Summer is the perfect time to organize, switch, or spruce up bedrooms. During the school year, we try not to make major changes and try to keep everything as orderly as possible. (I don’t have proof, but my personal experience says that an ordered world promotes better concentration and learning.) Organizing a bedroom can be one gargantuan task that may take many hours or even many days. Sometimes moms try to accomplish this job alone because it takes less time. Instead, think of this as a teaching opportunity so that someday they can do it without you! Younger ones can be part of the process so that they learn how to be organized and how to prioritize what items should be kept and share in the joy of giving to others. For the teens, I communicate my expectations and set up a time for us to work together to accomplish the task. Though I’m mostly moving things to appropriate piles, this is a teaching moment for them and I believe the job moves much faster with my supervision.
Last month we took 2 weeks to organize and update one daughter’s bedroom, 2 days to organize another, and I’m currently in the midst of purging another bedroom for an imminent move to college. There is no right way to do this, but here is our plan for those who are interested.
Assess the situation before you do anything.
Too often I've started a project before I counted the cost or made a plan. An assessment is like “bedroom triage.” (Please don’t quote me on that!)
Is the furniture suitable? Have they outgrown it? Are we adding or removing a sibling to the room? Does the furniture need to be cleaned, repaired, painted, etc.? Is there adequate drawer space for storing clothing? Do we need all the furniture in the room? Do we need to purchase something else, such as a desk or bookshelf?
How are the linens (sheets, pillows, mattress pad, comforter, curtains)? Do some need to be replaced or mended? What does the budget allow me to replace?
Does everything have a home? When I ask something to be put away, does my daughter have a place to put it? Can she find what she needs when she needs it? Does she need more storage containers for items she has recently acquired?
Should everything currently in the room stay in the room? Is it time to shift some items/toys to the attic, to another room, or another home? If we need to move things, do I have a place to move them or can they live in the garage until I find a good home? **This may be one of the most important questions you answer. Make sure you have a plan for what will be leaving the room. You don’t want to organize one room only to find that all of the “stuff” is merely piled in the hallway, garage, or worse yet the master bedroom! This may determine your time frame. If you know a friend wants the extra desk in about a month, you may want to store it in the garage temporarily or maybe wait on your project.
Make a plan.
Decide how long you think it will take you to make the necessary changes. My guess: a whole day for a full closet and full desk, half a day each for bookshelves, dresser, under the bed, redecorating. You may think you can go through things more quickly, but remember the goal is to organize and find a home for everything that doesn’t belong. I also find that if we stay focused on one mini project until completion, we can stop in the middle of the whole project and still live in the room!
Organize the closet.
I always start with the closet first so that we make room to store other things that may be elsewhere in the room. Be sure to have some paper nearby to start a shopping list for things you need.
Go through hanging clothes and put them in four piles:
Keep: It fits and the child wears it. LAY THE CLOTHES ON THE BED
Mend: It fits, the child wears it, but it needs to be mended--hemmed, button replaced, etc.) FOLD THE CLOTHES IN A PILE AND SET THEM ASIDE.
Put Away/Give Away/Sell: doesn’t fit, child doesn’t wear, still in good shape. You may choose to store it for younger siblings, give it away to friends or a charity, or sell it on consignment—or some of each! PUT AWAY CLOTHES IN A PLASTIC TOTE, GIVE AWAY CLOTHES IN A GARBAGE BAG, SELL CLOTHES KEEP ON HANGERS AND WASH OR DRYCLEAN BEFORE SELLING.
Throw Away: Not in good shape. PUT THE CLOTHES IN A GARBAGE BAG
Vacuum the closet and the baseboards before you put things back in. All “Keep” clothes should be returned to the closet (opposite season to the back of the closet) and all other piles should be taken care of appropriately. Be sure you have enough hangers so that there are no excuses for clothes that aren’t hung up! Add them to the shopping list if you need more.
Sort shoes and other accessories (belts, scarves, scrunchies, etc.)
Use the same four piles system, as above. Be sure there is a home for everything. We use boxes or hanging organizers for shoes, a hanging organizer for jewelry, a special hanger for belts, and a special hanger for scrunchies/scarves. Add anything you need to your shopping list. Be sure that only “Keep” shoes and accessories remain in the room before you move on.
Organize shelves in the closet.
Take down one item at a time. If you take everything down, you are stuck with reorganizing it all in one sitting—or your child has to live with stuff piled around. (Can you hear the voice of experience?!) Go through one box/bag/item at a time using the same four pile system that you used for clothes. Sort all items on the shelves and wipe off the shelf before you return items to the closet. Use the storage in the closet for things that your children don’t need access to: breakable items, or keepsakes, games with small pieces, or seasonal clothing. All other piles should be taken care of appropriately.
Work your way around the room.
I organize rooms like I clean them—starting at the light switch and working my way around clockwise. Vacuum or wipe down the baseboards as you go. Here are some suggestions for the remainder of the room, as you encounter each situation.
Organize the dresser.
Using the same four pile system, sort through one drawer at a time. Wipe out the insides of drawers before you replace the items. Our drawer system looks like this: one drawer for socks, undies, camis, and slips/hose (organized with one shoes box for each item type), another drawer for swimsuits (in a shoe box) and pjs, another drawer for seasonal everyday pants, another drawer for seasonal shirts. Everything else gets hung up. During the summer, we keep winter clothes--sweaters, corduroys, turtlenecks--in a clear plastic tub in the closet or under the bed. In the winter, the same plastic tub is filled with shorts, capris, sleeveless shirts. Note: In lieu of a dresser, we've also used a plastic drawer “cart” in the bottom of the closet, just above the hanging shirts.
Organize under the bed.
Using the same four pile system, sort through all of the items under the bed. Use storage under the bed for bins of toys, seasonal clothes or other things that your children may need access to without your assistance.
Organize the desk.
Using the same four pile system, sort through the items on/in the desk. Start with the desk drawers, one at a time. Again, keep only what your child needs and be sure that there is a system for organization—a home for everything. Also, if your child is using the desk for homework or school, be sure that they have all the necessary supplies (pencils, erasers, calculators, etc.) Next, clean off the top of the desk and decide what should stay. Discard or put away all other items.
Organize the bookshelves.Using the same four pile system, sort through the items on the shelves. Wipe off every shelf before you replace the items. On our shelves: top shelf for trinkets, middle shelves for books, bottom shelf for fabric bin with stuffed animals.
Organize the nightstand.
Using the same four pile system, sort through the drawers. I call them “treasure drawers.” Each drawer has a shoe box for the little things and space for papers/books on the other side of the drawer. When the girls were younger, this is they kept their “treasures” that would've been destroyed by the toy box—bouncy balls, fast food toys, book marks, and other little gifts and items that I probably would've thrown away! We periodically sorted through the treasures since affections change—and wisdom comes with age. J Don’t forget to wipe out drawers before you refill them.
Repair, rearrange or replace furniture, as necessary.
Repair or refresh furniture, as needed. Remove and replace furniture, as needed.
Wash or replace linens, as needed. Wash the windows when you replace the curtains. Evaluate what is currently hanging on the walls using the same four pile system. Purchase any needed items such as picture frames or mirrors. Hang items.
Switch Rooms or Paint.
That may seem like the opposite way to do things, but it’s much easier to switch rooms or paint a room with less stuff!
This may seem like a long process, but so worth it. I try to do this for every bedroom during the summer. Yes, it does take a lot of time, but much less time if we aren’t switching rooms or furniture. In the long run, it helps our home stay neater and more organized if there is space for everything and if everything has a home. Happy organizing!