Organize Like A Kindergarten

Ever wonder how a teacher, well outnumbered by children, manages to keep the classroom organized?
Image by Brendacfeyc from Pixabay

Ever wonder how a teacher, well outnumbered by children, manages to keep the classroom organized? Here are a few of the secrets…

Most classrooms have an area designated for each child to hang his belongings. This fact is made clear by either a photo or name hung in the space. Children don’t toss their jackets on top of another child’s because they have their own space. Not only is this functional, but it also provides a sense of ownership. Cubbies are wonderful, but a simple series of hooks on a wall works quite well. Label them (by name, by color, by design) so that each family member has his/her own.

Ever notice this? There is typically a small seating area for reading, maybe a table for crafts, a few bins or a mini coatrack for dress up clothes, a couple of shelves with blocks, etc. This helps define “what we do where.” Perhaps you like to read on a couch in the living room, so this is where book storage should be. Crafts typically take place at a kitchen table, so having a few clear (and labeled!) shoeboxes with crayons/markers/pencils in a kitchen cabinet is handy. Blocks can be stacked on a shelf or kept in a bin near a big open floor space. Watch where you gravitate for different activities, and move the supplies nearby.

While classrooms offer a wide variety of play & learning options, they aren’t unlimited. We choose from what we see, and can be overwhelmed if there is too much. Always donate/pitch anything you are no longer using. In addition, consider cutting the number of “available” toys in half, and storing the rest in an out of the way place (e.g. closet, attic, crawlspace). Rotating toys & books keeps them exciting, and limits the amount of clutter. Likewise, always remove holiday items after the holiday has past and store them with your decorations. Limited access to holiday DVDs, games, and toys is what makes them feel special.

Getting family members to clean up isn’t easy, but getting them to reach into cabinets and pull out boxes from underneath piles and pry off lids and squeeze supplies into overstuffed spaces… well, that’s herculean.  Frankly, people resist cleaning up if putting things away feels difficult. Do everything you can to make sure each item has a designated “home”, and minimize any obstacles which make tidying unpleasant. Bins on a shelf (without lids!) work well, as do hooks. Use boxes and trays to subdivide large spaces so it is clear what goes where. Finally, ensure that there is sufficient space in the storage location for whatever items are supposed to be kept keep there.

Watch any classroom and you will see that the students regularly clean up: before snack, before recess, before lunch, before rest time, before the end of the day. See the pattern? Before they move on to another type of activity, they restore order. Avoid leaving a day’s worth of “mess” to be cleaned up at the end of the day, when everyone is exhausted.

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The beauty of these principles is that they aren’t limited to young children. Each one is just as useful to teens and adults as well. By designating simple and appropriate storage spaces for each belonging and family member, limiting the amount of stuff we surround ourselves with, and restoring order regularly, we can be just as organized as a kindergarten.

Which of these do you think you might try? What other techniques work in your space?


30 thoughts on “Organize Like A Kindergarten”

    1. Sounds like you have found a great solution for a very common problem! With me being a little “extreme” on the order scale, my husband and I have worked it out so he has an office area where I don’t come in and interfere. Works for us! Thanks for stopping by….

  1. This is great! Some classrooms really seem to look and function like they have flow. And this flow creates a better work/play environment and better attitudes. I like the analogy of kindergarden and home. I think I’ll have to think about how I’ll apply these tips to my own household. The biggest thing is for our home I think is restoring order as part of the daily flow. Great tips!

    1. Restoring order is often the hardest part, but if you have a place for everything, that makes it much easier!! I’ve always been impressed by the organization of a classroom of little people, so that’s where the idea came from!

  2. This is so true! We don’t have kindergarten yet, but the preschool classroom setup is brilliant, I’ve often thought.
    The kids (and adults) really thrive on the use of space and zones and designations.

    1. I have zones all over my house, and it can really help, especially if you live in a small space. Sometimes people think they need a giant playroom, but that really isn’t the case. By separating the supplies by function into different zones in the house, you can often feel more organized than when everything is shoved into one giant room!

