Staying Organized With a Toddler Isn’t as Impossible as You Think - Here’s How I Do It

I've been a neat freak as long as I can remember. For me, organization is a form of self-care. If my surroundings are messy, I can't concentrate. An untidy room equates to a life in chaos, and that's just not my style.

When I was pregnant, everyone told me my days with a meticulously organized house were numbered. Give it up, they said. As soon as the baby can walk, he'll be turning your house upside down. The mere thought of this sent me into a panic. Obviously, kids are messy, but is it really so cut and dry that staying organized with a toddler is actually impossible? No, it's not.

My 14-month-old son started walking a couple months ago, and he is absolutely the adorable little tornado everyone warned me about. The only thing he loves more than constantly walking around the house is doing so with an object in his hand - one that is quickly discarded as soon as something shinier falls into his line of vision.

Of course, this means his toys - and other household objects - are randomly strewn across the house when he's on the move. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit overwhelmed by this at first. However, I quickly realized a few simple moves is all it takes to maintain the sense of order I so desperately need. Here's how I'm keeping my house tidy, without keeping my very busy toddler from just being a kid.

  1. Invest in lots of little storage bins.
    My son has clusters of toys in most rooms of our house. Obviously, this is important, because we all know what happens when toddlers get bored. Placing tons of small storage bins around the house makes cleanup easy, because there's always somewhere to put the random blocks, stackable rings, and endless array of trucks. I know what you're thinking, and yes, sometimes my son does get ahold of the bins, which are then promptly emptied onto the floor. All I can do is laugh, because he looks seriously adorable wearing the bin around as a hat. These storage bins can also be seriously cute on their own. I get most of ours from Target and choose those that complement our home decor, so they just naturally blend into the room.

    In fact, my son isn't the only one guilty of leaving random items strewn about the house. I also placed a storage bin in my husband's office, which serves as an inbox of sorts for packages and other things he prefers to put away at his leisure. It's a win for both of us - I don't have to deal with his mess all over the house, and he doesn't have to listen to me nag him to clean it up.

  2. Clean up throughout the day.
    In a matter of minutes, my son can turn a perfectly neat room - or, let's be honest, several perfectly neat rooms - into a disaster area. I cringe to think what would happen in an entire day's time if I waited until the end of the day to clean up. I don't constantly follow him around, picking up each mess as it appears, but I do make a point to clean up over the course of the day. Spending a few minutes tidying up here and there means our house isn't a complete mess by the end of the day, when I have no energy left to clean. This makes me feel better and it's easier, because the mess never gets so overwhelming that I don't know where to start.
  3. Get your kids involved.
    OK, I'm not here yet. Since my son is only 14 months old, he's not old enough to understand helping me clean up his mess. However, when he is old enough, you can be certain I'll get him involved. I'm definitely not going to raise a little man who doesn't know how to clean up after himself.
  4. Don't expect perfection.
    Before my son was born, I was definitely one of those people who self-righteously declared that my kids' toys were going to stay in his room. Looking back, that's laughable and actually kind of mean. We moved into a new house weeks before the pandemic really hit hard. This house is much bigger than our old one, and since we haven't had the opportunity to buy new furniture, there's a lot of empty space. This means at certain points of the day, my house kind of resembles a low-budget Chuck E. Cheese. I've learned to embrace this, and actually even enjoy it, because it means my son is having fun.

As it turns out, my house isn't going to look like it did before my son was born - and that's actually quite preferable.