NEW YORK -- Children are constantly getting new stuff. On top of the new toys, clothes and art supplies that seem to come with each holiday -- even minor ones -- come birthday toys, clothes and art supplies. Then there are the extra goodies bought with allowances or by grandparents. Not to mention school supplies, books and weather-related gear.
Professional organizer Candita Clayton says to make room for each new haul, children need to shed some old stuff.
Toys, schoolwork, backpacks and outdoor clothing are among the worst culprits, and small piles of any of the above can grow quickly into "unsightly mountains," she says.
Tips from mother-of-two Clayton, whose business -- called Your Life Organized by C Squared -- is based in Rumford, R.I.:
* Develop a system or routine for attending to children's belongings.
* Assign a place for everything.
* Select spots that are easy for children to reach and access.
* Teach children to be the keepers of their own belongings.
* Insist that once a task is completed, its pieces immediately are returned to their designated spot.
* Don't let "foreign objects" move into designated areas.
* Make this process as fun for your children as possible.
Turning cleaning into fun isn't as hard as it sounds, says Clayton. She suggests posing the challenge, "What could we do with this space if we clean it out?"
Her own daughter turned her closet into a private reading space, complete with a chair.
More solutions for specific organizational dilemmas:
* For school papers and artwork, have separate plastic containers for each child. Store them in an area that's easy to access on a daily basis. Put meaningful work inside; toss the ordinary, everyday stuff.
* For toys, conduct regular purging sessions -- and make sure to include the children. Let them choose what stays and what goes, while still guiding them toward smart choices.
If children insist on keeping items they no longer play with, put them in storage containers and move them to the garage, basement or attic. If the kids ask for them and miss them, give the items back. If they never mention them again, get rid of them in six months.
* For clothing and gear, designate a spot where items are stored -- preferably near the specific door that children use most frequently to enter and exit. Give each child a separate bin that's clearly marked with the name.
* For backpacks, start a routine that both you and your children can easily follow. If possible, use durable folders to hold important papers. Assign separate colored folders for homework, correspondence from teachers and school notices and daily papers. Clearly mark the exterior of each folder with typed or handwritten labels that are easy for children and teachers to read. (If your child doesn't read yet, use the color of each folder as a point of reference.)
As soon as children come home from school, carefully remove contents and sort through papers, homework, notices and lunch boxes. Before bedtime, repack backpacks with completed homework folders and any other items that need to return to school. Place restocked backpacks near the door so kids won't be hunting frantically during the morning rush.