Teaching Your Kids to Organize
Last week I wrote a post about my love of purging. Afterwards I got a sweet email from a reader that I’d like to share with you.
When I was a child (now I’m 58), we didn’t have many toys but my mom was always giving away what we did have to my cousins who had way less than we had. Clothing, furniture, and toys. She gave away my Mickey Mouse Farris Wheel. If you price those today on antique toy sites, they go extremely high prices. But that’s not really why I wrote. Both my sister and I have had, over the years, very hard times giving away or getting rid of things as a result of Mom’s wanting to purge our things. I would caution you or anyone else who makes their children get rid of things. Sometimes, it causes the opposite result, as those children become adults. I’m not a hoarder, but I do think I struggle letting go more than if I had been allowed to make more decisions on my own as a child.
It is because of letters like these that I’m such a huge advocate for teaching your children how to organize rather than wait until they are out of the house to do it for them. Sure you satisfy your need for a cleaner tidier house doing it that way but unfortunately your children are missing out on a very valuable lesson in the process. I honestly believe that organizing isn’t some magical gene that only a few of us get but rather it’s a skill that anyone can learn. There are specific steps to the organizing PROCESS that when learned make all the difference to how you view clutter and the power it holds over your life. Guess what? The process works for kids too! Someone just needs to teach them.
Now I get a lot of resistance when I talk crazy like this. Things like “are you nutso lady my kid won’t part with anything, she’ll want to keep everything” and “I couldn’t possibly let her decide what to keep and what to get rid of because she doesn’t know what’s special and what’s not”.
And so on and son. But the truth is sometimes WE can be our child’s biggest hang up. Sometimes the roadblock is US. Oy.
Tell me, are you ready to just grab a garbage bag and head on in to their rooms while their at school to go a little purge crazy?. Not quite so fast. My experience has taught me that the only thing that teaches your children is not to trust you. Let me assure you that the more you involve your children in the process of organizing (and purging!) the more they’ll acquire the necessary skills to make it an ongoing habit that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
I’m currently writing an ebook on this topic because it’s something I’m so passionate about, but in the meantime set aside a couple of hours one day to work with your children armed with the following tips in hand and watch what happens.
First thing you need to do is collect all toys along with all the bits and pieces that belong to the those toys from around the house into one area. Sort everything into piles so that all like toys are together in one pile. Kids love sorting so this step in the process typically goes pretty quickly. The next step which involves letting some of those prize possessions go is a little trickier especially when you are first starting out.
Organizing is about making decisions and the younger children learn to flex this “decision making muscle” the easier it will be for them to execute it on a regular basis. Presenting them with choices is an excellent way to do this.
Here are a few questions to help them decide:
When did you play with this last?
Why is this so important to you?
Rather than this toy sitting here neglected do you think another child might like to play with it now?
Give them a choice between two things and ask them which one is their most favorite? I see you have two stuffed horses, would you like to keep this one or this one?
Your Lego container is full and you don’t have any room to add more. We need to make room in case you get some more for Christmas. Let’s go through the box and decide which ones we can part with so the box isn’t so full.
When you first start out with this process and having them make their own tough choices, you will more than likely be met with resistance. Expect it but stay firm. I promise you this step gets easier and easier with practice. You might not always agree with what they want to keep but remember your favorites don’t need to be their favorites.
You empower them to make these decisions themselves alleviating potential power struggles. It’s your boundaries and limits but their choice what stays and what goes within those boundaries.
Do you struggle with getting your kids to part with their toys? How have you handled it in your house?