It all started with a cup. This one in fact:
When we first started using these vintage Tupperware cups that we'd picked up at a yard sale, almost every night at supper Lydia would request the green cup. I would often tell her, "You can't always have the green cup. You need to share it and let others have a chance." One night my husband turned to me and asked, "Why can't she always have the green cup? I had my own colored cup when I was a kid."
That kind of stopped me in my tracks. I'd never thought of having each kid have their own particular color of cup. We asked the other kids if they wanted to use a particular cup. Caleb said his favorite color was red so he got the red cup. Hannah said that she liked blue so she got the blue cup. Abigail became yellow by default. There is a disadvantage to being the baby and having decisions made for you before you are really able to communicate ;)
It has been really handy having color coded cups. Two big things are: you can always tell who didn't clear their spot at the table and it's one less thing to fight about.
Over the years the kids' favorite colors have changed but their assigned colors have not. I try, when I can, to buy things for the kids in their colors so we can tell who's stuff is who's at a glance without investigating. They don't really get a choice. Red, blue, green and yellow are pretty common colors but not everything comes in them so we have had to make some adjustments. For example, some things just don't come in yellow (poor Abigail). Also, often, instead of red things often come in pink (Caleb is not a fan!!). Last year, when buying binders, there were no yellow or red binders in the kind that I wanted to get for the kids' notebooks so Caleb got an orange one and Abigail got the pink and everyone was happy.
Having color coded kids helps make changing our chore chart easy too because you just move down the paper clip or binder clip on the chart every week and everyone know what their job is.
I am so thankful for these 25 cent vintage Tupperware cups that have helped to make organization in my life a little bit easier.
Note: Another thing helps me keep track of my kids is the fact that they each have a different first initial. It is so much easier to label something with just a G, S, C, H, L, or A then to have to write out everyone's whole names. (That is part of the reason Abigail broke our alphabetical order in the naming of our children. We liked the name Sarah but S was my letter. I think Abigail fits her.)
What do you do to help keep your kids' stuff organized?