“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?”  Better organizing isn’t the whole answer. Parenting and family communication are often fifty percent of the answer. Let’s talk about stair landing organizing.

how to organize at home on the stairs

Many families are hoping for a stair landing organizing fairy, because everyone is 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 enough time if you are running the kids to activities all day! 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 realize that something has to change. That’s when it turns from “management of stuff” to “time management” and system creation. My team and I work with parents to look at their calendar, and find when they (the parents) can make time to teach the kids how to do chores.

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. If they do master a chore, you will either have to work with them to keep them motivated, 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 chores. Scratch that. I don’t think that family has been invented yet!

Organizing what lands on the stairs, moving things from one floor to another, it’s just something you learn to do. That stair fairy is not showing up today. 🙂

So parents need to put BOTH parts of the equation in place to get the result they want: you need organizing systems AND parenting structure.

How to Organize what Lands on the Stairs

  • Label each bin for each person. Skip this step at your peril! Don’t assume kids and spouse understand what those baskets are there for.
  • Nearly any bin or basket will do. You don’t have to use a specialized stair-step basket (affiliate link), but some sort of container generally works better than piles.
  • Let each person to pick their own bin. Big or small, easy to carry, allow them to decorate it and personalize it. Your bins don’t have to be the same. In fact, it may even work better if they aren’t. (See photo above.) Everyone can pick out their basket at a glance.
  • Parents must explain what they expect kids to do when organizing at home. 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. You become part of the system. You’ll do it a hundred, maybe two hundred times before kids figure out how it works, but they’ll get it eventually. I promise.
  • 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. Maybe the winner gets to pick dinner or desert tomorrow night? A small treat like this is a perfect Step 5 of the SORT and Succeed system.
  • Remind kids to return the organizing baskets to the stairs or the landing. No, sadly, this isn’t obvious to the kids. You’re going to have to ask where those baskets went when they aren’t on the stairs.
  • 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.


How Does Your Family Use the Stairs To Organize?

Every family is different, so the solution needs to fit with your time available, family dynamics, and values. I’m a parent, too. You have to do what works for you. There is no one perfect answer, but something will work for you.

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 landing organizing 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.