The following is a guest post by professional organizer and author Lea Schneider.
To organize your child, you first need to organize the right mind set.
1. Know being organized is a learned trait. Children are not born organized but every child can learn to be organized. Just ask any three-year old to show you’re their pre-school cubbie. They were taught to put their things away properly.
2. You can not separate being organized and being responsible. An adult or child who is responsible for their time, belongings and space around them is organized.
3. Have a place for everything. Just like your child repeats that naughty word you shouldn’t have said in front of them, they will repeat your actions. If you set stuff here and there, they will too.
4. Start organizing when your child is a toddler. A toddler can drop their clothes in the hamper and their toys in a basket while you clap and praise them. Have a much older child? Be confident they can surely do something a toddler can manage.
5. Lose the mindset that it is just easier to do it yourself. Motherhood isn’t about easy. When you clean up their space or belongings, or organize their backpack for the next day, what have they learned? Is it really easier for you if it means you get to continue to do this until they are in college? (It’s a sure bet those are the adult college students who drag home a semester’s worth of laundry to mom.)
6. Don’t do any task for your child that you can instead do with your child. (Do of course choose age appropriate tasks.) Doing a task with your child allows you to show them how to do something but still puts the responsibility on their shoulders while you are there to supervise and teach.
7. Be willing to let your child accept the consequences of being disorganized. In a world where so many kids have begun to make the excuse that everything is someone else’s fault, it is a powerful lesson to accept the consequence of their own actions. If they have to sit out a ballgame, get a poor grade due to a forgotten paper or other action due to being unorganized, don’t run interference for them. Instead, work with them on organizing techniques so it doesn’t happen again.
8. Establish clear expectations. Saying “clean your room” does not at all help your children meet your home’s standards. You really do have to spell it out. For example, work with them to make a room cleaning list which itemizes what has to be done. Have them hang it on the door and check each item off.
9. Demonstrate compassion. There’s no argument children, and adults, have too much stuff from too many clothes to too many toys. Make it okay in your home to set limits and to teach your child to share your excess by donating it to children who have little. A child without limits to the number of belongings may grow into an adult who doesn’t know how to say no to themselves. They may end up with a lifelong problem with too-much-stuff and the inability to deal with it.
10. Know there are organizing solutions to every bit of chaos and clutter. As a mom, you are just not going to know the answer to how to organize everything. What you should know is there is a way to organize everything. The answer is out there. From how to store toys, fix closets so young children can use them, have kids pack their own backpacks and lunches, to get teens to do laundry, to being on time in the morning, there are tips, tricks and techniques for everything. Take time to look for solutions and be willing to try something new. If that idea doesn’t work, try something else. You absolutely can teach your children to be organized.