I'm a highly random person. It's something I don't like about myself. However, this is the personality God gave me so I trust He's usin' it mightily! When I go into a messy room I can feel the panic rise. Where do I start? AHHH! So, in my desperation I have found one simple method that, when I use it, is a life saver. I keep a big empty basket.
Now, you could use a laundry basket, but I don't have a spare one, and they don't look as attractive sitting in a spot in my living room. This basket has one mission in it's life, to gather the insanity and make it sortable.
So, practically speaking, here is how it works. You walk into the living room. The floor is covered with toys, paper, markers, videos, video cases, socks, (use your imagination)... You gather EVERYTHING from the table and furniture tops, as well as the floor and you throw it all in this basket (half eater pb&j not recommended:*). IMMEDIATELY you are encouraged by a sense of clarity. You proceed to dust or vacuum, or even just leave it as is and then, you address the basket. Take out all things that belong in a "mommy and daddy" part of the house. These are your things, kitchen things, your books and papers....etc. Then, bring the kids in and have them sort the remaining things out and take them in to PUT THEM AWAY. I tell them don't set it down till it's in the place it lives. You may also want to have smaller empty baskets where they carry off their items themselves from the findings of the big basket.
This method is highly effective in any room in the house. It clears the surfaces immediately so they can be cleaned if they need to. It gives you a quick feeling that you will get somewhere here!
Another benefit is the interruption factor. Life is always interrupting you. If you have everything in a basket, and that is as far as you get, you will feel better still. You may need to sort the basket later, or the next day (watch out for continual basket ignoring!:), but what you won't do is return to that room after the interruption and say "oh, fooie, I'll just get taken away again so I might as well not start."
Try it, let me know what you think.
OH, and Walmart has big laundry baskets in the craft department for $3. These are my favs. You could get the kids their own at the dollar store or on a Easter clearance. Just make sure they stay empty!