It’s difficult to keep children’s rooms neat and organized in the best of circumstances. Throw in a pandemic that has upended our lives and schedules for nearly two years, and many parents, understandably, have given up on maintaining any semblance of order.

But the new year is a good time to get things under control. Here are some tips.

Use the right tools

Make it easy for your children to put items away. If they love books, choose bookshelves that they can reach and that can hold most of their favorite collection. (Anchor heavy pieces to the wall to prevent tipping and injuries.)

Old dressers are nice to pass down, but if the drawers are hard to open, children are going to avoid putting away their clothes. Opt for something without any barriers to use. Wall hooks are also useful for keeping clothes off the floor.

Clear, labeled bins are great for collections, and open bins make cleaning up toys and stuffed animals easier for beginners.

When children show they can carry out simple tasks, such as making the bed and putting clothes away, involve them in choosing storage products they’ll use in styles they like. This does not mean that you need to spend a lot of money — you can choose from what you have or decorate old shoeboxes to hold items. And asking for their input and opinions will help them feel connected to the process, and maybe even get them excited about staying organized.


Control the influx, purge regularly

Most families have a constant churn of clothes and toys for about a decade. The only way to keep children’s rooms in relative order, especially when they’re young, is to manage what’s coming in and going out. If you have limited time to keep up with the ever-changing inventory, keep a bag in a closet where you can put clothes that no longer fit or toys that are no longer played with as you come across them.

Experts in child development advise that kids don’t need — and shouldn’t have — a mountain of toys at their disposal. They get overwhelmed when they have too many choices competing for their attention.

The holidays likely brought an onslaught of new stuff, so pare down some of the older, less-used items. Try putting some toys away temporarily; if they’re not missed, it’s probably safe to give them away. Donate or pass along clothing your child has outgrown, or create a memory box for select items you want to keep, and store it somewhere out of the way.

And commit to buying less for your children in the new year to make it easier for everyone to keep their things under control.

Manage expectations, involve your kids

If your goal is for your child’s room to look like those on social media or in magazines, you’ll never be satisfied. The aim should be comfortable functionality, not perfection. Both you and your child should be able to find what you’re looking for and clean up easily. If the room feels calm and relatively neat, pat yourself on the back.

It takes more time to tidy up children’s rooms when you involve them, which is why many parents decide it’s easier to do it themselves. But that doesn’t teach your kids to value their belongings or to have the organizational skills they’ll need later in life.


Children need to feel ownership over their space and learn how to clean up after themselves in age-appropriate ways. Most children can start to help clean up toys and books as early as 2. They won’t be able to pay attention for long, but they can put away a couple of blocks.

As they reach elementary school, children can make decisions about what to keep and what to let go of. Eventually, they’ll be able to categorize items themselves and do their own sorting and culling.

Some children will have a harder time keeping their rooms neat than others, not because they’re lazy or messy, but because cognitive differences may require alternative approaches and additional tools. Cleaning up a chaotic space is difficult for adults with fully developed brains, much less adolescents or kids with ADHD or developmental disabilities. Patience and flexibility are key. Try to establish a system that works for everyone but that still helps to create an orderly space.

Nicole Anzia is the owner of Neatnik.