Tips for Getting Kids Organized

Tips for Getting Kids Organized

I was recently hired to work with a 9 year old who (in her mother’s words) displayed hoarding tendencies. The idea was to get her motivated about organizing, and work with her to show her that the process is not as daunting as it initially seems. I used a few of these strategies with her, and am proud that after two sessions, she excitedly asked when I’m coming back next. Here are some tips on getting kids organized.

1 – Motivate by example.

It is important for kids to witness their parents organizing, purging and donating. Tell your child you want their opinion on what items to keep and what should be thrown out or donated. For example, if going through your clothing, ask the child what items they like or prefer on you, and why. Make sure you explain your reasonings for keeping, purging or donating an item so they understand your thought process. Reassure them that their input is valuable, which will help them build their confidence in non-sentimental decision making. I also recommend organizing as a family a few times each year (before Christmas and in the summer). Parents should show kids how to organize, not just tell them to. Another thing parents can instill in their children is how to take care of their belongings, which includes keeping them safe by putting them in a proper place.

2 – Make it a game.

I think of my job as a Professional Organizer like a big game or puzzle: categorizing like-with-like; determining how to best utilize a space; working to make the organization functional and attractive. It’s usually a race against the clock, and the end result leaves me feeling like a winner. Similarly, you should find any way possible to make organizing a fun game or challenge for your kids. Ask your child to pick up and put away all the stuffed animals as fast as they can, while you pick up all the legos or games. Or see how many items they can put away in 1 minute vs. how many you (or a sibling) can put away in the same amount of time. The more you set your children up for a fun time and a win, the more likely they’ll want to keep things organized and tidy.

3 – Set a timer.

I even use this strategy with my adult clients. Often, children will feel overwhelmed by a mess and do not know where to start. It’s important to show them how quickly they are able to work, especially if they don’t understand the concept of time. Set a timer for “x” minutes and show them how much they can accomplish in that short period of time (5 minutes for young kids, 15 minutes for older kids). If they don’t know where to start, encourage them to tackle one section at at time: put the legos back in the bin, and place the bin on the shelf; stack all the books back on the bookcase; put the stuffed animals back in the trunk. In this day and age kids’ minds are overstimulated and they often don’t know how to focus. Break down the chore into smaller tasks, and reassure them by setting a reasonable time to the task at hand.

4 – Live by the “one in, one out” rule.

This rule is important for adults and children, and can even be applied to pets! If you or your child is feeling overwhelmed by the amount of a particular item, set a limit that if any more of said item comes into your life, you will donate or purge one. The key here is to limit the amount of items you have, allowing you to enjoy your items more. If you find that your child wants to keep multiples for sentimental reasons, talk it through with them. Help them to understand certain items may have sentimental meanings, but that you only hold on to a few special items, and let the rest go on to have lives with other children or families.

5 – Stress the importance of charitable donations.

Many children develop attachments to their toys, but there are only so many toys they can physically play with. Explain to your child about charitable donations, and how a stuffed animal, game or puzzle they no longer play with will make another less fortunate child very happy. Research charities with your children and let your child decide what charity they want to send their used toys and clothes to. I’ve also heard of children asking for charitable donations in lieu of birthday gifts at a party, which I find to be a great idea! If your children are older and are learning about money, encourage them to have a garage sale and donate the proceeds towards a charity of their choosing. Alternatively, if your child is coveting a new toy, let them raise the money to buy it by selling older toys in a garage or online sale.

6 – Let them have a junk space.

Sometimes we just need to let kids be kids. Do this by giving them one space that they can keep messy. Limit the size: a bin, a drawer, a small chest toy or locker. The key here is to not let it get out of control. A few times a year, go through the drawer with the child to see what can be purged or donated.

7 – When all else fails, use the bed.

My mother’s tactic for getting me to clean my room at a young age involved taking everything scattered around the room and placing it on the bed. The idea here was that I couldn’t go to sleep until everything on the bed was put away. While I can see this backfiring for many parents, it worked for mine. Somehow it was more manageable in my young mind to have all the items in a pile on the bed, instead of scattered about the room. You could use a basket or hamper as well, similar to The Saturday Basket by The Messy Roost, which is a concept I absolutely love and will use with my own kids (one day)!

My last bit of advice is to just be the parent. You set rules and limitations all the time for your kids, ones that set them up to be successful adults. You can determine how many gifts they get or how many items they get to keep, just like you determine when they go to bed, what they eat or how much TV they can watch. They will likely fight with you, but at the end of the day, you know what is best for your child and if you set boundaries, they will respect and learn from them.

Hopefully you find these tips helpful, and they motivate your kids to get organized! Do you have any to share? If so, please leave them below in the comments.

Lauren Mang
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