Organizing kids’ spaces: labels and containers

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Written by Kara Fleck, Simple Kids editor and Rockin’ Granola mama.

I mentioned on Monday that the inspiration for this week’s mini-series was inspired by the organizing and decluttering bug I’ve been bitten by this Autumn. Before the holidays arrive and our home is filled with guests and new things, I decided that I wanted to sort out, tidy, and organize around the house, especially in my children’s spaces.

I certainly don’t have it all figured out,  and I have to admit that I don’t really try  to keep things around here spotless. However, while a little mess doesn’t bother me, chaos does and so I try to keep it at bay.

Today I want to tell you two more ways we stay organized: labels and creative containers.

Labels, labels, everywhere!

I was recently given a Brother Home and Office (PTD200) label maker to try out.  We have loved this gadget!  We have had it for a few months now and I keep finding new ways to use it to help stay on top of things around here.  Such a simple device, but one I really do wonder how I lived without.

We label personal belongings, school supplies, crafting supplies, and I’ve found many uses for it in my pantry and home office.  My husband has been using it in the garage and for organizing some of our garden supplies and seeds as well.

Specifically for the children’s things, I’ve found that I’m labeling things not only for the kids’ sakes but also to make it easier for any one who steps in to care for them:  the babysitter can see which snacks in the pantry the kids are allowed to help themselves to, Grandma can find the stash of extra shampoos and toothbrushes in the closet and know which are the children’s, and the plastic shoebox with our family first aid kit is easy to spot.

My oldest daughter really loves to cook but sometimes all of the various bulk items in mason jars, homemade extracts, and spices in our pantry were confusing to her.  A little bit of time spent labeling these pantry items and now she has another level of independence in the kitchen.

One of the features I love about our label maker is that it allows you to save a template so that I don’t have to start from scratch each time I want to print a new label for a child’s things.  I just open up the saved copy and print from there and it takes just seconds.  You can save up to 30 different labels.

Another feature that I appreciate about this label maker is that the laminated tape is good for indoor or outdoor use.  This label maker features 8 fonts, 95 frame options, and more than 600 different symbols.

Symbols

To make it easier for my pre-reading children, each child picked out a symbol and, like their assigned colors, the kids all know their symbol.  When I create a label for a child I include their name in a large font as well as their symbol.

I also use these name/symbol combination labels to indicate which coat hook belongs to them and which drawers belong to which girl on their shared dresser.  My kids each have a cubby in our library/home office and those are labeled with their symbol and names, as well.

Some of the kids’ things we use labels to keep track of:

  • school supplies
  • craft sets
  • art supplies
  • food (snacks, bulk ingredients, etc)
  • toiletries
  • diapering supplies
  • books (I’ve gotten in the habit of using labels instead of bookplates)
  • the totes with off-season and hand-me-down clothing (keeping track of season and sizes)

I also use labels on shelves, drawers, and in closets to help my children know where to put things away.  I have found that the kids have an easier time keeping track of things and putting things away if everything has a home.  This doesn’t work as well for my pre-readers, but I am hoping to add photographs to these areas, too.  (Maybe while I’m on my current organizing kick?)

We also add labels to things that are family heirlooms.  I have a music box collection that has been divided among the kids and each one is labeled.  My parents have the wonderful tradition of giving each grandchild a wooden rocking chair on their first birthday.  Now each rocker has a small personalized label on the bottom of it to document the occasion for the future, when my kids are grown and these rockers leave with them.

I’ve already got plans to use the label maker to create personalized ornament boxes for the children after the holidays this year, too.  I love the idea of each of them having a box of the special Christmas ornaments, especially the one made by their little hands.  I don’t want to mark the individual ornaments themselves, but establishing a box sounds like a good solution and a gift to them for the future.

This combination of using labels to indicate personal items as well as general use household items is another helpful, yet simple, layer of organization that benefits the kids and the grown-ups.  Win!

If you’re in the market for a label maker, the one we have is the Brother Home and Office Labeler (PTD200).   You can find it on Amazon and read more about it at the Brother International website.

