Ask the Organizer Series: Keeping Children Organized | Me In Order

Me In Order knows that when the holidays come around…so does the holiday presents and clutter…especially when you have children. Getting kids engaged in the process of decluttering tends to be a HUGE challenge.  Kids can think of a million and one things they would rather do than take time to clean up and organize.  Finding the right motivator and the right system can get them engaged in the process and even excited in creating and keeping a clutter-free space. Our expert organizer, Rosy has learned after some failed attempts of getting her teenage daughters to declutter and organize their rooms & closets. And she has some tips for you…

Question 1: How do I get my kids to participate in decluttering their room? 

Rosy: MY way is NOT necessarily THEIR way. As a matter of fact, the more we as parents impose, the more the kids tend to resist. Talk to your kids about HOW they would go about removing items they no longer use, need, or that simply have no purpose.  Make them PARTICIPANTS in the process.  Allowing them to have input will facilitate taking ownership of the process.

Explain to your kids WHY decluttering their rooms will be beneficial to THEM.  Do it in a way that makes sense to your kids (i.e to make room for your new Christmas toys, to  create space for when your friends come over, to make it easier for you to find your things, etc.)

Identify key motivators & customize the incentives.  What works for one child will not necessarily work for the other. For example, my oldest loves to have her friends over, so telling her that if she keeps her room free of clutter and organized will increase her chances of having friends over more often motivates her to clean up and keep her room clutter free.  Doing so has also earned her positive comments from her friends which fuels the desire to maintain organized even more….Double whammy!  My youngest, on the other hand, is not so driven by having her friends over, but is very conscious about helping those in needs; particularly  children. Offering to take her to shelters, or to participate in drives, where she can personally deliver the removed items to these children, motivates her to clean out items that are in good condition but that she no longer uses, or needs.

Plan a FUN activity that will engage them in the purging process.  My family holds an annual yard sale a month before Christmas where the kids from the family come together at one house to hold the Yard Sale.  Doing so accomplishes various things that will help create positive behaviors and help them all gain new skills & responsibilities:

  1. it’s an opportunity for the extended family to come together…always FUN,
  2. motivates kids to clear out items from their closets, drawers, toy rooms, and just PURGE with minimal trauma or separation anxiety as they are excited of the outcome….disposable income!,
  3. places some of the responsibility of communicating, planning, organizing, and pricing on the kids (older kids help out the younger ones) which help them gain basic business & sales skills, especially on the day of the actual sale,
  4. allows them to become more comfortable to speak with the public,
  5. teaches them to manage cash transactions, and
  6. teaches them about financial responsibilities….a percentage goes to charity of their choice, a portion to their savings account, and a portion they can spend as they choose as a reward for purging and selling the items they removed from their rooms (closets, dressers, and drawers included!).

Work together in deciding what system works best for your child.  If your kids are old enough, allow them to have input into what storage supplies they might find helpful in keeping their rooms organized. Present questions that will help you gather insightful information into how their brains work when it comes to organizing to best design the system that will help them maintain clutter-free rooms. (DISCLAIMER when dealing with Teenagers..trek carefully.  Getting into the brain of a Teenager can cause headaches, dizziness, frustration, and accelerate the aging process to parents!)  Seriously though, I have found that even taking my teenage girls to shop for organizing supplies to IKEA, the Container Store, and good-old Home Goods gets them excited in the whole process, allows me to customize the system to their needs which then facilitates the maintenance portion of the process (this tends to be the hardest part), AND the icing on the cake…. provides ME with some always welcome Mommy & Me time 🙂  (If time allows, do try to plan for individual trips so you can focus on one child at a time.  Seems to be the trick to get each TRULY involved and committed to the task at hand).  For younger kids that might not be able to verbalize what works best for them, my suggestion is empathize. THINK LIKE A KID AT THAT AGE.  What would you have liked to have easy access to at that age, and what would have worked best for you to put it back in place?

2. What was your experience like with decluttering a child’s room? 

Rosy: Let’s be honest, decluttering a child’s room can be an emotionally and physically taxing and exhausting, not to mention frustrating, experience.  Kids, especially the younger ones, tend to be emotionally attached to pretty much every item in their possession, even items that might have been stored away for months or years and they hadn’t seen until the second you took out.  Somehow now that items became THE most valuable item they own 🙁  My first experience in decluttering a kid’s room as a professional organizer was, to say the least, challenging.  Not only was the child attached to EVERYTHING, including an old slice of pizza found under her bed (no kidding), but both parents disagreed on what items were to be purged, how the room and items were to be organized, and expressed their constant disagreements in front of the crying child…..not the best or most conducive environment to reach our goal of creating a clutter-free space for the child.

