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REAL ESTATE

How to Keep Kid Stuff From Taking Over Your Home

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    Jane Foutz found that hardware containers, like those use to store screws, nails, washers, etc., work perfectly for organizing her daughter Nikole's smaller toys.

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The effect of kids on a house is something like that of a small tornado. Or worse: a small tornado/tsunami/earthquake/fusion explosion, perhaps? Toys are everywhere, something unrecognizable that got smashed to bits last week, smears and crumbs from mealtime, and colors that went way outside the lines during art play.

As a parent of said child or children, you're probably too exhausted chasing after them to pick up every last thing, put it neatly into place, and sweep/vacuum/mop/wash everything back into a state of perfect cleanliness. Yes, such parents allegedly exist (so they'd like us to think from their blogs or Instagram), but we know: We hate them, too.

Still, you don't have to wait until your kid goes off to college before your house can resume looking like adults live there.

To reduce kid-related clutter, try a few of these organization tips so you never have to apologize for the state of your place ever again.

Curb toys before they accumulate

Most people have more material items than they'll ever use, and children are especially guilty of this -- they call them "toys." And since children have yet to master the fine art of editing and purging, you may have a crazy collection of squeezable, beeping, flashing, and bouncing objects clogging up every square foot of home space. But there are a number of innovative ways to head clutter off at the pass. In fact, it's something of a movement: Call it kiddie-decluttering.

Pley, for example, is a leading toy rental company that allows kids to select and receive their desired toys in the mail. When the kids tire of the toys, they can be returned for new ones.

Birthdays are also big clutter accumulation events, and a website called KidsCanGiveToo.com is similar to a gift registry that allows children to donate half of their presents to the charity of their choice.

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Divide and conquer

Size really does matter, especially when it comes to toys. If you store the big stuff together with the small stuff in one toy box, the tiny things will fall to the bottom and the child will have to pull out all the bigger toys in order to reach them. Result: ungodly mess.

There are all sorts of baskets and storage boxes available specifically for segmenting and organizing toys, but more and more parents are getting creative and using tackle boxes, makeup cases, and hardware storage containers meant for screws, washers, nails, etc. to store their children's miniature items. Children get an enhanced sense of responsibility and maturity when they have the same type of storage containers they see their parents using.

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Give each kid his own space to stash stuff

Designate specific, easily accessible storage spaces for your kids, and make sure there is ample, organized room for their belongings.

As a father of three sports-obsessed boys and co-founder of interior design startup Dcor Aid, Sean Juneja has trained his children to store their belongings in their own individually designated spaces. For example, the mudroom was expanded to create separate cubbies for each boy. They each have a place to store their schoolbags, shoes, coats, etc., and everything is there waiting for them as they leave for school or a game, so there is no frantic hunt for a missing shoe, backpack, or glove.

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Find secret storage solutions

One easy way to store kid toys are tables, footstools, and benches with hidden storage spaces. In addition, professional organizer Nancy Haworth of On Task Organizing suggests using an over-the-door shoe organizer to hold toys, and finding storage bins that fit under your children's beds. Also, what appears to be an entertainment center or armoire when the doors are closed can end up being a well-organized, vertical toy chest, sitting right in the living room or family room, without making it look like a nursery.

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Highlight collections in a cute way

If your child has a collection, why not make it work for you rather than against you? Put it on display for all to see and play with. Show children's artwork in a sort of pseudo art gallery display, by hanging paintings and drawings from a curtain rod with dangling clips. Or build narrow shelving to display items such as Matchbox cars or Lego figurines.

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