Strengthen Kids Organization Skills

We’ve come to the conclusion that organizing is like dieting. We all know what to do to, it’s just tough make it happen and keep everything under control. It’s so tempting to add to that pile of papers on the kitchen counter or give in to whatever chocolate is on hand. So, like dieting, getting organized is all about taking small steps that can result in a lasting lifestyle change.  

As such, successful organizing does not start with buying a paycheck’s worth of baskets and label makers. It’s also not about starting at the top of your house and finishing at the bottom. Let’s just face it now – the WHOLE job is most likely TOO big to tackle at once (or possibly ever).

To make sure we have the real scoop on what gets us organized, we asked you, our reader moms, to tell us what works when it comes to organizing the home and, of course, the kids. When we posted the question on our Facebook page, we got a lot of great responses! There was such consistency in our Facebook moms’ answers we’re thinking they’ve found what really works. Their secret? First, prioritize and second, get the kids involved.  

Where to start? Make coming home happy!

When in doubt, start with your entryway. Wherever you and the kids come into the house has to be a “screening” area. You need a place for shoes, backpacks, coats, papers, keys – all those things you’re carrying that should not leave the entryway and end up strewn throughout the house.

“We converted my entrance closet into an organized area for my children to place their shoes, coats, backpacks, and umbrellas. We put low hooks, a shoe organizer, a few bins with each child’s name for hats and gloves, and some side rods to hang the umbrellas.” – Tiny Steps Mommy

A mother of five actually said she ripped out closets and replaced them with shelves, bins, and lockers to try to keep the kids’ stuff under control. If you’re not ready to renovate your entry, try emptying your existing closet/mudroom completely. Sort by summer vs. winter items and then get rid of everything else. Find a place to stash the off season items and use boxes and bins that you already have around the house for all the little items – hats, gloves, sunscreen, etc. – that you need within reach in the entry.  

Once everything has a place, you’ll immediately be able to see any extra stuff that builds up in your entry, and you can take care of it before it gets out of hand. Each season you’ll have to switch your bins, which may seem a chore, but it ensures your closet is purged of old, outsized coats, shoes, and whatnot twice a year.  

If you prioritize your organizing efforts based on where you waste your time putting away, looking for, and/or stumbling over your things, you’ll get maximum return for your organization investment. We know the garage and basement storage are bad news for most of us, but if it’s not something you wrestle with every day, it can wait for quieter times.

How to make it work?  Make sure the kids get it!

Even if you organize to a Martha Stewart approved level, it will do you no good unless the kids are on board. Our Facebook moms had several tips on how to make sure our kids are part of the solution rather than just the primary cause of the problem.

Getting the kids involved means letting them take care of things to their standards.  

“When my 4 year old and 1.5 year old help with organizing/putting away laundry, it may not be placed perfectly. At least it’s in the drawer, and mommy didn’t have to do it!” – Our Life Memories

If you want things done perfectly, you’ll need to commit to doing it ALL by yourself or hiring the before-referenced Ms. Stewart. Kids can help – kid style. If you set up a process they understand, you can rightfully expect those kids to share the load. Does your linen closet really need to be color coordinated to do the job?  

No matter how old or capable your kids are, their idea of organized can be all over the map.  

“My ten year old and I used to fight over her room/mosh pit. I finally realized it’s her room so we’ve agreed she’ll keep it clean enough to satisfy the health department and any laundry not in the basket doesn’t get washed.” – Cindy S.

It’s okay to mandate neatness to your standards in the areas of the house where you live and share space. But for kids’ rooms or kid only play areas, it pays to try to relax. If your kids are comfortable in a state of quasi-pandemonium, it’s just an exercise in frustration to try to convert them into neatniks.

Get cozy with the organized mom mantra: “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Kids really can put things away and find them again later if they know where they belong.  

“From the beginning, have a place for everything…that way they always know where things belong even if they don’t always make it there on their own…” – Our Life Memories

It’s not magic mind you. You will still have to remind them to pick up their seemingly endless supply of stuff, but you can do it with wet hands in the kitchen – just calmly holler “put it where it belongs” over your shoulder. Your kid can make it right all by himself, and you won’t have to scramble for a towel.

Even with a kid friendly strategy, our organized moms still remind the little ones to stick with the plan.  

“We have a morning to-do list with everything that must be done before school – get dressed, breakfast, etc. (all in the order it should be done). We also have an afternoon list – put backpack away, homework, etc…” – Peanut Butter and Jenny Photography

Most of us can’t function without a mommy to-do list so translating the to-do list into a kid friendly message only makes sense. As much as we’d like to think kids could remember to put away their backpacks after 183 days of school and an equal number of reminders, we have all tripped over our fair share of said backpacks.  

“For younger kids, try to post pictures of the items where they belong. Even for kids who read, pictures offer a cue that’s almost subconscious – they’ll match the real shoes with the picture without even thinking about it.” – Michelle B. (mom – and school psychologist!)

We know it’d be nice to get the whole house organized. But just like losing those last ten pounds, it’s almost impossible to make happen – and don’t even get us started about maintaining a “perfect” condition! Our Facebook moms are super smart – it’s all about a kid friendly approach with realistic goals. Take their advice and start with the areas in your house that make you crazy on a daily basis. You’ll get a big pay off that may inspire you to tackle other parts of the house. Eventually.

Cynda Zurfluh is a mother of three. Her previous life was a corporate blur of meetings and marketing. Her current life, while still a blur, is all about family, writing, and small business consulting. Contact her at [email protected]

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