Organizing your home can take a village of helpers, and putting your kids in charge of their rooms is the perfect place to start. With order comes a great lesson in valuing what's important - and letting go of what's not.
Professional organizer (and Oprah Winfrey favorite!) Peter Walsh believes that limits and routines are fundamental building blocks that enable children to grow into adults who are accountable, considerate and caring.
So when the toy box starts to overflow and the bookshelves are becoming jam-packed, that's the perfect time to pare down. Help your child figure out just how much space they have for the things they love, and begin to weed out those items that have lost their appeal into two piles, one for donating and one for discarding.
Give your child the choice of what they want to store their toys in, whether it's color-coded boxes, bins or containers. Discuss how and when everything should be put away so that they're clear - without you needing to nag them. Letting them know 'this is where the toys live' leads to a valuable lesson, says Walsh: "When the bins are full of toys, before your child can add [one], he or she needs to discard a toy."
Establishing this boundary empowers your child in several ways, notes Walsh, including promoting their decision-making skills and the idea of paying it forward to those less fortunate.
Start a Routine
Once kids get in the habit of picking up their toys, the natural next steps should be to follow suit with their clothes and cleaning up their rooms. Making their bed before they leave for school, putting their dirty laundry in the hamper, arranging their favorite stuffed animals or dolls on the shelf, tidying up their books and papers… these simple acts help nurture respect for their belongings - and your house as a whole.
When working with children, "I say things like, 'Where should we give this a home?' when organizing with them," says Maeve Richmond, a professional organizing coach. "One thing we all heard growing up was 'put that away,' which feels so negative." Instead, she suggests, "Try 'Can we put that where it lives?'" The subtle tweak in language conveys empathy and invites trust.
Kids learn from what they see, not what they hear, says Walsh. If your own bedroom is in a state of disarray, it's unrealistic to expect anything less from your child. But that doesn't mean teaching your child to straighten up has to be so boring they rebel at the very idea. Fluffing up a pillow and fanning the sheets and blankets can be a fun way to make the bed. Add playful elements like these to other room-straightening tasks to make the time - and chore - pass quickly. Get kids excited to put away balls and other toys by making jump shots with them into the designated bins.
The more you model an upbeat attitude around cleaning, straightening up and getting organized, the more likely your kids will be to pitch in and follow neatly in your footsteps!