    1. Yes, I’m sure some cubbies/desks are impeccable and others are a mess. BUT, at least each kids’ stuff is limited to his/her own space, which is something that frequently doesn’t happen in the home. I love it when kids shove stuff and then come to me when they can’t find something:) I think some children/youth/adults just don’t have the “tidy” gene, so corralling their stuff becomes the goal.

    1. Glad to hear it, Michelle. As our kids get older the dynamic changes… less about different “play” zones and more about zones for homework, gaming, relaxing, etc. But if we can have at least one spot to call our own, that’s huge!!

  3. This is a very apt article Seana, I am just starting an organizing job that involves everything you are talking about. I was having the exact conversation with the lady I am going to be working with this week, about how we will organize her 4 children.

    1. Good luck, Jill. You can tell I work quite a bit with clients who have children. I’m sure you will get her all set up:)

  4. What a great analogy, Seana. Everything you touched upon makes so much sense. Getting into the rhythm of restoring order as we go is a very effective, common sense, thing to do. I find that by the end of the day, I am so tired that I resent having to do too much. And, since I like waking up and starting fresh each day, I find that the easiest way to go about it is by cleaning up as I go.
    I love you no nonsense approach. Thank you for all the tips.

    1. Thanks for your affirming words, Yota. I found this helped a lot when my children were little, and now it is just my routine. I don’t even think about it. I am like you, wanting to come down in the morning to a tidy space that is ready to go. After all, you never know what you might wake up to!

    1. You are making me laugh, Jessica! Funny what a great motivator a teacher hanging over you can be, right? Just imagine me putting on my kindergarten teacher face and telling you “time to clean up” 🙂

  5. I think I need to go back to kindergarten 🙂 I recently cleaned out my spare room which is my catchall and I’m trying to make sure everything has a home otherwise I need to get rid of it or clear some space. I have a habit of stock piling things and then I’m out of space particularly when it comes to books and craft supplies. I recently got rid of three bags of books and it felt so freeing. Thanks for all your great tips Seana! I need to get to work in my craft room and restore some order!

    1. Ah, the craft room. That’s always tricky. My best tip on this one to to set a defined (=limited) amount of space for each type of supply, and then don’t let yourself buy more than will fit there. No matter how great of a deal it is:) Carry on, Dawn. I commend you!!!

  6. I find this concept really helpful when I cook. The dirty dishes go into the sink or dishwasher as I finish with each section of a recipe. Having a clearer counter makes for more joyful baking. Plus, it helps me keep track of ingredients more easily to make sure I’ve put everything in the recipe I am supposed to.

    1. I totally agree, Kim. I think most people work better on a clear surface, and its easier to focus if there aren’t visual distractions around. Putting ingredients back (especially spices!) really helps to get the recipe right! I tend to be a “clear as I go” cook as well. Thanks for the comment!

    1. Thanks, Melody. I’ve always been impressed by these teachers who keep a room neat when they are so clearly outnumbered:) It’s a starting place, anyway!

    1. It really got me thinking when I was looking at the neat classroom and acknowledging how outnumbered the teacher was! Teachers are still teaching me..

  7. SO true Seana! I have places for things and areas for coats/homework/school projects/my papers/craft supplies ETC. And as I go through the day, I am constantly organizing and putting things back in their ‘place’… or I would go completely NUTS.

    Can’t do chaos. I would be the BEST kindergarten teacher! LOL

    1. I think we are kindred spirits, Chris! I think putting things “back” is one of the keys to being organized.. never letting it get beyond us, right? Thanks for the great comment.

  8. Very useful tips Seana!! I’ve been trying everything. I love the fact of designating spaces for each one. Aside from it promotes a sense of organization, people would most likely love it when they have their own nook. 🙂

    1. I agree, Rea. Everyone (especially children) enjoy having a space of their “own”, and it helps make clear who isn’t keeping their area in order. It’s a place to start, anyway, right? So glad you are trying some of the tips – best of luck!!

    1. I love zones as well, Sabrina. This analogy can be helpful in situations where there are many activities taking place in one room, whether it is play zones or even an all-purpose room where there is an office, guest room, and tv/game area.

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