organized kids room

Happily Ever Organized

A professional organizer and organized homeowner shared their best tips for creating clean - and cheerful - kids' spaces.
By Shelby Deering | Photographed by Shanna Wolf & Kaia Calhoun

Fun can be a messy business, especially when it comes to kids. But homeowner Shelley Cornia, a product designer, and Tricia Nowicki, a professional organizer and founder of her business Get Organized, have both discovered the magical formula for streamlining kids’ spaces in a way that’s stylish, vibrant and practical. Here, they share solutions that are anything but stuffy— something that may even inspire your kids to join in. Yes, it is possible for a space to be organized and still have room for fun!

Pretty & Practical

Before she started her business Get Organized three years ago, Tricia Nowicki earned a bachelor’s degree in education and child life studies, going on to teach preschool for 13 years. “One of the things I really enjoyed about teaching was creating spaces within the classroom, organizing and implementing systems that helped kids function within the classroom,” she says.   She has taken her know-how and now applies it to organizing her clients’ homes. Nowicki “really enjoys working with families,” often thinking outside the box to create organizational solutions like a wine rack cleverly converted into a child’s art space.

Nowicki offers tips for making this project your own, and for keeping things pretty and tidy.

  1. “I painted the rack, and the baskets, which I found at a resale shop, are easily removable. Kids can carry them to a table. I used a swivel silverware container to hold markers and scissors. I would suggest not placing every crafting item you own out at once. Rather take note of what is being used, and what is not, and rotate things in, or bring in items that are seasonal.”
  2. “Always shop your house first before you purchase new items. See what types of baskets, bowls or other items you could use for storage.”
  3. “When it comes to kids, I do not shy away from using things that are breakable. We can teach our children to be careful with these items. Just make sure it is not a family heirloom.”
  4. “Simplify and don’t over-complicate kids’ storage. You don’t need to go out and buy 100 different storage bins to get started. Use what you have first by repurposing. Also, in order to maintain your space, one must continuously revisit and observe your space to see what is working and what is not.”
  5. “If you can set up an organized system for kids to create, they will be more likely to explore these types of materials. You can set up in an organized fashion so the kids can be more independent and do not need constant direction. This frees you up as a parent to make dinner or tend to other things. Checking in on occasion to remind children to put things away will help with the cleanup process. Organization can help kids function in their environment. I like to help families implement systems that promote kids’ self-help skills. Kids feel safer and more secure in a predictable environment.”

Clean & Colorful

In Shelley Cornia’s 1,200 square-foot Madison bungalow, space comes at a premium, especially when it’s shared with her husband, Reed, and their kids, 13-year-old Beatrix and 7-year-old Callum. She says that she follows the philosophy of designer and artist William Morris, who said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” She follows that maxim to the letter in the 10-foot by 12-foot bedroom that her children share. Cornia, who says that she tries to “design rooms that tidy up quickly,” reveals her five best tips for creating a kids’ room that is “aesthetically pragmatic.”

  1. “It would be unfair of me to impose a ‘look’ for my kids’ room without their input or consideration for how they play. For example, the kids love Legos and take pride in their finished constructions, but those take up a lot of space. We decided that displaying Legos was part of the room’s decor. I created shelf sub-dividers to create more space for displays. Every few months, I ask the kids if an object is still special to them. If yes, it remains untouched. If no, we can use the space for something else.”
  2. “The wire and clip system above the shelves is a great solution for creating an ever-changing display of art and accomplishments. The kids are able to change this easily themselves.”
  3. “I use translucent bins so everyone can see what kind of toy is inside. This makes cleanup go very quickly. We pull the bins out and have a tossing party, getting all the toys back to the corresponding bins.”
  4. “For a big reorganization, pre-clean the room without your kids. Get rid of bits of paper and trash that accumulates in corners and hides under beds. Then sort through all the toys with your kids’ help. I usually know what my kids still value, but it’s good to check. If there is a toy that they still like, but drives you nuts, consider buying it from them (at garage sale prices). They may be a lot more aggressive about purging if they get something out if it.”
  5. “Choose your cleaning day and stick to that. Ours is Saturday. Pull all the bins out and make a game of getting the toys back in. Set time limits on the cleaning, play fun music and be sure to praise their efforts. And remember to let your kids make a mess. This is the joy of childhood.”
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