Genuine creations I want my kids to have later. A pretty picture they drew. A beautiful painting. Old birthday invitations from each party they’ve had. And cards from special loved ones. Divided by year, and organized by age, you can now find those pieces worth holding on to, in each child’s box. Highlights from each year. Don’t worry…I even whittled those down. Each piece is dated on the back. The things I had good intentions to put in their baby books ages ago. Being completely realistic, this works better for me.

2. The current week’s work: (Canvas boxes) these hold anything that needs to be taken care of that week at school. Homework. Forms for future events, permission slips, etc. It’s emptied at the end of the week, and the kids can pull them out easily to work on them. Emerson and Malone aren’t yet in “big kid” school, but I’ll have the things in there that they’re currently working on as well. (Activity sheets, etc.)

3. Long term work/ongoing projects: (The short boxes) These hold things like the spelling words Aiden has conquered each week, that I know we need to hold on to, for future comprehensive tests at the end of each semester. These will be emptied at the end of each semester.

Basically, I’ve thought through my own weaknesses, to develop a good system. It will take some fine tuning, but it’s a start.

A few tips I learned in the process:

1. Repurpose: It’s totally okay (and it pays) to use what you already have. {See: Animal crackers container for crayons. Wooden doll holders to double as drawer organizers.} There’s a lot to be said for making old things new again.

2. Make it child-friendly: I’d originally dubbed an old dresser in our entry way as coloringbook central. The kids couldn’t open the drawers, and the coloring books were lost in a massive pile. Placing them in the cabinet, along with a large container for crayons they can grab and vertical books they can see at a glance, makes things much  more doable.

3. If you’re working with an awkward space, don’t wait: I can’t tell you how long I’ve put off purchasing containers for these cabinets because I couldn’t ‘find the right ones’. So it stayed that way. I could build my own. I could measure and then search forever. But this works. NOW. It may not be the prettiest solution but we’re going for all out functional. I was amazed at how happy this  made all of us. It may make me twitch a little to see the way those fill the space unevenly (in a non-decorated non-matchy way) But it’s working. It’s an easily accessible area for our kids and as a result, we have much less chaos.

Wrapping it up: 

So far, so good. When I was cleaning up after a shoot the other day, I realized how much easier it really was. A place for everything and everything in it’s place, is true. Invest some money in dividers and containers if you struggle with the “stuffit” syndrome like me. If you’re in a hurry, take a few moments to put it back in it’s place. When a container is there, waiting to be added to, you’re much less likely to cram. We now have no more wheres-my-measuring-tape-screw-driver-scissors-syndrome. I think a little effort every now and then, can help us keep it that way.

Getting just that little bit under control, was a big deal. It took me a while because I had to think through it all, and just revving the energy to tackle one of our main problem areas with three kids is a lot of work. But a little bit will start you on the right path. And did I mention I feel like I lost ten pounds? That most definitely helps.

So what have you guys been organizing lately? Who’s doing this with me? What’s next on your list? Fill us in! We want to hear! And if you have any tips, send them our way!

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Responses to the lazy gal’s survival guide : the kid zone

  1. Alli says:

    We have a cabinet in our kitchen for our youngest’s craft stuff, and it’s gotten crazily out of control. I keep putting off dealing with it, but after reading your post and looking at your pics, I think it’s going to go to the top of my to do list. I also just wanted to say that your book looks awesome, I put it on my wishlist for Christmas!

  2. Anna S says:

    Look at you!! Love this! I’m totally inspired to get on this in my own house

  3. emily hope says:

    great job! I’m an organizing fiend, but also a perfectionist (translation: I procrastinate forever because I want it to be perfect). Not a good thing. I’m slowly changing my mindset to one of “do it imperfectly now” with the promise to myself that I can always improve on it later 😉 Such freedom in that!

  4. Emma Huffs says:

    We seriously struggle with organization in our home. I am so very grateful for this series. I am ready to tackle those junk drawers now. Different zones for your kids are a great idea.

  5. WOW. I’m totally impressed. That will make your life so nice!

  6. Jill says:

    I too, suffer from stuffit syndrome. You’ve inspired me to rethink about how we use what we currently have in our kitchen! Thank you!

  7. I love your posts! You were right that Jen’s blog could take hours to browse through, but I’ve been camped out on yours for a couple of hours now!
    I have been organizing EVERYTHING in my house. I’m following and doing her organizing 101. I just finished my boys’ closet. It looks really good and I feel so relaxed about that space now.
    If you wanna see, please visit my blog
    Thanks for the posts. I’m a new fan!

  8. Tommi says:

    I LOVE your house! It is gorgeous! Thank you for sharing it (and for sharing the imperfections, too)! Would you tell me what color you painted your kitchen walls?