Your home is your sanctuary. Becoming organized can restore order and peace to your home, as well as to your entire family. In fact, it can positively affect your family’s health, safety, relationships and budget. This article provides advice on how to reduce clutter and relieve stress, while also restoring peace and calm throughout your family home.
The best way to maintain an organized home is to stop clutter before it comes into your home. Hyper-consumerism is the culture we live in, and we have to make a conscious effort to break the cycle. Before bringing anything new into your home, ask yourself, “Do I need it or do I just want it?” Also ask yourself, “Do I have space for it?” Consider how the item will be used, where it will live in your house and if you already own something you could use instead.
Do items in your home have a place where they belong, or simply a place where you have space? Often items are not put away because they have no established home. Walk through your home and note which areas are most frustrating. What categories of things are consistently lying out? Where are your storage spaces?
Outline your vision for each space on paper, along with a list of the activities occurring in each room. Are the items in each room supporting a function? For example, does your mail end up on the kitchen counter because your official inbox is in the office on the second floor? Create a home for incoming mail downstairs, convenient to the entryway. Organizing is about finding what you need, when you need it. But is also a balance between your vision of your perfect home and accommodating the habits and needs of all who live there.
Think of how children at school are capable of putting away their items quickly and consistently. This happens because they know where everything lives, the items are put away within their reach and they know their teacher will not do it for them.
Create systems that are realistic and maintainable for your family. Work with your family to practice these skills. Gently and respectfully teach your family members that they are required to put things where they belong. Some examples include:
Designate homes for backpacks, coats and shoes in the entryway and at their level, such as lower hooks for smaller children.
Create a collection basket for school papers and homework. Make a nightly habit of quickly sorting the papers into trash, recycle, to do or to file.
Set up reading and homework stations fully stocked with supplies to get the work done.
Rotate toys in the toy room on a regular basis. Note which toys your children consistently ask for. The ones they never miss can be donated.
Keep in mind the different ability levels of children. By age five, your child can help put away socks, fold washcloths and hang their clothes on hooks. By age 12, children can be in charge of their own laundry. Always remember that you are leading by example. If your bed is consistently unmade, your children will not see the value in making their own.
Do you find yourself giving the same instructions over and over: “Get your backpack, your lunch and water bottle” or “Don’t forget your coat and boots.” If this sounds familiar, create a family binder with daily routines. Banish the word, chore, from your family’s vocabulary.
Children find security in routines. They thrive when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. Routine checklists allow you to stop nagging your children and start teaching them to be responsible for themselves. Create a morning routine checklist of all the activities your child must complete before leaving for the day, as well as the suggested time to do each task. Teach them to refer to their routine list each day before leaving the house. You also may find that posting an “exit checklist” by the backpacks and coats helps to reinforce these new habits.
Create another checklist for returning home in the afternoon. Allow your children the flexibility to complete their routines at their own pace. But remind them that privileges, such as sports, play dates and screen time, can only be enjoyed after routines are completed.
For older children, create a contract of expected responsibilities and behaviors. Keep the family binder in a central location where your family members can refer to it as needed. Establish regular family meetings to discuss what is working or not. Remain open to feedback and modify routines and expectations as needed. Stay positive in your communications. The goal is to teach your family how routines can improve the quality of life at home. If they perceive these routines as punishments, they will never embrace them nor see the value of the system.
Being organized is about finding what you need, when you need it. It is not about looking like a home décor catalog. Your home did not get to its current state overnight, so do not expect to resolve the problems in one day.
Start with one drawer and fifteen minutes. Take everything out of the drawer, sort it into categories and then decide what will go back into the drawer. Items that do not make the cut can be donated or discarded. Establish how you will arrange the items back in the drawer. Use containers you have around the house. Plastic bags, box lids, shallow dishes or trays work well for collecting small items.
Now move on to the next project and repeat. Work in phases. You may find yourself needing to make adjustments along the way. Find a system that functions for you before you worry about how the system looks. You may find that you prefer storing toys in laundry baskets and that you don’t really need a big, expensive shelving system. Give yourself permission to get started, and allow yourself to be okay with “good enough for now.” Once you have your systems in place, you can revise and upgrade your materials. The goal is to get started.
Be respectful of your family’s possessions. Don’t assume you know what your family wants to keep and what they want to throw away. Use this opportunity to have conversations with your children and spouse about their interests. Approach your family when you are calm and relatively stress-free. Decide together on a vision and action plan for each space and work together to implement it.
Ask family members to pick out their top treasures from their shelves and drawers. Respect their choices and be careful not to use negative terms, such as junk. Asking your children to choose a charity to donate items to may help them in deciding which items to keep or let go. Make a family trip to donate the items when you are finished.
Get organized ASAP. If you do not have the skills to tackle the clutter on your own, hire a professional organizer. An organizer offers a fresh perspective, as well as the ability to complete the project in less time with less frustration, when compared to doing it on your own.
Involving everyone ensures buy-in. You don’t live alone, so stop taking on all the responsibility for house and home. Schedule a nightly pick-up time, anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, where the entire family pitches in to pick up and put away items. Make it fun by turning on music or creating a game to see who can pick up the most. You will be amazed at the difference a small amount of focused time can make on the clutter level in a home.
Also involve extended family in your new habits. Talk to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and explain that your family is learning new skills in teamwork and collaboration, as well as working to break the cycle of hyper-consumerism. Explain that you are grateful for their generosity, and ask that they consider giving gifts of experience, such as tickets to an event or a special evening out, instead of stuff.
Your home is your sanctuary. By following these simple do’s and don’ts, you can restore order and peace to your home and family. Remember, the steps are simple, but not always easy. Make a commitment to get organized and see how it positively affects your family’s health, safety, relationships and budget. In today’s fast-paced world, getting organized is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
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