How To Organize Your Home While You’re Stuck in It


toy organization

Organizing can help you feel better and cope with major life changes. As we learn to navigate our way through the current health crisis and subsequent repercussions, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and uncertain.

Before this crisis, you likely knew how your days would mostly unfold. Now you or your partner may be working from home (or both of you!) with your children home and your pets underfoot. Suddenly you’re responsible for feeding, cleaning, teaching, and maintaining the peace in your household 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I’m tired just writing that.

I have been a professional organizer for the past ten years and I can tell you from experience that taking small steps to organize can make a big difference to your mental and emotional state when life is most overwhelming and chaotic. Organizing is a way to control what we can control, and that helps to lighten the load of uncertainty that swirls around us.

Even as a seasoned organizer, over the last few days I’ve found things in my home that no longer serve a purpose or bring me happiness. Removing them has made feel lighter and calmer. I control what I can. So what about you? Here are some tips to help you dive into organizing:

Make the Most of Your Time at Home!

Children’s toys and children’s clothing are the two things you might consider organizing first. These are two of the biggest problem areas I see with my clients and they consistently give the most rewarding payoffs once addressed.

Now, before you roll your eyes and think I’m asking you to carve out time for yourself to organize in an already busy day, let me be clear: This is a family affair! Set it up as an activity and a teaching moment.

Go Through Toys

No matter how much we appreciate toys for making our children happy and keeping them busy, there comes a point where they take over the home and we don’t love them so much anymore. To fix this stressful problem, make sure you’re cycling out what your kids don’t play with anymore. Get rid of things that are broken. Check for duplicates – you’d be surprised how many people have multiples of the same toy. Involve your kids and challenge them – tell them they must get rid of X number of toys today. Or teach them about the current state of affairs and ask them to identify toys they would want to donate to families who may be losing a paycheck or who are simply less fortunate. Reduction is the key.

Once you reduce, then you organize, and ultimately, maintain – or as I like to call it, ROM:

1.      Reduce it. For three days, let your kids go to town playing with all of their toys. Don’t say a thing about what they are using. Then at the end of the three days, take a look at what is left. Most likely it’s the toys your kids have grown out of or just don’t use. It may be time to donate. Keeping just the toys they use will make it a lot easier to keep the toys in order.

2.      Organize it. Now that the volume of toys is reduced, group toys by category and choose one place for each toy group to live. For example, all of the Legos in one area and all of the action figures in another area.

3.      Maintain it. Keep a timer in your kids’ toy area (or just use your phone). Decide on a set time for your child to play and a set time for the toys to be put away. Even the littlest of tots can put their blocks back. This is where your role as Mom is the most important. Not only are you teaching your child about the importance of caring for their things but you are teaching your child the most important role in keeping a space organized – putting things back.

Not putting things back is the biggest problem I see causing disorganization in my most chaotic clients’ homes. They don’t put things away and they don’t impart that lesson to their children. It may take time and it may feel exhausting to have to repeat yourself, but the sooner you teach good habits, the sooner they will take hold and you’ll be able to breathe easier.

Go Through Clothes

Did you know that less clothes = less laundry? It’s true. The more clothes we have, the larger amount of stuff that needs to be washed.  It’s a simple truth but so often overlooked. Especially with children’s clothes – it’s so easy to lose track when they are constantly growing or changing styles. This could be your opportunity to get the clothing situation back on track!  Here is my ROM plan for clothing:

1.      Reduce it. Each day pick one child’s room and go through every piece of clothing. Pull out all of the clothes that don’t fit. Pull out all the clothes the child won’t wear, whatever the reason. Put those clothes in a donate bag. If your child is old enough, invite him or her in to help you and make a game of it.

2.      Organize it – Group all the like items and designate a drawer. When you do this, you may realize how many similar items you have of a particular thing and if that’s the case, go back to reducing.

3.      Maintain it – If your child is old enough, he or she can put clothing into a laundry basket and put their own clothes away after they have come out of the wash. It might not be perfect, but the good practice is worth it.

Make a game of it and see who can fold a shirt the best or involve your child by asking him how he thinks a dresser should be organized.

Learning good habits for how to handle possessions is essential for our children’s wellbeing. I can’t tell you how many adults I work with who never learned the process of putting their belongings away. If that seems simple and obvious, realize that it is not their fault if they were never taught. So let’s make sure we teach our children how to care for things and how to be responsible.

How to Get Rid of It

If you’re wondering what to do with the possessions you have purged, here are some ideas for donation:

SF Smiles – Not only will this nonprofit take your gently used clothes and toys but they will also take all your baby items such as strollers, cribs, and car seats.

Creativity Explored – If you have unused art and crafts supplies consider bring them here. Creativity Explored gives artists with developmental disabilities a means to create their art and share it with the Bay Area.

Scraps – this is another wonderful resource for donating unused materials. I believe this truly is the meaning of recycling.

Salvation Army – They will take your gently used clothes and toys.

If you would like more organizing advice, please do not hesitate to contact me. I love a good organizing challenge. And, if you want to take it one step further, I am offering virtual organizing sessions where we can meet via What’s App or FaceTime to walk through your home and discuss ideas on getting you organized. I will give you a detailed plan along with my suggestions on resources to not only get you organized but to keep it organized.

Happy organizing.

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Andrea is an expert in residential organization for the last 10 years, and has helped over 700 clients in New York and California to create the home they always imagined. She has been rated number #1 Professional Organizers by Yelp users in San Francisco. For the past two decades, Andrea has followed the mantra if something new comes in, then something old goes out. This reduce/recycle approach has served her well moving from the sprawling suburbs of Long Island to space-challenged apartments in Manhattan and finally to San Francisco where years of shared-living situations have made her an expert in managing space and inventory. Throughout her relocations and professional development, Andrea has found her optimal organizational balance: a balance that has rewarded her with a profound sense of freedom. This freedom has afforded her the opportunity to pursue the things she feels most passionate about – sharing life experiences with friends and family, yoga, running, travel, and now, helping others bring organizational balance to their lives.


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