Chores & Cleaning Up

A Get-Organized Guide for Even the Messiest Kid

Artwork. Sports equipment. Clothes. Hiding away these everyday items isn’t practical, but neither is tripping on them. Here’s a better way.

Clothespins on a line to help a child get organized
Clothespins on a line

What’s your biggest organizational challenge? At a recent ADHD conference, I posed that question to several parents — and was amazed at the variety of responses.

Here are six of the most common child-oriented clean-up challenges, along with my simple (and inexpensive) solutions to get organized for each.


Stop stuffing each new drawing or painting your child brings home into that already-overstuffed folder or drawer. Instead, ask a pizzeria for three unused pizza boxes. Place the artwork inside, and stack them beneath a bed. Each time junior brings home something beautiful, take an old drawing or painting off the refrigerator, place it in a pizza box, then hang the new item.

It’s unrealistic to save everything your child produces. Even at the relatively slow pace of one “masterpiece” a week, after six years, you’ll have more than 200 items — and that’s just from one child! If all the drawings and paintings won’t fit into three pizza boxes, it’s time to discard a boxful.


The best solution to keeping children’s books organized is lots of shelf space. If one big bookcase isn’t sufficient, install a shelf running around your child’s bedroom (keep a stool nearby, so your child can reach it). You can also place a short bookcase below a window, and a special book basket in the living room.

[Get This Free Guide: How to Tidy Up Your Home Like a Pro]

As with artwork, it’s a good idea to purge your child’s book collection once a year. Donate the books to Literacy Partners or a similar organization.


To keep shirts, pants, and underwear off the floor, explain to your child that there are only three places for an article of clothing: in the closet, on her body, or in the wash (hamper, washer, or dryer).

Need more closet space? Reposition your clothes rods and install a second rod underneath. Keep off-season clothing in an under-bed storage drawer.


A recent survey found that, on average, men own 10 pairs of shoes and women 25 pairs. Your child probably has fewer, but storing them can still be a pain. A rotating shoe tree — found at any big discount store — takes up little space, and makes it easy to pick out shoes.

[Free Handout: Clean Up and Get Organized in One Weekend]

Sports Equipment

Tired of watching your little jock come home from practice and toss his sports gear on the floor? Get a large plastic clothes hamper, and make it a “sport” to toss in balls, mitts, skates, and so on. Duffle bags are another good option, especially for bats, golf clubs, and other oblong or bulky items.

If you need even more storage space, hang a pegboard on a garage or basement wall. A modular grid system adjusts to hold a range of equipment, including bikes.


Kids accumulate toys at a dizzying pace. Your child’s room, and perhaps your entire house, will be overrun unless you sit down with your child periodically to thin the collection.

Sort toys into two piles: one for those he still plays with, another for those to be given away. “Keeper” toys should be placed in see-through bins. Color-coding the bins helps — purple for stuffed animals, yellow for Legos, and so on. Tape a photo or drawing of the representative item (or even the item itself) onto the container.

Storage hammocks are another good bet — especially for dolls and other lightweight items. Hang it low enough for your child to be able to reach.

[Read This Next: The Messy Bedroom (and Backpack and Locker) Cure for Kids with ADHD]