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Keeping Kids Organized

It's enough to frazzle even the coolest mom's nerves: Moooom, where's my shoe? (Or homework. Or video game.) Although we expect our kids to start being more responsible for their own things at this age, they've somehow developed the ability to be more forgetful than Grandpa. When a kid's stuff or room is disorganized, it makes it harder for her to remember where she left her things. Luckily, these three moms, who just happen to be organizing experts, have answers:

1. Put the ball in their court (not in the middle of the floor!).
"We all learn by doing, so don't clean up and organize your kid's room for her. She's got to put it away to remember where it is!" says Donna Smallin, a mom of three in Mesa, AZ, and author of A to Z Storage Solutions. One bright idea that stops school notes from mysteriously going missing: Keep labeled file folders for each family member in a central place (a desk in the family room, say). Make your child responsible for putting school flyers in your folder; to motivate her to check her file before school, leave a treat or a funny note in it now and then.

2. Make organizing an art project.
Repetition helps encode memories, so the key is putting things in the same place time and again. "Every toy needs a parking place," says Tonia Tomlin, a mom of twins and owner of the organizing company Sorted Out in Plano, TX. Designate a basket for the Legos, another for the games, and so on, and then get your kids to print funky pictures of the toys off the Internet (or draw them). Binder-clip the pics onto the baskets.

3. Keep it simple, smarty-pants!
"The first question you should ask yourself is, 'Where do I use this?'" says Samantha Moss of Oakland, a mom of one and author of Where's My Stuff? Your kid does homework at the kitchen table? Keep the box with school goods there. It's not about neatness and looking spotless, says Moss, but rather being able to find things at the right moment. That means a whole lot less shouting for your help.

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