Being an organizer has great rewards, especially for me. Working primarily on child spaces, these rewards come in the form of smiles, screams of joy, and gasps of amazement at the big reveal at the end of each session.
While older kids are able to participate in the session, I leave it up to the parent to make that decision. Often, when kids participate they get very upset about having to pare down their possessions. This is completely normal of course, but when a parent is able to make quick decisions about clutter, it allows their kids to come back and focus on what they have and what is important–a clean, organized space in which to play.
Parents are often worried that their kids will come home and be upset after they have organized their rooms. Sometimes they are so fixated on this idea that they can’t complete the work. However, it’s important to remember how clutter negatively affects your kids. If it interferes with their ability to get things done (homework, play time, clean-up, etc.), it’s worth a few small arguments in the long run. Setting up an efficient space from the beginning will help them to develop good habits later in life.
Many parents believe that a child should clean his own room. While I agree, it’s also important to take into consideration the developmental stage of the child. Is it realistic or fair for a small child to take on such an overwhelming task alone? As an adult, how do you feel about these kinds of projects? For example, do YOU have a perfectly organized room in your home that you use for play, sleeping, homework, dressing, and hanging out with friends? Realize that a child’s room is a place for many different activities and is the center of his life. Adults rarely have an “all-purpose” room around which their lives revolve, so the expectations of an adult bedroom and a child bedroom are often very different.
Helping your child maintain his room over time will encourage him much more than trying to include him in the initial clean-up.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Take a day when the kids are away.
Sending your children out for a play date or a fun activity can be a great way to celebrate a little “me time.” If you are in the position to take a day off of work, the school day can be a nice chunk of time to get things organized. Childcare exchanges and sleepover nights are also a great excuse to de-clutter. You are more likely to get things done more efficiently without distraction. Be creative!
2. Out of sight, out of mind–chuck it or pack it away.
Many parents dread the inevitable, “WHERE DID YOU PUT MY [fill in the blank]?”
There are a couple of schools of thought on this: (1) If you tossed it out, be honest–“I got rid of some of your things because they were broken. It’s important that your room is a place that you can enjoy, and I’ve noticed that you have so much stuff in there that you aren’t able to play.” If they get mad, remember: you are the parent! While I don’t agree with disrespecting children, I do believe there are gentle ways to express why you have done what you did. They don’t have to agree, but the fact that you are able to explain yourself with good reason is important.
And (2) pack the things into storage that you WANT to get rid of –out of sight, out of mind. When your child wants her pink whiffle ball, go ahead and grab it, but be honest about why it was put away–“I put some things away so that you have more space to play; I didn’t realize that toy was so important to you. Let me go grab it.”
When you go to get it, bring out JUST the one item. Letting her see everything you have put away may bring up intense emotions that can be avoided.
In my experience, kids generally do NOT remember the things that parents toss out; however, I want you to have the tools to approach any situation.
3. When organizing clothes, remember that kids grow quickly!
If your child was a size 8 last summer, it’s unlikely that they will be wearing the same size next year. If you generally buy new clothes each season anyway, get rid of last season’s clothes–you will be saving yourself future work.
4. Less is more. Less is more. Less is more.
Did I mention less is more? Edit, edit, edit! Kids usually have so much stuff that they can’t begin to play with it all.
5. If a birthday or a gift-giving holiday is coming up, edit even more.
Make room for the new toys coming in.
6. Unopened toys or craft kits? Teach giving.
You would not believe how many of my clients have toys or project/art kits that their kids have never opened. Consider teaching kids about giving by donating these to a local charity a
round Christmas time. Goodwill is great, however sometimes charities like Toys for Tots can have a greater impact because you know they are going to kids who need them.
Yes, the organization process is difficult. But keep in mind what your child will gain from it in the end–an appreciation for simplicity, space to play, time to spend on what is important, increased focus, and decreased frustration and stress due to clutter. Once it’s done, you will begin to see the benefits tenfold!