"Mom, can I use some of my allowance to pay you to organize my closet?" This phrase has been familiar around our house in recent weeks. My response? "No, but I will be happy to teach YOU how to organize your closet, and keep it organized." That answer always results in a wrinkled nose. She really just wants me to do it, so that she doesn't have to go through the time-consuming (and perhaps slightly sad) task of weeding through the stuff. Aren't we all a little like that? What makes it a bit more difficult, is that she just turned twelve - firmly stuck in that space between little girl and young lady. So do we keep all of the American Girl accessories, or do we move them out to start making room for that growing boot collection?
And then there's our son. He is the candidate for "most likely to be an absent-minded professor", and it is wonderful. But with that personality comes the propensity to take everyday objects (many of them not his own) and turn them into sculptures, or forts, or booby-traps. And then walk off and leave them wherever his in-the-moment self happened to place them at the time. I confess it drives me a little bit crazy, but I have to respect the fact that his personality is not mine (a good thing, in many ways), and that he is also eight.
But I DO want to start teaching them how to not only keep their belongings organized, but how to respect those belongings (as well as other items in the house). I want them to know how much less stress they will feel if they can find what they are looking for quickly. I want their rooms to look a little less like a page out of an I Spy book. No more rushing around to find goggles before we head to the pool. No more calling our daughter's phone to see which pillow it's buried under. I have to say that when asked, they are both really good at helping out with chores - but there is a difference between making beds and say...remembering to keep library books in a designated spot.
We definitely have places for things to go - a closet with hooks for backpacks/coats and an organizer for shoes, a spot for homework and important papers, labeled spots in closets for toys. We make regular trips to Goodwill to purge outgrown and unloved items. Still, we misplace gift cards, we step on Legos, we can't let go of notebooks from 2nd grade. I can't answer why it seems difficult for many children to keep things in some semblance of order, but I've decided that whatever progress we can make with organization I'll take. After all, I was not such an organized kid myself, but I managed to eventually figure out that keeping things in order equaled living easier (and happier). So here's my strategy:
If you really feel like a rewards system works best with your kids, we had good results in the past with an app called ChorePad - http://www.nannek.com/. It lets you set up any task and any sort of reward you can think up. Kids earn points for keeping up with their tasks, and points total up to the different rewards you've chosen. For example, 10 points might equal an extra story at bedtime. You can add pictures of your kids to personalize it, too. ChorePad syncs between iPhone and iPad, and it's also available in a web version.
I have to think that by continuing to encourage organization, continuing to praise their efforts, continuing to employ my "throw-it-all-at-the-wall-and-hope-some-of-it-sticks" methodology will eventually result in some good habits. The key for me is to keep trying, and keep building on the good habits as they grow and mature. What kinds of things do you do to help your kids stay organized? Share with me in the comments.
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach, wife, mom, and serial list-maker. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?