Is kid clutter making you crazy? Your children can clean up their messy rooms and keep them clean — or at least passable. The trick is making organization less of a chore and more fun. Here are some tips to get youngsters hooked on clean surroundings. Debbie Arrington, Sacramento Bee
A place for everything and everything in its place: Give Barbie and her friends a "home" in the closet or the toy drawer. Put the toys "to bed" each evening in their toy box. Park toy trucks in their closet "garage." Take a few minutes each evening to help kids tuck in toy friends. Make sure the kids help.
See-through boxes: These make it easier to know what's where. They're great for toys and clothing storage between seasons and sizes. Stack and number them, then keep a record of what's where. Remember: Similar-sized boxes stack best and look neater.
Hang it up: Baskets and hammocks can be creative places to store stuffed animals and dolls. It keeps them off the floor and the bed. Also, hooks and baskets are a great way to store sports gear off the floor.
Use space creatively: The area under the crib? It's large enough for luggage. Stash baby's travel gear inside those suitcases.
Closet vs. drawers: Clothes for small children fit better in drawers than on hangers. Put a set of see-through drawers inside the closet. Also, give each child his or her own clothes hamper or laundry basket.
Pickup rewards: Offer incentives (such as 30 minutes more TV or computer time) for picking up the toys and clothes each night.
Labels and color coding: Label drawers and containers (remember, everything has its place) and — with color dots — code what goes in those boxes. For example, puzzles with green dots go in the "green" box. This can also be useful with siblings who may argue over possessions; give each a color.
Den toy stash: Young children like to be with the grown-ups. Keep a few toys accessible, but out of sight, in a chest, basket or ottoman in the den.
Household notebook: Assemble a three-ring binder with envelope pockets. Stash school and sports schedules in the pockets and important papers such as birth certificates and shot records. In the binder, keep contact information and a calendar to track upcoming events. Keep the notebook handy.
Folders and envelopes: Create a cache for the constant stream of student art and schoolwork. After each semester or quarter, go through the folders with your child and let him or her pick out a couple of things to keep. Then transfer the keepers to a large manila envelope. Save that envelope from year to year. When your child nears graduation, use the contents of the envelope to create a school scrapbook with other mementoes.