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Maintaining a Kid’s Play Room

People often ask how we keep things so neat and tidy. And the answer is…we don’t! But we live here! Here are some ways I keep it in check…

Remember this beautiful craft room I created for my kids? Well, right now it looks like this (above). People often ask how we keep things so neat and tidy. And the answer is…we don’t! Well, to some degree…sure. But we live here! Things might look perfect for a photo, but we all know things don’t (and can’t) stay like that all the time.

When it comes to the craft room (or any kids’ play area), this is a space to create and a space to make messes. I tell them, “You can make a mess as long as you can clean it up yourself.” My kids are expected to do their best to kept it as tidy as possible, but every so often, I need to go in there and help clear through clutter and get things back on track. Here are some ways I keep it in check…

Photo by Bethany Nauert
Photo by Bethany Nauert

As a refresher, this is what it looked like (above) before in it’s perfect glory….

Set clean-up ground rules for a play space
Every house has their rules and expectations. Can works-in-progress stay out? If so, for how long? Sometimes my kids work on a project that needs to dry overnight, and they’ll finish it the next day. That’s fine and totally understandable. But sometimes, my kids will have a project that gets forgotten about and needs to just come to an end. If I see something is still out a few days to a week later, then it needs to get put away in some way. I also remind them that they can’t start a new project unless their space is clear and ready for it. That usually helps them to get things completed and tidied up on their own.

Do a monthly purge
Despite my best labeling efforts, my kids occasionally put back random things in labeled bins that should be trash or back in the wrong bin (that happens a lot when friends come over for play dates). So every month, I’ll pop in there and do a quick purge of things that seem like they can be tossed (the kids do not need to be involved in this otherwise it will take too long :).

Artwork Display and Archive
I give them an area on the wall where they can tape up (using washi tape) any of their artwork they want to display. But once that allotted space is filled, old pieces need to come down to make room for new ones. They can choose what to take down, and then I keep art in a bin which I go through a few times a year. Most of it gets tossed and recycled (it’s ok to throw away artwork!) and some pieces I want to keep because they are extra special. You can always take photos of artwork and projects and put them into a bound book to save forever. It saves on space but keeps the memories alive!

Check on dried-out markers and blunt color pencils
For a craft or play space with an art area, it’s inevitable that glue sticks get left out with no cap, markers dry out, or color pencils are sitting there unusable because they haven’t been sharpened in forever. Take a look at those often-used materials and purge through what’s old and able to be tossed or what’s still salvageable. Your kids can help with this, too.

Re-assess your labeled bins
Are they using all the items in the bins? Do they need a place to put a category of things where a bin doesn’t exist? As their interests and needs change, get out that labeler and adjust as necessary.

Restyle as needed but also let them have creative control, too.
Kids will put stuff in random places that might not make sense to you. Choose your battles. I’ll re-arrange to help them be better organized to find and put things back for future projects. But if they want to display something that you might not have chosen to display, it’s their space—and it’s ok to give them some creative freedom in their space.

And, if all else fails, close the door and don’t return until they are 18.

Photos by Lily Glass (unless otherwise noted)


  1. Thank you for talking about the reality of styled spaces! If it helps, your “messy” craft room still looks much better than ours. 😉 My husband and I were literally talking about this today, and SO TRUE about play dates (or any kid guests!). I laughed outloud at that last line. Thanks for sharing!


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