Using color coding to simplify.

SimpleKids | color codingI think it must be the changing of the seasons, but I’ve been feeling the organizing and decluttering bug.  Before the months we call “birthday season” arrive and our home is filled with guests and new things,  I’m taking some time to sort out, tidy, and organize around the house – especially in the children’s spaces. They were also given some new things for Christmas that we are still working on finding homes for.

I thought it might be fun to share one of the simple things that I do to help stay more organized at our house (not always an easy task for the seven of us).

Today I want to tell you about a super simple system we use to keep track of items:  color coding.

using color coding to organize and simplify |

Color Coding

In a house with more than one child, color coding has been a simple but effective way to keep track of what belongs to whom.  With seven people in our household now, this is no small task. The solution for us has been color coding.

Each child has a color and the kids all know that that is their favorite color is also their assigned color.  If it is pink it belongs to Jillian, if it is orange it is Max’s, and so on down the line.

It helps us to keep track of items that have multiples, like bath towels, when I can see at a glance if we have enough for everyone and, if not, whose is missing, dirty, empty, etc.  I believe it saves us from arguments, too, because ownership of an item can be determined at a glance.

I also use coloring coding in my calendar and planning, so that I can see at a glance what event is going on and for whom.

We use color coding to keep track of:

  • bath towels
  • tooth brushes
  • dishes
  • school supplies
  • laundry baskets
  • backpacks
  • water bottles

I’ve been known to color-code Easter baskets and the wrapping paper for birthday gifts, too.

You’ll notice I included dishes in that list.  Around each kid’s fourth birthday we graduate them to the “real” dishes and they are given a set of dishes with a plate, bowl, and mug in their favorite color (we use Fiestaware).  Each kid is in charge of washing their dishes after a meal (with a bit of supervision, of course) and the person whose job it is to set the table at mealtime knows which color goes where.

The only real downside to this color coding system that I’ve found is that sometimes it is hard to find an item in the child’s chosen color.   When that is the case, we either look for a similar color or we purchase white and add a label to mark who it belongs to.   Over all, though, it is easy to adapt and personalize to each kid.

This is a simple idea, but one that saves us time and trouble and helps our household run a bit smoother.  I love that even my pre-reading kids can easily figure out this system.

Do you use a color code organizing system at your house? How do you help your children to stay organized?

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at

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  1. Robin from Frugal Family Times says:

    Such a smart idea, Kara! We do a bit of colour coding, but it’s pretty much limited to water bottles and toothbrushes. I’m totally on the same wavelength with the organizing bug.
    Robin from Frugal Family Times´s latest post: How we save $7,200+ a year: our one vehicle story

  2. Yes! I love the color coding. We went out and bought dishes and other assorted items, and each child (and parent) chose a color that would be their own. Unfortunately, now that we have this system, my kids change their minds every day as to which should be their color…but at least it all looks pretty!
    Heather´s latest post: cleaning out the chicken coop

  3. Glad to know I’m not the only one who gets the organizing “bug” in the fall. My husband has been amused by my sudden urgency to de-clutter and put everything in its place.

    I like this color coding idea! I can see a lot of sibling scuffles averted with this system.
    Gina´s latest post: Hope and a Home: Free Printable 2013 Calendar

  4. We also do this at home. Really makes organizing a lot easier!

    Tiffany G. Richert, A Proponent of Simple Living

  5. Interesting! The only thing we color coded growing up was hangers. We each had a different hanger color, and it was our job on Sunday nights to put all our empty hangers in the laundry room. Then Monday mom did all the wash while we were at school, and Monday afternoon it was our job to take all of our own hung up clothes and put them back in our closets. (Woe to the person who hadn’t pulled all the empty hangers out and made Mom have to go hunt for more!) 🙂

    And, we all 5 specifically got names with different starting letters, and there was a lot of initialing on cups, toothbrushes, etc. I always wonder how families with say a Nathan, a Logan, and a Lila do it – isn’t it confusing to have 2 L’s??
    Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm´s latest post: Better Than the Movie?

    • I once knew someone whose name began with “J” who had 8 siblings whose names also started with “J”. I always thought that was confusion waiting to happen!

  6. We do that , too! Everything in our house is purple, pink and blue. They each have their own color bin in the kitchen for papers and crafts they’re working on or want to save. They have their own color cup in the bathroom for after brushing teeth, and color coded beach towels, mittens and hats, laundry baskets, etc.
    Robin (noteverstill)´s latest post: Love and marriage

  7. apple blossom says:

    you may be able to color code kids but how do you color code hubby? :/ Can’t convenience him of taking off shoes at the door either. any woman that has her husband trained to do that is my hero..

    • I don’t have the answer but it’s good to know I’m not the only one with this issue! I’ll send good thoughts your way!

  8. I have a friend with quads, who lives in your area coincidentally, and color codes for the kids and always has. Sometimes it’s just colored electrical tape on the item. Here is her post about it.

  9. Oh yes, we do this too. Helps soooooo much. I need to color code some more items, though… little one is now three and acts like he’s Mr. Big Man already!
    Kerry @ Made For Real´s latest post: Game Giveaway!!

  10. We color code too… ( Everything… toothbrushes, plates, towels, schoolbook covers, pencil bags, water bottles… it isn’t always easy to find eight colours – but you would be surprised how often you can!!! Purple; blue; bright pink; yellow; orange; pale pink; bottle green; lime green.
    se7en´s latest post: Saturday Spot: Se7en + 1 Visit The Cape Town Science Centre…

  11. nopinkhere says:

    Now if my kids only didn’t both like blue . . . we’d have so many fewer fights.

  12. We do this. My kids love it. Towels, laundry baskets, drink bottles but am yet to try dishes as I have a thing about all white for crockery!

  13. I just started this plan with big LL Bean totes. One boy is blue, one boy is red. I will try to carry this into other stuff. Great idea. Now how about simple organizing to help a 4 year old clean up his room in some sort of organized fashion. Everything I try crumbles into chaos.
    Jessica´s latest post: 31 Days (Day 24) Trying something New – Water Aerobics

  14. We do this, too! It started with needing to know which cup belonged to each child, when there were only two and the list has grown. It’s especially helpful for my children that share a closet. Each child has his own hanger color. And I love that at a glance I know who has left his backpack, etc. in the middle of the floor.

  15. Hi, Where do you find tableware (plates, cups, bowls) for color-coding? Thanks!

    • Hi Elaine 🙂 We use Fiestaware at our house. I find it at Kohls, Amazon, and lots of it from second hand shops. We also very luckily inherited quite a few pieces as folks know we collect it.


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