By Nicole Paitsel, (Newport News, Va.) Daily Press
Jonah Davidson got a little practice going to school last year.
The now 5-year-old attended a half-day pre-kindergarten class three times a week. This year, though, he’s heading to school with the big boys. And mom, Joanna, has made sure he’s ready.
The Newport News family organized Jonah’s room so that his school necessities are easily accessible for both use and cleanup. His school uniforms for Summit Christian Academy in Newport News are kept in a special drawer under his bed, and his craft supplies for homework are stacked neatly in a filing cabinet.
With baby sister Jewel taking up most of mom’s time in the morning, Jonah’s new skills have helped him gain independence during his morning routine.
“Before, he would go to clean up his room, and he wouldn’t even know where to start,” Joanna says. “Now, he knows where most things are, and he’s even using the skills I’ve taught him with his room to help me in other parts of the house.”
Joanna organized her son’s room so well, that when organization guru Mary Frances Ballard came over to arrange the family’s other living areas, Ballard didn’t touch Jonah’s room.
Ballard is the owner of the Williamsburg-based company Orderly Places, and she also has written a book about organizing your home. Here’s what she has to say about getting your kids ready for the school year:
Start with categories
Starting an organization project can be overwhelming, especially in a child’s room.
To get started, bring in several baskets and a trash bag. Begin sorting the items that are in the living space of the bedroom. Categorize items by the ones you want to keep, trash, or donate. You also can have a “not sure” category.
Once you get a clear space, start categorizing the items in your closets and drawers. The idea here, Ballard says, is to purge as much as possible.
“If the kids are old enough, have them take part in the process, so they have some ownership over their room,” she says.
Her book, “Orderly Places,” calls for specific limits on everything except love and affection. For example, a child should pick her Top 10 stuffed animals and donate the rest.
If you’re going to store items for future siblings, be sure to mark boxes with the type of items enclosed, appropriate sex, age and season (if you’re storing clothes).
The easiest way to teach your children organization skills is to set up “zones” within their bedroom. Most bedrooms will have a sleeping zone, a dressing zone, a play zone and a study/project zone. All of the items that correspond to those activities should be housed in the correct zone.
In Jonah’s room, his desk sits next to the filing cabinet that holds all of his supplies. A plastic organizer sits on top of the cabinet with blank paper. His play chalkboard is also in this study zone, along with the supplies for the chalkboard.
For small children, clothing and toys should always be placed within reach. Add a lower rod to the closet, if necessary.
Make it easy
The basic rule for organizing a child’s room is to make items easier to put away than they are to get out, Ballard says.
The best way to do this is to use color coordinated baskets and bins. Books, for example, can be collected in a basket instead of placed on a bookshelf. This way, the child has to dig to find his favorite book, but he can toss the book back into the basket for cleanup.
Toys are the same way. In Jonah’s room, pirates, trains and Legos have their own colorful bins. This way, his mom can specifically ask him to cleanup his pirate toys, and he knows how to do that.
His school uniforms have their own drawer, and they are also organized by color. After some practice, Jonah can pick out which uniform his mother chooses (red shirt, blue pants, for example) on his own.
“It’s so nice now because I can send him to go do things on his own, instead of having to dig everything out myself,” Joanna says.