After removing both parents from the room to reassess the situation, re-set goals, expectations, and a new plan of action, it was decided that it would be best to breakdown the job into small tasks in which the child could participate and be of assistance to me while only one parent was present in the room to pretty much observe and support the process.  Important to mention that during the conversation with the parents, I found out the girl had never had her friends over for a sleepover because there was no room for her friends in her room. This was an “A-HA moment” to me.  This might be the key motivator to get the little girl engaged into purging and storing some items.
First things first, how can I make the child feel comfortable with me – a stranger- and how can I make her listen to me and be engaged in the process?
  • First step- come down to her eye level. Sit down on the floor. Make her feel comfortable.  Looking up to a “towering” adult can be intimidating to a young child.
  • Second step- say something that will get the child to pay attention and engaged; “How about I help you clean up your room so that it looks pretty like that doll house you have there?  So you like doll houses? Your mom tells me you want to have your friends over for a sleepover. Is that right?  (Thankfully she said YES!) Well, I  can help you fix up your room so that you, your mom, and dad can plan a sleepover with your friends. This TRULY got her excited…YIPEEE!
  • Third step-  get the child be a WILLING participant in the process.  Break it down into small tasks to avoid overwhelming the child.  “How about if I make YOU my helper/assistant for the day?  We are going to place all the small items on the floor into these baskets, and then we are going to go through each basket together and you will help me put them into groups of similar items into the Ziploc bags.  But remember, if you don’t use it, like it, or even better…think another kid can like it even more, we will put those asides for you to donate or gift to another kid. Like that idea?  By asking the child for their feedback you are allowing him/her to feel like they have some control over the process and situation…puts them at ease.  Also, they see it’s not a unilateral process where you impose, and more importantly, it opens the channels of communication and allows you to evaluate how best to manage the situation to achieve the goal.
DO know you must have patience and time when working in decluttering a child’s room WITH the child, it is time and energy consuming BUT the outcome will be totally worth it.  At the end, you will have a much more organized room and a bonding experience with the child; be it your own or one of your younger  clients 🙂

3. My child has a lot of school work…especially art projects. How do I decide what to keep and what to throw away? 

Rosy: Deciding what to keep and what to throw away is difficult enough without adding on the emotional burden – or guilt- that comes along when it is an item that either belongs to your child, or was made by your child.  Believe me, as the mom of two girls, I know the amount of schoolwork, artwork, and just plain STUFF that can be accumulated throughout the years…more so when you have multiple kids.  But how much stuff to keep for the “memories” is enough?  This tends to be the one million dollar question.  Well, when you stop to think about it, if we were to store every little thing our kids ever did from pre-school on, most everyone would need to either rent, purchase, or just build storage unitS…capital S!  I first started the process of purging these “memories” after our first move with the girls.  Ask yourself these question….how many times do I revisit these memories?  How many times have I needed access to these memories bins and boxes that are taking up valuable prime real estate in my closets?  if you are paying for external storage units…how much money have you invested on these?  Could you have taken family trips with that money?  Could you have saved additional money for the kids’ college with the money spent in transporting, and storing items that no one has ever even bothered to ask for in years?  The answer to these will help you realize that we ALL tend to fall into the same black hole of “memories keepsakes”.  A keepsake should TRULY have a special memory attached, it should evoke a special moment in your life, it must have real meaning to be such special that it warrants saving and storing.

Here are some easy steps to get it done:

  1. Schedule a day in your calendar/planner in which you will tackle this task.  If you put it down in writing, chance are you will follow through.
  2. Don’t overwhelm yourself.  It could be a daunting task at times for some. If that is the case, start with a small batch of either schoolwork, or artwork to sort through
  3. Select the storage solution you will use; plastic bin with lid, decorative cardboard box with lid, etc.  Determine best size that will keep enough items but not so big that will encourage you to keep more items than what you really need to keep.
  4. Identify items that have REAL meaning to you or your child.  Place those in a plastic bin with lid labeled “keepsake”
  5. Once you have created the Keepsake bin remember that to really avoid falling into the keep everything trap, for every new item you place in the bin, you must remove another one.
  6. Don’t despair…we live in the digital era.  Create digital keepsake files with pictures of your kids artwork. You can even create books for all the artwork per grade, so you at least have a beautiful, bounded collection of Artwork books that you can revisit with your children, and hopefully…eventually, with your grandkids!
  7. For the artwork, places like Amazon and Michael’s sell affordable art shadow boxes where you can keep multiple pieces of artwork stored, with the one on top showcased as framed artwork that can be used to decorate a room. At the end of the day, remember that your best memories are those save in our mind and that every time we see our children they will evoke those great moments!

4. How can an expert organizer help me specifically organize my child’s room? 

Rosy: Like it was when we were younger, we tend to listen, at times, more to others than to our parents.  Kids at times can easily tune out parents’ instructions, suggestions, and recommendations, even when we know what’s best for them.  Hiring the services of an experienced Expert Organizer will help parents facilitate the process and, many times, avoid conflict between parent and and child…the last thing anyone wants when the goal is to create an organized space, free-of clutter stress, and full of peace and harmony. An Expert Organizer can also provide you with new perspective and ideas on how to best purge, sort, and store items to facilitate life in general which tends to be hectic on a daily basis. Expert Organizers will provide you and your children support, assistance, and ideas. They can help improve your lifestyle, facilitate an environment that encourages your children to maintain their new, clutter-free space, and give them a sense of accomplishment.  Also, by hiring the service of a professional organizer for your kids, shows them how invested you as a parent are in helping them achieve an environment that will help them focus on more important things, like school, sports, friends, and family time.

Me In Order is here to guide you in any way you need to start your organizing project. If you are interested in learning more about how to hire an expert organizer, check out our Ultimate Guide To Hiring An Expert Organizer , or contact us today!




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