I cannot tell you how many people I meet who swear to me that their children (generally and specifically theirs) are genetically incapable of maintaining order – STRONG DISAGREE! I’ll argue that kids are actually my best organizers – they CRAVE structure, they THRIVE with a predictable routine and orderly surroundings. There’s more nurture than nature at work here – I don’t care how old you are, it’s ALL about what you’ve been taught, how your environment is set up to ENCOURAGE (or discourage) good habits. Getting small house-ape to put his toys away at bedtime is no different from talking a banker into clearing his desk when the whistle blows 5:00 at the end of each work day – it only happens when you’ve got MEANINGFUL systems and CONSISTENT processes in place:
Age – Appropriate
The name of the game is “AGE-APPROPRIATE” – you cannot expect your average toddler to perform behaviours that surpass his current developmental abilities, to understand concepts that are beyond his mental comprehension, to access storage spaces he cannot reach. If you want those clothes hung up, place your child’s closet rod at his shoulder height. If you’d like foot-sole-injuring playthings (like LEGO) to end up in tub or box rather than all over the floor, make sure your precious mini-me has adequate finger strength to remove then replace the lid – or give him open bins to work with. If you are tired of finding shirts in the pants drawer and socks mixed in with underwear, give that not-yet-able-to-read preschooler picture labels rather than words. And if the idea of having to change out an entire room full of furniture every time your child grows and evolves to a new level, stick to modular storage components that can be adjusted and expanded as his capacity and needs change.
Another trick that makes it easier for kids to keep track of where their belongings belong is keeping like with like. Divide the available space (bedroom, playroom, converted basement) into appropriate “centers” – one each for grooming, rest, play, art, schoolwork, reading, music, whatever activities best fit your family’s interpretation of the mini-me lifestyle and interests. Then make sure that EVERY single relevant item is stored in that area. It’s also not a bad idea to have several small portable containers around the house (basket or crates with handles preferably) – for quickly and easily gathering up wandering toys/books/clothes and not-identifiable kids-stuff. Give them a CLEARLY-DEFINED SPACE for everything to live and a way of returning items to their homes, and there’s no reason for kid-clutter to accumulate in other parts of the house.
Out of sight, out of mind – so using clear containers and see-through mesh-bags for storage allows small and big eyes to immediately recognize what’s being kept where without the effort of big labelling. Just do your best to match the size of the container to the item – dumping a bunch of tiny LEGOs and Hot Wheels into a gigantic toy box is a recipe for lost pieces, epic-meltdowns and mess strewn about the room plus a little over the top inviting for more LEGOs and hot wheels to come in. Keep smallish toys (like marbles, army men, crayons, Barbie shoes and who knows what) together in clear labeled jars or containers, then those containers in the larger drawer or box.
Educating them about time management and prioritization
Finally, but not lastely, instilling your kids with good organizing habits also means educating them about time management and prioritization. Modern humans are expected to balance multiple external responsibilities while fitting their scheduling needs into larger family picture. The earlier these skills are acquired, the easier later life will be. One way to get your kids on the same page is to have a household planning session ONCE a week where you sit EVERYONE down, talk about what’s going on in the various school / work / home / extracurricular arenas of life, record each person’s activities (for example each in a different colored pen) on ONE central calendar. Then you can address any time conflicts that may arise, get supplies for upcoming projects, and carve out room for things like chores, homework, and quality time.
Has your home gotten out of control? Are you or your child feeling overwhelmed by the one place in the world that should be your haven, your safe-place? What are your struggles in organizing your children’s space? Just hit reply and let me know. I love to support you. Also join my private Facebookgroup for more vibrant and warm support in your organizing goals and projects.