Unless you grew up under the watchful eye of Captain von Trapp, the whistle-blowing patriarch of “Sound of Music” fame, organization might not come naturally. But it does have its place, and even if you haven’t been particularly organized yourself, it’s not too late.
If you’ve been organizationally challenged up until now, sit with your child and talk to him or her honestly about your own struggles with organization. Talk to him or her about solutions they think might work for both of you. You may be surprised by their own creative solutions, and they may be more likely to buy into a family plan if you’ve asked them for their thoughts.
With that, here are five places to consider starting:
1. Slow Down to Speed Up. Each Activity has a Beginning, Middle and End.Most of us are pretty good at the beginning and middle parts of an activity. Take, as an example, playing with toys. We’re all pretty good at getting them out (the beginning) and playing with them (the middle), but putting them away is often the trouble spot (the end).
Encouraging our kids to finish an activity by putting their toys or work away before moving on to the next thing will likely reduce the stress level, not to mention the mountain of toys, at the end of the day. It won’t happen overnight, so hang in there. But it does make a difference. Try a quick check at five minutes to the hour each hour, when everyone stops to see if all the activities they’ve ended during the hour are truly ended, i.e. been put away.
2. Everything Has a Place to Live. Sometimes we all get moving so quickly it ends up bogging us down. Lost keys are the perfect example. If we toss everything onto the kitchen counter as we walk in the door, those keys are more likely to get buried out of sight. But if we slow down enough to hang them up in the same place every time we enter the house, we will save ourselves from having to search for them when they’re lost.The same is true for the kids’ shoes, backpacks, homework, lunch boxes, sports equipment, oh, and cellphones.
Providing specific spots to place these things will help keep the house and your kids organized. And the closer that spot is to the door, the less chance there will be for things to get dropped like so many leaves from a deciduous tree.
3. Introduce Calendars, Schedules, and Lists. Refer to Them Often. Kids like structure and often feel more calm and relaxed with a little bit of structure in their lives. Kids’ lives are jammed with new and surprising things, so knowing what to expect can be a welcome relief. Calendars are great for a general overview of what everyone in the family is doing. Daily schedules are great for making sure no homework is forgotten. Lists are great for individual tasks like the bedtime routine:
1. Place dirty clothes in the hamper
2. Hang or fold clean clothes and put away
3. Put on pajamas
4. Go to the bathroom
5. Wash hands
6. Brush teeth
9. Kiss goodnight and turn out the light
4. Counting Backward To Be on Time. An important skill for kids to learn is how to count backward in time in order to be on time.
Consider this example: We need to be at school at 8:30 a.m. It takes 10 minutes to get in the car and drive there (8:20 a.m.). But you need a margin for error of 20 percent. Unpredictable things can happen like traffic, a horse in the road, that sort of thing, so that’s two minutes more (8:18 a.m.). You need five minutes to make your lunch (8:13 a.m.). You need five minutes to brush your teeth and put your shoes on (8:08 a.m.), and so on.
So if you haven’t started all this by 8:08 a.m., you’re already late! You will be amazed at how eye-opening this exercise can be for kids.
5. Be Supportive. Imagine and Discuss the Benefits of Organization Together.Chances are you weren’t born naturally organized and neither were your kids, so the goal is progress, not perfection. Discuss with your kids your own problem areas. Point out how an organized life means less busy, repetitive work overall, less frustration from looking for misplaced things, more tranquility in the home and more free time to do what you want.
What tips do you have to keep your family organized, and what organizational struggles do you face?