My husband, Scott, and I have 5 kids. Some are naturally neat and tidy, and some are rather challenged in the area of organization (that’s the nice way of saying it). I’ve learned the hard way over the years that it’s easier in the long run to take the time to teach kids organizational skills than to continually pick up after them.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about kids and organization:
1. Minimize possessions – The best way to make sure your kid’s room is always messy is to have too much in it – too many clothes, too many toys, too many decorations, etc. If the shirts will barely fit in the drawer when neatly folded, there’s no way your child is going to be able to keep them in the dresser with the drawer shut. My six-year old only wears 4-5 favorite outfits. The rest are just taking up precious space and should probably leave the room.
2. Assign a place (within reach) for everything – It used to drive me crazy to open the coat closet and find a bunch of coats on the floor. I shouldn’t have been surprised though – only 2 of my 5 kids could even reach the hangers. By the time they were tall enough to hang up their coat, I had effectively trained them to throw it on the floor instead. Trust me, it’s worth it to hang some hooks low enough for your little ones to reach. This, of course, applies not just to coats, but to EVERYTHING.
3. Have a dedicated workspace – As kids get older, it becomes more and more important for them to have a specific, dedicated space for homework. Middle-school and high-school students have lots and lots of binders, folders, papers, books, pencils, and pens. Without a desk, these items will inevitably end up under beds, on the kitchen table, and everywhere else in your house. A lot of kids have trouble organizing their assignments, papers, and supplies, but having a place to keep them is the first step to training your student to stay organized.
4. Develop habits – This takes SO much time and effort, but it’s worth it! From a young age, teach your kids to pick up their toys, take their dishes to the sink, put their shoes in the closet, and make their beds in the morning. In the short term, it’s often easier to just do these tasks for them – adults are faster and much more efficient. In the long run, though, you’ll reap the benefits of kids who don’t think twice about keeping their things neat and organized.
5. Don’t expect perfection – At the end of the day, our kids are still kids. They will be forgetful, messy, and disorganized sometimes. Some of them will really struggle with organization, and the lessons you teach them may not fully take hold until they are adults. Offer plenty of feedback, incentive, and discipline, but also offer grace.
Our kids are only with us for a short time. If we can spend some time instilling organizational habits while they’re young, it can make our homes happier and more peaceful and give us more time for making meaningful memories.