Are you the organized one in your family? Does it seem pointless to try to stay organized, with everyone making messes right behind you as you go around the house tidying up? Here are some sneaky ways to get them onboard with your organizing systems.
1. Start with yourself
You can’t very well expect your family to put their things away if you aren’t sure where everything goes either, and if you are inconsistent with putting your own things away…can you? Setting a good example can go a long way towards getting them to follow suit.
2. Make it easy
The best way to trick your family into being organized is to make it as easy as humanly possible for them to do so. It’s less about them remembering (or failing to remember) to put something away, and more about having obvious, easy-to-use homes for everything; communicating your expectations clearly and consistently; and getting their buy-in. Help them establish good habits by figuring out what works best for your family.
3. Be crystal clear
There’s nothing less productive and more frustrating than saying, “Go clean up your room,” when your kids don’t really know, not specifically, what you expect them to do. (Same goes for adults!) They shove things under the bed and it looks neater, right? Wrong. If you don’t say, “Please put your toys in the toy box, and put your books on the bookshelf, and make your bed, and put your dirty clothes in the hamper, and put the trash in the wastebasket,” you really can’t expect them to do those exact things, can you? Why not create your own checklists of age-appropriate tasks? (Search Google Images for “chores for kids” for inspiration.)
4. Provide sufficient storage
The most common reason I see why my clients’ kids can’t get their rooms “clean” is that they have too much stuff and not enough storage. There is no point in saying, “Put your toys away,” if the toy box is already overflowing. Or, “Put your books away,” if they don’t have a bookshelf. Remember, don’t let your containers overflow! If they do, it’s time to purge and/or re-think the containers.
5. Label everything
Sure, it’s obvious to YOU where the leftovers should go in the fridge, but is it obvious to everyone else in your household? What if you had a shelf that was labeled “Eat First”, for leftovers and items that are nearing their expiration dates? Do you think that would increase the likelihood of those items being corralled onto that shelf, and therefore getting eaten first? Same goes for everything else: pantry items, linens, toiletries, tools, etc. Make sure the labels are large enough to read easily. You can get fancy with labels, if you like, but don’t let that cause you to procrastinate. A piece of painter’s tape and a black Sharpie will suffice. It’s all about the labels (not the label makers)!
6. Make it fun
There are lots of ways to make chores fun. OK, funn-er, at least. For example, you could try a daily “Ten Minute Tidy Up” before or after dinner, or another time when you’re regularly all together. Decide when you’ll do it, and stick to that as much as possible, so it will become a habit that you don’t have to re-think every day. (“Are we going to do it today? Hmmm…I don’t know…I might be too tired…”)
Here’s how it works: Set a timer, or play an upbeat 10-minute song list. Everyone in the family goes around the public areas (living room, dining room, kitchen, entryway) and gathers the items that belong to them, or that they got out to use or play with that day, and puts them away where they belong. It’s as simple as that! Call it something fun. I have one client whose children call it a “Ten Minute Turd Hunt” just to be silly…but your family may have a different sense of humor.
The more you can make it seem like playing the game of organizing, the better. (That same client’s daughter has been observed playing “Organizer Lady” with her little friends, lol!)
7. Schedule a weekly family meeting
This is a chance for families (or couples, or roommates) to review how things are going. They compare their agendas for the coming week, and discuss whatever new issues have come up since last week. Everyone gets a turn to speak without being judged, even little children. Because it’s a regularly-scheduled activity, no one has to wonder if and when would be a good time to bring something up. Again, make it fun. Try having your meeting on a Saturday morning, then everyone can do a few chores, followed by going out to brunch together, or another enjoyable family activity. Take turns choosing the fun activity. A good thing to review at a family meeting is the Six Organizing Systems Everyone Needs.
8. Send their stuff to Clutter Jail
Clutter Jail is where things go that were left lying around that shouldn’t have been. These things have established homes, and the rules about when and how they should be put away are crystal clear. They are redeemed by doing chores. There are lots of examples on the internet (search Google Images for “clutter jail”). My theory (not being a mom) is that this can be made fun by using cute graphics, having an upbeat attitude, and getting the buy-in of the whole family. Make it more like a game (with very clear rules to which you consistently adhere) than a punishment. Kind of like a swear jar, where everyone agrees (versus being forced against their will) to pay a quarter for every time they swear, and good-spiritedly notes each other’s infractions.
9. Pick your battles
You can train your family, and teach your children valuable organizing skills, but you can’t turn them into different people. One way to honor the family members with messy tendencies is to give them each a place of their own where it’s OK to be messy. For teenagers, it could be their own rooms. For an Odd Couple partner (spouse, roommate, etc.) it could be whatever room or part of the house they use for their hobbies. The deal is that, in return, they agree to keep public and communal areas tidy.
10. Adjust your attitude
Any type of conflict is an opportunity to consider, and reconsider, your attitude towards the situation. You must find your “sweet spot” between tidy, clean, and organized; re-think your organizing systems; remember why you do chores in the first place; and figure out how to make chores fun for yourself and your family.
Which of these ideas do you think will work for your family?
How do you keep your family organized?
Please share with us in the comments below!
Copyright 2017-2019 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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