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Corral that kid clutter

Does kid clutter make moms crazy? Yes, your children can clean up their messy rooms and keep them clean or at least passable. The trick is making organization more fun and not such a chore.

Here are some experts' tips on getting youngsters hooked on clean:

A place for everything and everything in its place. That's an old credo, but it works from a child's perspective. 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 the toy trucks and garage in their closet "garage." Take a few minutes each night before sleep to help your children tuck in their little toy friends. (Make sure the kids help.)

See-through boxes. These organizational wonders make it much easier for parents and children to know what's where. Not only do they work for toys, but they're great for clothing storage between seasons and sizes. Stack and number them, then keep a record of what's where. Remember: Similar-size 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 and spare the rod (until their teenage years). Also, give each child his or her own clothes hamper.

Pickup rewards. Offer incentives (such as 30 minutes more TV or computer time) for picking up the toys and clothes on a nightly basis. Little things can promote good habits that last a lifetime.

Labels and color coding. Put labels on 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 his or her own 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. Put together a three-ring binder with envelope pockets. Stash school and sports schedules in the pockets as well as such important papers as birth certificates and inoculation records. In the binder, keep contact information (phone numbers for baby-sitters, school, coaches, etc.) and a calendar to keep track of upcoming events. Then keep the notebook in a handy spot where you and your family can always find it.

Folders and envelopes. Create a cache for the constant stream of student art and schoolwork. At the end of each semester or quarter, go through the folders with your child and let him or her pick out what to keep "forever" but limit those picks to only two or three.

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.