With four kids, some people would say we have a "big" family. The kids share rooms, and that means they share the spaces in the house as well. Four kids = a LOT of stuff, right? Yes and no. Over the years I have come up with a few organization tips to help keep you sane in the face of more than one (or more than two or three...or four) kids. Mostly gleaned from the always helpful Pinterest, click through to find my top tips for keeping things streamlined with a big brood.
First, LESS STUFF. Yes I know this one seems obvious, but you need to take decluttering up a notch with four kids. If clothing cannot be saved and passed down it either immediately gets consigned or donated. With four growing kids we regularly will weed out things that have been outgrown and will decide if it will stay for a younger sibling or go, but once it can't be worn it gets taken out of the rotation. Same goes for toys and books. For the stuff you do have, there are a couple tips to keeping it organized.
I love the bucket idea, because it keeps those loose items up off the floor when you do a room sweep, and the kids can empty out their own buckets and put things where they belong once a day. Putting things in the buckets helps to keep things tidy without forcing you to always be putting the stuff away. Loose odds and ends go into the buckets so the house stays clean, and if something can't find it's place or doesn't get played with we can just toss it. This is usually where the little knick-knacks wind up, army guys, trinkets from birthday party goodie bags, Lego pieces, all that stuff. We use the buckets in conjunction with the color coding (see below...), and putting the buckets on the stairs to the playroom or up to the bedrooms is also a good tip, so they can do the cleaning up roundup on the way up or down. Putting the bucket emptying into the daily routine keeps the buckets from getting overfilled and helps instill the idea of putting things back in their place at the end of the day to prepare for the next day ahead. We all know the kids are taught these things in school, and it actually can be an easy transition to making it part of your daily routine at home as well.
A command station is key. At our house we have a few. One set of low hooks for jackets labeled by name so they can get jackets and hang them up themselves, one basket for hats and gloves, and a "backpack depot" where they can deposit their backpacks and school stuff so things don't wind up all over the floor, and a shoe shelf with a shelf for each child. Labeling is key, and the kids really get into having their own little space, even the younger ones. We also have a wipeboard calendar that holds every event in one place with another wipeboard next to it for reminders and lists.
Color coding is another option, which works well with the younger ones too when you have sippy cups and babas and all that baby stuff. Even with toddlers the letter system works (or a number system, we do 1-2-3-4 based on oldest to youngest as well), and when you have to buy multiples of the same items buying each one in the specific color per child saves a lot of battles. This also works well for files on each child, filling in a family calendar (one color ink for each child) and in the bathroom for towels and toothbrushes, OH THE TOOTHBRUSHES. Click here for a great diy on doing the color coded towels below.
Sorting the laundry right from the dryer into separate baskets for each child makes the job so much easier, especially since the big kids can put their own stuff away (and choose and sort their own outfits using my other favorite organizational tool here).
We also have a homework caddy because let's face it, with four kids under one roof it's not always conducive to quiet homework time, so sometimes the kids have to move locations. They have spaces in the playroom and their bedrooms, but hauling up the stuff they sometimes need can be a pain (not to mention hauling it back down all together again). A homework caddy like the one pictured below is great not just for homework but for ushering the littler ones into another room to try to have some quiet time with some arts and crafts, and once again, each item has a place, making it easier for the kids to clean up.
The best tip is to have a place for everything, and to make those places pretty clear to every child. Here are where the shoes go, here are where the books go. Before we even buy anything it is something I already have in mind, "But where will it go?". This also helps to cut down on the "WHERE IS MY ...?" rush that happens in the morning, because every item has a home. There is a basket for homework and library books labeled by name, the hooks which should hold the jackets, the shoe area, and so on. At night we make sure all of the stuff scattered throughout the house (because surely you don't think they actually put all the stuff away in the right place all the time do you?!) is put back in it's rightful place so it can be found when we need it. With younger kids, sometimes just a bin works easier for them to know "that's where my stuff goes". As they get older they can figure out where to put specific items, etc, but involving them in the tidying up process is invaluable even at that age.
My other best tip is to have a calendar in your phone that you can keep track of all the comings and goings of each child. Between ballet and lacrosse and horseback riding and doctor's appointments, school concerts and half days, play dates and birthday parties, even though I write it all down on the big command center whiteboard calendar, I still put everything into the Sunrise app and set two reminders, yes TWO (usually the day before and then a couple hours before). I also have timers set each day for a heads up on when the bus is ten minutes away and the kids know to listen for it now to get their butts in gear. I do also have the timer set for when the bus is going to arrive, because I have also totally spaced on the time on that as well (more than once). Don't be afraid to over alert yourself for this stuff, trust me it is sort of hilarious when I have ignored the first reminder and the second reminder saves me just in the nick of time.
Finally, to circle back on my first tip, just get RID of stuff. You'd be surprised how much stuff you have in your house that the kids not only don't use, but they simply don't need. We had toys taking up so much room that I would literally clean around and dust off each week only to finally realize, oh hey, this is totally useless here. Donate it, sell it in a garage sale, send it along to another child who will actually enjoy the toy. With the smaller kids, they would empty out the toy basket into a big pile and not even play with anything because there was too much stuff. With less stuff, kids will actually develop greater creativity, will have more responsibility for the stuff they do have, and will be more resourceful. Don't believe me? Click here for a fantastic article that will have you tossing the junk in no time.
all photos found on pinterest, to find them click to see the board here!