The Organized Kid!

Life Without Clutter and Power Struggles!

I’m going to start this article off by asking you to close your eyes.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  I want you to close your eyes and remember back to your kindergarten classroom.  Go!

What did you remember?  It was a colorful space wasn’t it.  There were all kinds of signs and pictures all over the walls.  Did you remember the smell of paste and crayons?  Did you see the cubbies on the walls?  There were toys, and books and sometimes even animals and there were 20-30 kids!

But you’ll also remember that EVERYTHING HAD A PLACE AND EVERYTHING WAS IN IT’S PLACE!  There wasn’t clutter all over the place.  Desks were neatly arranged and each child knew where his/her belongings went when they walked in the door.

Your home can run just as smoothly!  Really, it can!  Starting from day one….that’s the day you set up that darling nursery….you can ensure that your child’s room AND your home, stay neat, tidy, organized and efficient!  Good habits can be started at any time but the earlier the better.  If you didn’t start back when you were planning the nursery, then start now.

The downside of starting later is you’ll probably have a few bad habits to break before you can start new.  If you give your kids some incentives to get and stay organized they will be on board before you know it.  Helping your kids organize their space and their “stuff” has an automatic self-benefit.  When you’re organized you have more time to do the things you want!  Play a video game instead of cleaning your room?  What kid wouldn’t choose that!  Go skateboarding instead of searching for that lost homework assignment?  You bet!

If you’re NOT starting from “day 1” then you’ve got a little “deconstruction” to do first.  Sorting is the first step to getting and staying organized.  Sort everything by category/sub-category:  clothing/school, clothing/play, clothing/sports, etc.  Same thing goes for toys, games, keepsakes and so on.  Part of sorting is also purging.  Help your child learn to enjoy and then let go of things.  We don’t REALLY need to keep every single paper we make at school.  Providing a place to display their current favorites is part of that process.  The next step is rotating to the current favorite and then TEMPORARILY storing the previous piece.  Decide beforehand a schedule to revisit what’s been saved and keep only those that are REALLY special.  You might decide to check the temp storage at the end of each month and then select two things that can go into a special scrapbook or box that represents all the highlights of that year.  Remember to purge again before the final entries into the book or box.  Helping your kids make “hard” choices is part of growing up AND staying organized!…and trust me on this one: you either help them learn to throw it out now or you get to store it until they’re 30 and THEN throw it out!  Your choice!

After sorting and purging you should be down to the stuff that needs to be stored and organized.  With clothing decide which items really need to be hung (hint; do not hang sweaters – they “grow” wings at the shoulders) and which items will do best folded in drawers or on a shelf.  Same thing with toys; is it something that can be displayed and used as an accessory in their room or is it one of those old stand-bys that they always play with but it looks like it’s seen better days?  Always plan a certain amount of what I call weird storage.  That’s for those items that just don’t fit in anyplace.

Here’s another little piece of advice from one mom to another: DO NOT let your kids store their sports equipment/uniforms  in their rooms.  Provide an organized space in the garage for sports bags, ball storage etc.  If you don’t it’s just a question of time before you begin searching for a dead body someplace in their room because that’s the ONLY thing that could possibly smell that bad. Right?  Wrong, months old gym clothes are classified as hazardous waste by the EPA AND all mothers, let them enter your kids rooms at your own risk!

Once you’ve sorted, purged and classified now it’s time to measure.  How many feet of hanging clothes do you have?  Remember to add a little extra for good measure and future growth.  Big kid clothes take up more space that tiny tot clothes do!  How many sweaters, sweatshirts, jeans etc do you have to place on shelves?  Last but not least don’t forget about undies, socks and PJ’s.  Those are best placed in drawers or baskets.

It’s time to design that closet now using the numbers you measured above and you’ll want to think about storing toys, and providing a place for laundry.  See, it’s really that easy!  The hardest part of this whole process is to start your kids down the path of personal responsibility for their space and their possessions.  Spending just a week to 10 days reinforcing that everything has a place and when they are done with it everything needs to return to that place will establish good habits that will serve everyone well.  I encourage you to begin this process well before it’s time for kids to head back to school (unless you really are starting with the nursery stage).  By the time the first day of school rolls around the good habits will be established and the school year will be hassle and clutter-free!

Now before I close let me give you a little hint.  Your little darling is like blank blackboard.  There’s nothing on it when they are born.  You write the first words and establish what those words will be.  If, from the beginning, you give your children responsibility for their own room and all the “stuff” in it they will begin establishing lifelong habits that will serve them throughout their lives.  Even babies learn which buttons to push!  You know they do!  From the time a baby can pick up a toy they can be taught to put it in a basket.  Picking up can become a game as they grow and you DON’T have to give them a reward! Giving them a compliment and being able to find their favorite items should be reward enough!  Picking up for them does nothing but teach them Mom and Dad are their slaves and heads you down a path of catering to your kids instead of raising them!