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Photography by Meghan McNeer, organizing by The Home Edit

For adults, color is a source of joy, a means of expression, and an opportunity to experiment. But when you’re young, the rainbow is so much more than a pretty display: It’s a road map. No one knows this better than the cofounders of home-organizing company Haven, Corrie Jackson and Jennifer Baker, who sort toys, books, and art supplies in chromatic order for a very handy reason—it teaches children how to stay tidy. “When kids can find what they need by themselves and clean up afterward, it encourages independence,” says Jackson. “It’s easy for them to maintain.” Did you hear that, parents? Your chore list just got a lot shorter. 

Although arranging the shelves in your living room or the food in your refrigerator according to shade might not seem all that realistic, in a playroom, nursery, craft space, or homework nook, it pays off. Jackson and Baker use color as a starting point for almost all of their kids’ projects, but even they admit not every item fits into the picture-perfect scheme. Here, Jackson explains the dos and don’ts of color-coding for children.

Don’t: Get Too Specific With Shades

Leave obscure tones like lilac, burgundy, and chartreuse to Pinterest, and instead focus on grouping items by ROYGBIV. Once you’ve got your main families together, arrange them from dark (say, maroon) to light (as in pink). “It carries the eye forward,” says Jackson. 

Do: Pick a Star Item

Once you’ve got a solid ombré setup, choose a single object (a book or toy) that’s in the same colorway and display it in front of or above the other items in that family. This feature piece will emphasize the idea that “This is the ‘red’ zone,” and ultimately make it easier for little ones to put things back where they belong. 

“When kids can find what they need by themselves and clean up afterward, it encourages independence.”

Do: Tackle the Reading Material First

Sorry, type As, but the Dewey decimal system won’t last you a day in a nursery. Books are big, easy to sort, and instantly make an impact when they’re arranged according to hue. Line them up or stack them horizontally—either way, the little library will look thoughtfully styled.

Don’t: Sweat the Small Stuff

Photography by Meghan McNeer, organizing by The Home Edit

Paints, pens, and crayons are definitely the easiest craft supplies to manage, but stressing over beads and buttons just isn’t worth your energy, so stick them in labeled containers instead. “While we love this organizing by shade, we’re not masochists,” says Jackson. You can always get your rainbow fix in other ways by using Technicolor bins. 

Do: Personalize Bins With Names Where Possible

It adds to the ease of locating objects. Plus, children just love to feel like they have ownership—it’s a win-win for everyone. 

“While we love this organizing by shade, we’re not masochists.”

Do: Sort the Legos

Yes, combing through all the teeny-tiny pieces is a time investment, but Jackson notes you’d be surprised how keen little ones are on maintaining a system once they see how cool it looks. She likes to use sweater drawers to store Legos because they’re stackable. To separate the lesser-used colors, simply add dividers.

Do: Get Creative With Storage

Half the fun of tidying is showing off your hard work. See-through jars are inexpensive (or free if you recycle empty pantry jars) and perfect for desk essentials, while transparent turntables (ideal for corralling crafts supplies) make the most of tight nooks. These chic tools let parents get in on the fun, too. 

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