Tips for Organizing Children's Bedrooms

girl-on-bed.jpg
Stephen Simpson/Getty Images

Gather up a dozen parents, ask them what their biggest complaint is about their child’s bedroom, and you'll probably hear some variation of, “It looks like a tornado hit it.” Very few children are natural-born organizers, and many seem positively gleeful to make as big a mess as possible. Fortunately, you don’t have to resort to keeping your child’s bedroom door closed until he or she moves away to college.

In fact, you are doing your children a favor if you start teaching them organizational skills from a young age. Not only are good habits learned early likely to stick around for a lifetime, but an untidy bedroom is a safety issue as well.

Regardless of your child’s age, the secret to a well-organized children’s bedroom is providing plenty of clearly defined storage areas around the room. Without obvious ways to store their possessions, most kids will simply leave their belongings on the floor, or shove them out-of-sight, out-of-mind into the closet. Even the most adorable kid’s bedroom theme loses its charm when the room is disorganized, so help your child learn good habits by stocking the bedroom with the following six essentials, and then taking time to teach your child how to use them.

Large Trunk

Forget about a traditional footboard, what every kid’s bedroom needs in its place is a large trunk or toy box.

Because this is an item that’s going to be used for years, don’t choose a babyish design or a trunk that is too ugly to work with the bedroom’s style. Instead, look for a good-looking trunk in a classic design, preferably made of wood or metal, not plastic. When selecting a trunk, safety comes first.

Any trunk going in a child’s room needs safety latches that prevent the trunk lid from slamming down on little fingers, or locking a hiding child inside.

In your child’s early years, the toy box is the perfect home for stuffed animal or dolls. As your child moves into the elementary-school years, the contents will probably switch to games, art supplies, construction toys and craft supplies. Preteens and teenagers can put a trunk to good use holding sporting equipment, electronic games and controllers, school supplies or musical instruments.

Shelving Unit

Whether it’s a bookcase, an open-backed shelving unit or shelves mounted on the wall, a kid’s bedroom needs shelves and plenty of them. You don’t need anything fancy --- an old bookcase from another part of the home is perfect, especially if you paint it a bright color before rehoming it to your child’s bedroom. Be sure to securely fasten the shelving unit to the wall however – you don’t want it to tumble over if your young child decides to climb to an upper shelf.

In the early years, provide lots of baskets or lidded boxes sized to fit neatly side-by-side on the lower shelves. Clear plastic is best, so your son or daughter can see the contents.

This is the best way to corral small items like crayons and pens, Lego and other building toys, miniature plastic animals and dolls, craft supplies and all of the other messy, multi-pieced toys so beloved by this age group.

As your child grows, you might dispense with some of the baskets, but not all of them. They will still come in handy for beads and other small craft supplies, paint or markers and small toys. The open shelves can hold books, collectibles, trophies or sporting supplies and school items.

Teens will probably fill the shelves with books and collectibles.

Cabinet with Doors

It’s always a good idea to have at least one small cabinet with doors in your child’s bedroom. This might be a small cabinet from another part of the house – space-saver storage units made for bathrooms work well -- a bookcase with doors or even a small armoire.

This is where electronic toys, video game controllers and large, oddly shaped items such as completed Lego constructions, school projects and sporting gear can be hidden away.

Dresser

It goes without saying that every bedroom, whether a child’s or an adult’s, needs a dresser. Start teaching your child to put clothes neatly into drawers as soon as he or she is old enough to understand your directions. Use pictures to label each drawer with the contents: pajamas, tee shirts, underwear, socks. On laundry day, let your child place clean, folded clothing into the appropriate drawers. Little kids enjoy such activities, and the habit will last when the fun is outgrown.

Older kids won’t need labels, but might need assistance in deciding how to best group clothing items in the dresser drawers. Give help as needed, and on laundry day, remind your child to put his clean clothes into the proper drawers.

Closet Organizer

It’s hard to have a neat closet without some sort of closet organizer, however simple. At the minimum, your young child needs a closet rod low enough so that he can hang clothes easily, a hamper for dirty laundry and a few shelves or a hanging pocket organizer to hold shoes, sweaters and accessories.

As your child grows, she’ll probably need a somewhat more sophisticated organizer to handle a larger wardrobe, and to keep accessories and shoes under control. If the closet is large enough, tuck a small dresser inside, or install a DIY closet organizer with multiple drawers and shelves.

Underbed Storage

One or two large plastic underbed storage boxes always come in handy. Depending on the age of your child, they are perfect for holding out-of-season clothing, large pads of drawing paper, artwork your child wants to save, extra bedding, sporting equipment, the odd collections children tend to enjoy and board games or electronic equipment. Clear plastic make it easy to find the desired object without strewing the box’s contents across the floor.

Even with all of these tools, your child might not always keep his bedroom as neat as you would like.

But the odds are much more favorable when he has easy access to storage, and an occasional gentle reminder of, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”