Reining in Kid Chaos: Organization Tips for the Busy Family

I have no problem admitting that I am a neat freak.  While having three boys has, shall we say, lowered my tidiness standards, I still love nothing more than a functional organizational system or a good purge.  Working from home means that If the house is in chaos I spend my entire day  cringing as I walk through, around, or over the mess, not to mention the challenges that come along with trying to keep our main floor, where my photography studio is located, tidy and clean for clients.  At the end of the day all I’m trying to do is save my sanity by coming up with solutions to manage our clothes, toys, and “life” so that I can spend more time with my family rather than cleaning up after them.

After 11 years of motherhood I’ve tried many different ways to reign in the kid chaos and I’m happy to share six of my favourites with you!

Storage bags

We have tried plastic bins, plastic drawers, small containers, big containers, and after all of those attempts I finally broke down and invested in several large canvas bags to store our thousands of pieces of Lego.  Our attempts to keep the Lego separated into categories or types was futile: with three kids and friends rummaging through our collection it ended up being more work trying to get the Lego back into it’s separate bins.  What I like about the canvas drawstring bags is that they spread out flat on the floor, which means there’s room for everyone to access the pile of Lego and they can rummage to their heart's content without tripping over bins.  I invested in Swoop bags and have been impressed with their durability.  Similar designs are also available on Etsy and via local businesses.  

Toy storage in a bag

Repurposed shoe storage

Shelves that are 12 inches deep are a haven for dust and beanie boos.  My son absolutely adores his stuffed animal collection but I struggled to find a way to store all his little friends.  He was forever misplacing his stuffed toys or pulling out shelves worth of them to find one particular animal.  I ended up hanging a fabric shoe organizer on the front and back of his bedroom door to house all his stuffed animals.  I love that it keeps his toys off the floor and that he can see all of them at a glance.   

Shoe storage repurposed for toys

Art supplies

Our kitchen table is inevitably littered with scraps of paper, markers, and crayons.  For several years I had a separate bag or plastic container for each type of art supply (markers, crayons, pencil crayons, pencils) but was tired of putting them away at dinner time when I needed to clean off the table.  I recently bought a caddy that matches the colours of our kitchen and purged their collection of dried out markers down so that all the drawing supplies fit into the one container.  Now that the supplies are readily accessible I find that they are using them more often but it’s also easier for them to put them away since there is only one place to storage their drawing tools.  

art supplies storage


One of our sons is a self-identified crow.  He loves to collect treasures, which means a washing machine full of surprises and a bedroom floor that will fell the toughest of souls who dare try to cross it in the dark.  After several attempts to reign in his collection of bottle caps, acorns, marbles, paper clips, earrings, corks (the list goes on and on), I bought a storage drawer with drawers.  Now he can see his treasures in the clear plastic drawers and we can direct him where to stash his latest find.  It means we’re not always on the hunt for missing items and I haven’t stepped on a bottle cap in months!

Toy storage for small toys

Works of art

I have no problem admitting that I don’t want dozens of pieces of paper taped to my kitchen fridge and office walls.  Three creative kids means piles and piles of artwork is produced at home and school and I’ve managed to contain it to their bedrooms, which felt like a parenting coup d’etat.  We purchased magnetic kitchen storage (the kind that holds knives and utensils) for all three boys rooms.  All their artwork is displayed proudly in their rooms and with several rows of magnets, they have plenty of room to show off their creations.  

How to store your child's artwork

Photo clues

After hearing my preschool son complain “but I don’t know where it goes” in reference to toys he was asked to tidy up, I started printing photos for the fronts of all our toy bins.  Not only can they see which bin they want from our shelves but when it’s time for them to clean up they know where toys belong.

Unique toy storage ideas

Sara McConnell is the mom to three boys and an award winning professional photographer specializing in maternity, newborn and family photography. When she's not behind her camera, drinking too much tea, in the pool or at the beach you can find her on Facebook, Instagram and on her website.