How to keep a house full of children organised

I wouldn’t want to call this a test by any means, but let’s just say that I’ll know whether my husband reads this blog after this post, given that he will have a wry chuckle about my doling out ideas on organising a house.

That is to say, organisation doesn’t come particularly naturally to me; and tidiness was never top on my list of priorities – but since having 4 small children in the house I have had to make a few changes around here and keeping the house as organised as possible is key to survival. 

I will happily also admit, as a disclaimer – and in case anyone who has actually visited our house is reading this – that the house is not showhome ready at all times (see, 1.), but these days I can be relied upon to have at least pockets of tidiness to keep us all sane.

Children can absolutely destroy a room in seconds. But they are happier when their toys are well organized, when they can see the things in their wardrobes, and when their parents are relaxed because the house is reasonable. A somewhat contradictory situation, attempting to keep a house tidy with small children around. Here’s what I know:

1. Have modest goals

It is, quite frankly, impossible to keep a house impeccably tidy at all times with 4 children in it. Not without doing it to the exclusion of everything else – and by everything else I mean playing with children, any kind of relationship with your partner, having any food in the house or meals on the table.

So I keep my goals a little more realistic. There’s no need to be a hero. If I can keep one living space clutter/toy free; tidy kitchens and bathrooms, and children’s beds made, then the house feels pretty under control. The rest can get done as and when you have a spare moment.

The entry and living room: pocket of toy free tidiness. Don’t look behind you at the mound of laundry.


2. Have shared goals

This may require some incentive, but you can’t be working completely against the tide all the time.

Having to put toys away before another toy cupboard is opened works well for us (our family room has cupboards with locks, the previous owners had some good ideas); so has outright bribery and tv reward.

I have never implemented any kind of formal reward chart because that hasn’t really been our bag – maybe it’s yours – but I definitely appreciate the use of a well-timed incentive.

Finding chores that your child can be part of is also pretty successful – ours all enjoy (ok that’s stretching it – they all tolerate) sock pairing. Either getting involved, or sitting in the basket throwing things out. At least I’m getting something useful done.

3. KonMari Lite

Can I coin that term or am I at risk of some kind of copyright infringement? Let’s see. But if I learnt anything from living out of a suitcase for 8 weeks while we shipped all our things from the UK to Vancouver Island, I learnt that fewer things require less tidying up.

Not my house. A holiday in the Cotswolds and a week of blissful minimalism.

I am not committed enough to this minimalist idea to actually throw everything away, but I have since drastically reduced the amount of belongings that we own and particularly the amount of belongings that are in circulation. 

The latter is key here – for example, my 2 year old does enjoy dragging everything out of her cupboard, but now that I’ve reduced the number of things in the cupboard it is at least slightly less of a disaster than it used to be (plus, it is just a phase, surely – a very long phase). 

The children have the biggest selection of clothes but I limit available clothing to one shelf in their cupboards, with three of everything they use – three tops, three tshirts, three pairs of leggings, etc. The rest of their things are on a shelf out of reach. Obviously everything is in rotation so it all gets worn eventually, but fewer options makes it easier for them to choose and less exhausting to keep tidy.

The same principle for toys – they aren’t all available, all the time.

4. Modest days

Not only do you have to be realistic in your goals (see, 1) but I would also say that it is pretty impossible to pack too much activity into your days with small children and still expect to keep everything functioning well in the house.

Modest days.

Maybe you are some kind of genius in the house management department but key to our house not descending into complete chaos is my making sure that we have at least one morning every couple of days where I spend the time keeping everything on track.

5. Dyson handheld vacuums 

Look it’s not like I want to recommend a specific product but all I can say is that my husband is pretty keen on this device and that in itself is a fairly positive outcome. Maybe your husband will be equally impressed by the technology.

6. Baskets and trays

Everywhere. I talked about my love for trays before but they really are useful for containing clutter.

I also wouldn’t know how to keep the house tidy without baskets everywhere. We have the ubiquitous IKEA baskets amongst others. One of which is full of nappies/diapers and wipes in the living room so that I don’t have to trek upstairs every time which saves me at least four million trips every day.

Looks pretty even when it contains socks, junk mail, duplo and hot wheels cars

The children also each have two baskets in their wardrobes; one for underwear and one for pyjamas. Who has time to fold underwear and pyjamas? Not me.

7. Laundry

This is shaping up to be a pretty fun post, isn’t it. One could forgive a husband for not reading, as it turns out. But truly if anyone with many small children doesn’t sometimes feel a little overwhelmed by laundry then they have discovered some kind of holy grail. The amount of laundry is phenomenal. 

It does help to make laundry a game – this is perfectly acceptable for small babies and toddlers, you may find it harder to convince a 6 year old that laundry is anything but a chore. But my 2 year old enjoys being a postman of laundry, carrying parcels of clean clothes to the correct rooms for me to fold and put away. NB I have attempted to give 2 year olds ready-folded laundry to deliver; I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you enjoy folding everything twice. 

My 7 month old enjoys lying in a pile of fresh laundry and chewing on clothes, or sitting in a laundry basket full of fresh clothes and/or toys. What I’m saying is, that if you can find a way to get this done when your children are awake then you are able to save naptimes for something more laborious and less child-friendly. Plus you are left with plenty of cute photos of your children with your underwear on their heads which I’m sure they’ll enjoy at their weddings.

Another idea: children in the garden

The 7 essential components to a non chaotic household; admittedly, not the most glamorous of topics, but once your house looks great you can pop your new LK Bennett faux fur coat on and feel pretty pretty pleased with yourself.



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