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7-Day Plan: Go from chaos + clutter to organization + order in your kids’ room

We all know that a little one’s room explodes into chaos several times each day; that’s just the way it is.


As a mother myself, I know that the phrase “spotless, beautifully organized kids’ room” is at once laughable and conjures a shimmering mirage of possibility somewhere (years off?) in the distance. But the truth is, when the mountains of clothes and toys are pared back, a child’s space doesn’t feel so chaotic, even when every single toy seems to have found its way onto the floor. For kids with allergies or asthma, having a clean, dust-free room is essential—and that is also easier to maintain when there is less stuff to clean.

Make a plan of attack.

Look over the entire plan before you begin and tailor it to meet your needs—if there are mountains of stuff to go through, you may want to divvy up the work over several weekends. For some, tackling a major decluttering project in the little one’s room is only fathomable without said little one present; for others, tossing a single item without the child’s knowledge could result in a meltdown to end all meltdowns. You know your child best, so make the call that feels right to you.

This 1 week plan will get you there—

Day 1: Simplify

Decluttering tasks: As you go through this process, try to have a clear vision of the sort of room you want for your child and how it will help make your lives simpler. Toys that easily fit within bins and on shelves are more appealing to play with, and clothing with some breathing room in the closet and drawers makes getting dressed in the morning less of a challenge.

  • Remove clothes and shoes your child has outgrown and set them aside to give away, sell or store.
  • Remove toys that are broken or have missing pieces and can’t be fixed.
  • Remove toys that your child has outgrown and decide whether to store, give away or sell them.
  • If your child has a lot of very similar toys, remove enough so that what’s left can be easily stored and enjoyed.

Day 2: Sort and conquer

Key concept: Top 10. If you are working with your child to pare back belongings, try introducing the concept of the top 10. This will gently shift the focus from the things your child is giving away to zero in on what is most important.

Kids older than about age 4 (depending on the child, of course) can really get into making lists and picking favorites. For instance, have your child pick out his or her top 10 favorite stuffed animals and display them prominently—meanwhile, the other 40 stuffies can be shifted into a box in another closet or given away. There’s no need to be superstrict about it …11 or 12 is fine. Just trying to stay within a certain number can be a great help.

Decluttering tasks: After the big work of decluttering on Day 1, your child’s room should be looking noticeably better. Now is the time to make some refinements and find a home for everything that’s left.



  • Continue winnowing down toys, games, and clothes, using the top 10 method.
  • Make a separate stack of clothes your child hasn’t quite grown into yet and put them somewhere accessible—but not mixed with the clothes that fit now.
  • Store like with like. Board games on one shelf, puzzles on another and so on.
  • Categorize small toys and put them in separate bins or baskets. (for instance, small plastic animals in one, race cars in another).

Day 3: Deep clean

Cleaning tasks: Hopefully after Days 1 and 2, your child’s room will be less cluttered and more organized. Now it’s time to tackle the dirt.

  • Thoroughly vacuum the room, including the ceiling, fan blades, window treatments and floors, and behind the furniture and inside the closet.
  • If your child has asthma or allergies, consider renting or purchasing a sanitizing steam cleaner to remove allergens from floors, rugs and even toys.
  • Have your child help you give all of the hard plastic toys a “bath” in dishpans filled with warm, soapy water. Work in batches and spread the toys out on towels to dry.
  • Clean crayon marks and other “artwork” from walls.
  • Spot clean upholstered furniture.
  • Launder pillow covers, bedding and small, washable rugs.
  • Wash the windows.

Day 4: Organize art

Decluttering tasks: Children’s artwork is a special case because it pulls at our heartstrings … and because they create so much of it! If you are having trouble letting go of your child’s work, remember that to kids, it is much more about the process than the product. It’s OK to keep a few pieces that best represent who your child was at each age and stage, and let the rest go.

  • If you have a big backlog of artwork to go through, enlist your child’s help to pick favorites. If you have any favorites, keep those too and toss the rest in the recycling bin.
  • Sort the keepers by date, labeling those without dates as accurately as you can remember. Don’t be afraid to guess—your memory will only become hazier as time goes on.
  • Store artwork in a large art portfolio or lidded plastic bin.
  • If you have old 3D projects that are too big to store or are too fragile to keep long-term, snap a picture of your child posing with the project, put the photo in an album and toss out the project itself.

Day 5: Carve out zones

Decluttering tasks: Today’s goal is to take a wider view of your child’s room: How is it working? How is the flow? Is there space for your child to read, sleep, play and create? Think about creating small zones tailored to support different activities:

  • Reading: A comfy sitting place, neatly organized books, good lighting and perhaps a few stuffed animal friends
  • Sleeping: An inviting bed with a small lamp and a place to put a cup of water within reach
  • Floor play: Clear space on a rug, with toys in containers (blocks, trains, plastic animals etc.) nearby
  • Dramatic play: Dress-up clothes on hooks or in a basket, a child-safe mirror, play kitchen or playhouse toys.
  • Creativity: A child-size worktable with arts and crafts supplies stored nearby. Keep messy materials in an adult-height cupboard.
  • Puzzles and other activities: A kid-size table with puzzles, games and educational materials on a shelf nearby.

Small-space tip: One child-size table can be used for art, puzzles and as part of a pretend house at different times — there’s no need to have three separate areas.

Day 6: Label it

Decluttering tasks: Neatly organized bins and baskets are practically worthless if you can’t tell at a glance what’s in them. Pick up a bunch of identical labels and make signs for each basket, bin and box, including in the closet.

Cleaning tasks: Put together a small cleaning kit to keep in your child’s closet to make regular cleanup easier—include a stick vacuum if you can. Also tuck in a child-size dustpan and broom and a few rags for your little one to use to help clean up.

Tip for kids who can’t read yet: Make labels that include both the word and a simple drawing or photograph of the item inside. Having a print-rich environment will help your child begin to recognize letters and words, and the pictures will make locating things easy.

Day 7: Start daily habits

Cleaning tasks: It takes time to begin a new habit … don’t give up!

  • Put away one toy before getting out another (unless your child really is playing with them together).
  • Put all toys away before bed each night.
  • Vacuum and tackle other cleaning tasks each week. Offer small-size cleaning tools so your child can help.

Decluttering tasks:

  • Choose toys to give away before each birthday and holiday when your child will be receiving gifts. Pick a local children’s charity that you and your child can visit to drop of the toys—if your little one knows he or she is helping another child who doesn’t have any toys, it can make the process easier.
  • When your child moves up a size, remove the clothes and shoes that no longer fit.
  • Have your child pick favorite pieces of art each month, date them and store them in an art portfolio. Toss the rest.

Original story by Laura Gaskill for Houzz

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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