Containers

We use various plastic shoe boxes, totes, and also baskets and pails around the house to organize and hold everything from books to clothes to toys.  I’m always on the lookout for fabric bins, wicker baskets in all sizes, and clear plastic totes for organizing.

Over the years I’ve also gotten in the habit of rescuing items from the recycle bin to use as organizing containers and storage solutions.  We’re on a tight budget, so whatever I can get for free is always appreciated, especially if it helps us to stay a little more organized and neat.

A few creative uses for recycled items when organizing for children:

  • Clear peanut, almond, and other nut butter jars are used for storing markers and other art supplies.  The twist on lids mean that the toddler cannot access them, they are see through so the kids can see what is inside, and we tend to buy those items at Costco so they are a large size for even our tallest markers.
  • Empty paper towel tubes store the girls’ pony tail holders and small gift box holds their barrettes and bows.
  • Glass jars hold everything from craft supplies to cotton balls to bulk foods and spices in our pantry.
  • My son Max uses a plastic container that once held croissants from the bakery to store his collection of Squinkies (and thus keeps them safely out of the baby’s eager reach).
  • Berry baskets make good storage solutions for small collections and drawer dividers, too.

This is a simple idea, but one that saves us time and trouble and helps our household run just a bit smoother.

Coming up on Friday: creative organizing for small spaces where every square foot counts.

Do you have a label system at your house? Have you found creative uses for containers?  How do you store your holiday ornaments, especially the ones you’d like to pass on to your children some day?  I’d love to hear what works for you!

Full disclosure: I was given a Brother Home and Office Labeler to review, but all opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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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 KElizabethFleck.com.

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Comments

  1. We recently used our label maker to label the bins for sorting our laundry. Now my family is learning to sort their own laundry correctly, rather than having to ask me every time. It’s saving us a lot of time and energy.

    Funny story…I recently heard about an elderly woman who labeled all of her heirlooms with post-it notes, detailing which daughter would get which item. Whenever one of them made her mad, she would take the label off one of their items and put someone else’s name on it. True story. :)

    • That is too funny :-D

      I like that idea about the laundry baskets. That is one thing that I haven’t quite figured out yet, the laundry sorting. We don’t have many special wash things, but we do have a couple. I need to figure out a way to mark things like wool items that need handwashed, too. My gears are turning ….

  2. We haven’t started using labels yet, but it definitely is a direction that I want to go in. My kids can’t read yet, but my husband can…hmmm… :-) I love using small baskets for organizing. They are easy to organize, and pretty to look at. My kids understand “all the play food goes in this basket” “all the doll stuff goes in this basket” We also have some plastic bins for the larger toys, or larger collection of toys like the stuffed animals. But once it doesn’t fit in its designated container, we start getting rid of stuff.

    And I totally get wanting to organize and declutter in the fall. No matter how hard I try to make Christmas not about the presents, there are still a lot of presents that come into our home :-) I like to have a place to put them right off, so we go through all the toys around Thanksgiving so there is room. And we also use it as a way to teach giving to those less fortunate than us. My kids like to pick toys to give to other kids that may not have them.
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  3. How do you get that sticky label residue off of containers from peanut butter, grated cheese, etc? I have some stubborn stickiness I can’t seem to scrub off!

    • There is a miracle product called Goo Gone which gets stickiness off of all manner of things with virtually no work. It even gets adhesive off of clothes if they accidentally get sent through the wash with a sticky nametag. I’ve also had success getting sap off with it. It makes reusing containers a breeze.

  4. We are a basket family! I love using baskets and I love organizing, labeling. It feels so nice to be organized and to know what goes where. Reduced clutter = extreme happiness for me.

  5. Ooo I love label makers. They really make life a lot easier. I never thought about the “organizing for someone else that might step in” aspect. Thank you for that! I really enjoyed the creative containers. I’ve been bitten by the organizing bug as well, so this will make it even more interesting. I’m off to organize and store baby clothes!
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