Teaching your children to be organised

So you don’t feel very organised, and you wish you could set a good example for your kids.  What’s are the things you really wish you could impart to your kids?  If you could wave your magic wand, what’s the learnings you’d love to pass on? What are the skills, knowledge and experience you reckon matter when it comes to learning about being organised?


11 responses to “Teaching your children to be organised

  1. We have just moved house and had all the family here for Christmas – actually I felt very organised! Having the goal of getting everything I needed unpakced and in a home worked well for me.
    Now I am trying to help my kids to be organised. I am telling them-
    1. It only takes 5 to 10 minutes a day to put everything away, then it saves having to spend hours tidyying up a big mess.
    2. Make the bed properly! instead of just doing the cover…
    3. Set out your things so that they don’t look cluttered, keep the rubber collection away in a bag in the cupbaord (rather than having 37 rubbers displayed!!!) then it will be easy to wipe over the cupboard surface when cleaning.
    5. Always hang up towels and put dirty clothes in the basket.
    6. If my kids don’t put something away where they have specifically asked to, then I call them back and make them do it properly – rather than me having to do it. I tell them that it would have been much easier if they did what they were asked the fisrt time.
    7. New House rule – if it doesn’t have a home, it can’t stay!
    I am persevering hoping that one day it will sink in! Is that too many rules for kids who are 11 and 13?

  2. I’ve had a rule for 20 years that clothes that aren’t in a washing basket don’t get washed (at least not by me!). The kids (29, 20 &17) are fine with that but my husband still struggles with the concept.
    I have a basket that things get put into if they get left lying around in the living room/kitchen. At the end of the week, the contents belong to me, to do with as I see fit. I used to throw away/send to the op shop a lot of stuff. Not so much any more!
    As the kids have grown, they are often not home at mealtimes, so a new rule – when you eat, you clean the kitchen, wash, dry and put away your dishes. Found my youngest mopping the kitchen floor at 2am last week!

    My husband and older son have short term memory problems, so being organised and having a place for everything is really important for us. I can’t tell you how many keys and reading glasses have been lost over the years. We now have a bowl by the front door for keys that everyone uses and my husband wears his glasses on a cord. Little things that make (my) life much easier!

  3. Great topic Lissanne and it really prompted me to think. I have a 2.5 year old son and his toys are driving me nuts at the moment. We pack up at the end of each day but within about 10 minutes in the morning they are ALL out again!!

    I then looked around and realised that after moving a couple of months ago I still have stuff strewn around in boxes. It gave me a bit of a wake up call that I can’t expect him to keep his things neat and organised if I can’t either!

    I’m going to use this holiday time to get rid of my own clutter and keep my stuff organised. The best way for him to learn how to control his belongings as he grows up is if I can control mine.

    Wish me luck!!

    • Jodi,

      Giant toy boxes create giant messes. Small containers reduce mess. Label them with word and picture; e.g. ‘cars’, ‘books, ‘soft toys’ etc (he’ll learn to read as well). Only bring out one or two boxes. He must return toys to designated box for you to agree to pull out another one.

      To avoid frustration create step by step chore charts; ‘ how to tidy bedroom’, ‘getting ready in morning’ etc. Each step has simple words and pictures to guide him. e. g. ‘Wake up. Pull up doona. Cuddle Mum. Get dressed (lay out only two changes of clothes for him to choose from), go to toilet, flush it, wash hands, dry hands, eat breakfast, put bowl in sink/dishwasher’ etc.

      A diplomat I knew had to host dignitaries at short notice. Her kids were messy. Her compromise? She put a line of electrical tape bordering their huge wall length built-in wardrobes. Kids could be as messy as they liked inside lines. If the doorbell rang doors concealed mess.

      You’re wise to be mindful. Kids do copy behaviour. Ask yourself what ‘really’ makes you nuts about your 2 y.o.s toys? Then ask, what’s best…a spotless, mess-free house or a space where creativity can be nurtured? Setting clear boundaries/structure helps a child feel secure, ready to take risks in learning and life, and resilient if he fails. Guide him to try to do his best. But avoid setting unrealistic expectations. That’s unfair on everyone. In Accident and Emergency I nursed too many kids who’d attempted suicide as they were unable to live up to perfectionist parent expectations.

    • But wait! There’s more! Not only is it a great resource for parents to teach their kids about how they can be organised and the tangible benefits of being organised, it’s also a great ‘learning by stealth’ tool for the parents themselves.

      By this I mean that parents will pick up the same messages that they can employ in their own lives, with their own possessions. It even works for non-parents (fancy that) and is a valuable reminder for those of us who organise others for a living!

  4. I wish I could teach my delightful air-head, that not everything she is given needs to be kept.

    I am spending a substantial amount of time ensuring her desk is organised, and everything labelled. She is the only child I know who can lose a bright yellow lunch box in her locker. We are teaching her to be minimal, as she just doesn’t cope with too much stuff around.

  5. Hi Lissanne,

    I know this is an old post, but one thing I think kids need to learn is HOW TO LET THINGS GO. I know houses where guests can’t use the wardrobe in the spare room, because it’s crammed with old toys, baby booster seats and old clothes. I really think all families need to have a “chuck out day” every year where they go though the house and get rid of all these old things.

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