Family Organization Tips
One of the hardest parts about getting your family organized is knowing where to start. Often, family members feel like they can’t stop long enough to get organized. It can be so discouraging to get your home organized and then watch helplessly as the clutter makes its way back in. How does that happen? It’s basically a mindset – to get organized is one thing, but to stay that way means you need to approach each day with it in mind. Rather than give up, try working some habits into your family life to make organization sticks around. This is where some basic tips can help. Here are some tips for getting organized and staying that way.
Share the Burden
Often, one family member (usually a parent) feels all the pressure to get things organized, and it just seems like other family members are constantly undermining his or her efforts. To help overcome this, try sharing the burden. For example, every family member should be responsible for putting away his or her things (coats, jackets, shoes, toys, books, etc.). There are various ways you can get your family motivated to take care of their own stuff. You might try:
* Give points for tasks completed, and require the kids to have a certain number of points before watching TV, spending time on the computer, etc.
* This one can be fun. Hiding items that are left out can really drive home a message about taking responsibility for one’s stuff. Make sure everyone in the family is aware of this consequence if they leave their things out. Then those items can be hidden as you like, and perhaps kids will have to earn back the hidden items. Definitely worked for one of my children!
Try establishing work space for family members’ various activities. It could be as elaborate as a separate room, simply a piece of furniture (such as a table), or a corner of a room. This helps in several ways:
* All the stuff required for a family member’s activity – books, paper, pencils, craft supplies, sports equipment, etc. – can be kept in his or her workspace. That prevents said stuff from ending up all over the house.
* Family members tend to feel validated when they have their own space to do what they want or need to do.
* Homework space should be separate from entertainment space to avoid temptations and to make sure that supplies are handy. The need for a computer in homework space is understandable, but make sure that it’s only used for school purposes (such as research).
Bins and Containers
Finding the right bins and containers for items can really help get things off the floor and onto shelves, into closets, and just up off the floor. You may find that you can get by with a few clear bins in each work space, or a set of inexpensive plastic shelves.
You may prefer a large dresser or filing cabinet for the whole family, with each person having his or her drawer. Whatever you choose, make sure the containers can be closed and stacked, and that you can see what’s in them (and/or label them). I used a dresser by the front door for various items giving each of us 2 drawers. Worked great in winter, especially with hats and gloves.
At the Front Door
It seems like the front door area is a catch-all for shoes, coats, jackets, books, and anything else family members happen to be carrying when they walk in the door. Try having a basket or box for each person on shelves by the door; mail, school papers, and other items can go in each individual’s basket/box. Every week, the baskets and boxes will need to be sorted through and cleaned out, but done regularly, it should not be too hard. Besides the dresser, a book case works well also for backpacks and school/work items.
Grow with Your Family
Organization needs to change over time, and it’s good to be adaptable and change methods along the way. One of the ironies of staying organized is that rigid inflexibility tends to make things worse – if not in actual clutter, then in feelings of resentment and being stifled.
So, it only makes sense that you will have to “update” your organization from time to time to keep up with growing kids, changing jobs, and various phases. Here are some tips.
* Toy bins will need to make way for space for age-appropriate items, like journals, art supplies, electronics, and other teen interests. You can update the bins or sell the old ones and replace them, but it’s going to require some reorganizing as your kids grow.
* Get rid of the old to make space for the new. Nothing scraps organizational efforts like accumulating stuff on top of stuff. As your kids’ interests change (yours, too), don’t be afraid to get rid of the things you no longer use and create space for the new stuff.
* As your kids grow, the level of organization they are responsible for will increase. Begin to delegate tasks and try to let family members do it their own way. This is part of letting the organization grow with your family.
If you are using organizational methods that just aren’t you, or just don’t fit with your family dynamic, then it’s no wonder you can’t keep up with them. You may not be the type to do spreadsheets, for instance, even though your friends rave about how much they helped them. If a dry-erase board or piece of paper and pencil work for you, go with it. Some people do better with an old-fashioned pocket calendar than fancy software.
The same is true in your home. If you are using the methods others have told you about, they may not work for your family. The organization should flow naturally from your lifestyle and be at a level you’re comfortable with. It’s okay, for instance, if there are some things you prefer not to have too organized.
The Need for Space
Space needs definitely change within a family. Babies, for instance, take up little space in and of themselves, but their stuff can take over the house! Teens, for example, may need more personal space but fewer square feet than, say, an active first grader. And even the adults in the house may go through phases where personal space is more of a priority than at other times. So be ready for these changes and adapt your organizational methods to fit them. It All Starts With You!
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