Back to School -- Organizing Your Kids' Stuff

Artwork & All Those Little Creations
Whether or not you're convinced that your child is the next Picasso, it might become difficult to size down her masterpieces to a standard 8-by-11-inch binder sleeve as Tucker has done. Instead, purchase an artist's portfolio and save everything for one year, suggests Leeds. "Your children aren't going to want every piece of artwork they ever did in school, so at the end of the year select the best examples and label the portfolio. One per child. Period." Or frame the work and hang it if it deems being shown off.

Paintings and drawings are probably not the only masterpieces they're bringing home; heart-shaped molds, pins, wallet-size picture frames and Popsicle-stick sculptures are just some of the smaller items that may come through the front door. Tucker stores these little gems in a plastic box with a lid and small dividers. She labels a box for each child. "That way I know who made me the turtle pin or the beaded bracelet," she says.

The Big Stuff
While we're battling the clutter, let's not forget those piles of jackets, book bags and sports equipment that have long infringed upon our entryways. Yes, we're glad the kids made the lacrosse team, but isn't there a better place than the middle of the floor for their sticks?

Oversized, clear storage bins should become your family's next best friend. Sold at almost any store on the planet, including Target, Lowe's and Home Depot, and running for as little as $6.99 a pop, they can house sports and play gear neatly and with ease. Make broad categories such as "Winter Gear," "All Balls" or "Beach Toys," and keep bins for the current season in the garage or mud room so the kids can access them easily. Once the season's over, bring the bin to the basement or attic. Same goes for seasonal clothing.

Talking to the Clutter-Mongers
Finally, remember your own mother's words: "I am not your maid." Communicating with your children about school notices, practice schedules, belongings and what they need to save is most important, stresses Leeds: "This way you're not only partners in their progress, you're also teaching your children to be organized by demonstrating how the systems are created and how they work."

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