8 Tips to Help You Become a More Organized Parent

Implement these expert-approved to declutter your life and spend more quality time with your family.  

by John Mihaly

If you were super organized before having kids, chances are your skills are slipping with each new addition to the family. If you weren’t organized before having kids, Marie Kondo might not take your call at this point. Either way, being organized is tied directly to time, specifically how much of it you have (less and less it seems). But while organizing takes time, it also saves time. That’s why we took the time to put together these organizing techniques for parents who want to be more organized at home and in their lives in general. These expert-approved tips are meant to save enough minutes every month that you might actually get a few hours back for yourself.

1. Outsource As Much As You Can Afford

What Is it? “If you can afford to have your groceries delivered, do it. If you can afford a house cleaner, even if it’s just once a month, then do it,” says Jennifer Snyder, owner of Neat as a Pin Organizing and Cleaning. “There is no reason for us to feel as though we have to do everything ourselves.”

Why it Works Well: Modern conveniences and shortcuts are frowned upon because there’s this untenable standard placed on moms and dads that if they don’t do everything on their own (cook, clean, chauffeur, shop) for their kids, then they’re not “good parents.” Time is money, so spend it as efficiently as possible. More importantly, stop wasting time by trying to live up to outdated standards.

2. Put The Kids To Work

What Is it? Kids don’t pay rent but, when they are able, should contribute by helping around the house with age-appropriate tasks (taking out the trash, putting away groceries, etc.). They say, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. We say, teach your kids to do their own laundry and catch up on some Netflix.

Why it Works Well: “Chores make for successful adults, and kids can do more than you think they can,” says Alexis Haselberger, productivity coach. “The less you yourself have to do, the easier it is to be organized.” Don’t think of this as sending your child off to a labor camp, you’re teaching them life-skills with a healthy dose of accountability.

3. Prep Lunch After Dinner

What Is it? Prepare your child’s lunch (as much as you possibly can) the night before. Your time in the morning is fixed. If you’re not of the house at a specific time your kids will be late and so will you. That sets a not so great example. While there are plenty more relaxing things to do with your evenings then slap together a sandwich, you have more flexibility at night.

Why it Works Well: “Food prep is not hypothetical. Every weekday your kid is going to school or possibly camp during the summer,” says Ben Soreff, Professional Organizer at House to Home Organizing. This gives you one less thing to worry about in the morning. As an added bonus, if you time lunch prep to follow dinner, you’ll cut down on sperate kitchen clean-ups. “Remember, organizing isn’t about stuff, it’s about time.”

4. Shelve All The Toys

What Is it? “Shelves do more than offer storage; they also help you control which toys your children have access to,” says Marty Basher is the home organization expert for Modular Closets. Easy-to-clean toys (stuffed animals, large wooden building blocks, or anything that requires minimal supervision) should be placed on the bottom shelf where young hands can have easy access. Messy toys like Legos and glitter crafts (always in lids with bins) should be stored at the top, well out of reach.

Why it Works Well: “Toy placement on shelves is everything,” Basher says. “This trick seems like common sense, but you would be surprised by how many parents fail to implement it.” By placing toys on shelves, rather than a bin or toy chest, parents and children get an accurate snapshot of what they’ve got in stock, so to speak. Turn clean-up-time into “playing toy store” and then monitor what’s been sitting on the shelf for potential donations, resale, or disposal.

5. Get in the Zone

What Is It? “Create zones around your home. These are places where the things you use regularly will be positioned so you know exactly where to find them when you need them,” says Robyn Reynolds, owner and CEO of Organize2Harmonize. Keep keys on a hook or in a dish. Drop off backpacks, handbags, or briefcases in the mudroom or at the front door. Place cell phones at charging stations. If you see one of these items out of its zone, move it (or you might lose it).

Why it Works Well: Organization is all about knowing where things are at all times. But sometimes, things have the ability to go into hiding (especially if these things belong to your kid). If you stick to the zone plan, you’ll always know the first place to look. Imagine all the time you’ll get back from tearing up your house on a mad hunt for a lost item and all the stress you’ll cut down on in the process.

6. Finish What You Started

What Is it? Dirty clothes go in the hamper, not on the floor. Clean clothes belong in your dresser or closet, not unfolded or left in the laundry. Think of it as finishing a task ASAP instead of leaving it half-way done. “Everything in its place,” says Luis Perez, CEO of moving and storage service provider Remoov. “Whatever the item might be, always have a place for it and return it to that place after each use.”

Why it Works Well: It can take more than two months to develop a simple habit — that’s the hard part. But once you start to notice tasks stuck at that halfway/half-assed point, you’ll want to push them along. Dishes won’t have a layover in the sink or on the counter, they’ll get take a non-stop route to the dishwasher. Here’s another chance to teach the kids that valuable lesson to finish what you started.

7. Take Organization on the Road

What Is It? Mirror your home by keeping car compartments organized and categorized. Stock your center console with your most frequently used items like phone chargers. Dedicate an area in your car (either the trunk or glove compartment) to hold the essentials (wipes, trash bags, tissues, first aid kit) so you’ll always know where to find them when a time-consuming accident and eventual detour happens. And it will happen.

Why it Works Well: Cars come with built-in storage areas, like door compartments, glove compartments, and center consoles,” says Rachel Rosenthal, organizing expert at Rachel and Company. “Take advantage of these storage spaces by giving each place a purpose.” Planning plays a big part here, so remember that space is limited and you’ll need to maximize those storage opportunities.

8. Turn Calendars Into To-Do Lists

What Is It? A simple calendar just won’t cut it anymore. Even shared calendar apps are lacking when it comes to organizational options. Your family needs something next level to cut down unnecessary back-and-forth about who’s in charge of doing what. Robyn Reynolds recommends Todoist app and task-manager to bring all your to-dos together in one convenient, shareable place.

Why it Works Well: This particular app (and there are plenty of others out there worth testing) organizes tasks into projects, adds priority levels, shares projects, and delegates tasks to family members. That last part is super important. Todist synchronizes across all devices and integrates with hundreds of apps like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Alexa. Plus there’s that overwhelming sense of satisfaction whenever you swipe something off that never-ending list.