“Stair Fairy”: How to Organize what Lands on the Stairs

“Stair Fairy”: How to Organize what Lands on the Stairs

“How can I manage my family’s things that need to go upstairs or downstairs?” It sounds like this person is asking for organizing advice, but this another one of those instances when organizing isn’t the whole answer. Parenting and family communication are often 50% of the answer.

how to organize at home on the stairs

Many families I work with actually are hoping for an organizing stair fairy, particularly because they have everyone scheduled to the max, so when is there ever time to do things like clean up, organize, and fix things around the house? There isn’t, if you are running the kids to activities from 3 pm straight through to 9 pm. With a family scheduled to the max, there just isn’t time left for the little things that have to get done.

By the time they call us, many parents are realizing that something has to change. That’s when it turns from “management of stuff” to “time management” and system creation. At this point, I’m usually working with parents to look at their calendar, and find when they (the parents) would have time to teach the kids how to do chores.

I’ve come to understand that you don’t just assign chores. You don’t just teach how to do them once or twice. You are constantly teaching young people how to do things around the house. And if they do master a chore, you will probably either have to work with them to keep them motivated (notice I didn’t say that you’d be doing the chore!), or you at least have to monitor that the kids are doing it. It’s a very rare family where chores are assigned, kids do them well without getting distracted, and there is ample time to complete them. And that applies to moving things off the stairs, from one floor to another.

So BOTH parts of the equation have to be in place for parents to get the result they want: you need organizing systems and parenting structure.

Some ideas to make this work:

  • Definitely label each bin for each person. Don’t assume kids and spouse understand what those baskets are there for.
  • Nearly an bin or basket will do. You don’t have to use a specialized stair step basket, but some sort of container generally works better than piles.
  • Allow each person to pick their own bin, big or small, easy to carry, and allows them to decorate it and personalize it. Your bins don’t have to be the same, and it may even work better if they aren’t. (See photo above.)
  • Parents must explain what’s expected. I have one client who is forever putting in place “systems” for her kids, but she doesn’t actually tell them about it. The adoption rate by her kids is not very high.
  • A parent stands at the stairs after school, and hands the baskets to each kid as they head up the stairs.
  • A parent stands at the stairs at bedtime, and hands the baskets to each kid as they head up the stairs.
  • A parent sets a 10 minute timer, and has a race with a prize for the first one who is legitimately put away and basket returned to the stairs (winner gets to pick dinner or desert tomorrow night?).
  • Remind kinds to return the baskets to the stairs. No, sadly, this isn’t obvious.
  • Make a list of the top five (or pick your own number) chores everyone needs to do each day, including putting away the stair basket. Wifi password provided only upon completion. Use this free printable to design your own routines.
  • One kid may love to have this chore of moving the baskets up and down, and others may hate it, so allow them to trade responsibilities if they mutually agree.

Every family is different, and so the solution needs to fit with their time available, family dynamics, and values. As a parent, I know you have to do what works for you. There is no one perfect answer, but there might be something that works better than another.

Just for fun, you might want to browse a collection of ideas I’ve curated to use your stairs as an actual organizing system!

Will you be tweaking your upstairs/downstairs system with these tips?

Do you have an upstairs/downstairs organizing system that’s worked well for you? Do you have a “stair fairy?” Please share in the comments.

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