How do you encourage your children to help keep the house organized?
Create simple, age-appropriate storage systems that your kids can easily understand, and make sure everything has a home. My kids are only 2 and 3 years old, so I have photos to label the storage bins for each type of toy, and IKEA shelving systems to store the bins. The kids know where to find toys (and in fact, get upset if the toys are put in the wrong spot), and can also put them away without much help from me. The next step is making time for tidying and organizing (usually before I turn the TV on when I'm about to make dinner).
I also try to be a role model and keep my areas clean and tidy (not always easy!).
Everything in our home is organized, and I mean everything... So if there is something out of place, you will see it. Every night before bed, I encourage my children to clean up after themselves and to put things back where they belong. Consistency is the key to teaching kids organization. It has worked well for us.
I have a few things that work well with my children. The first thing is to include them in the process. I like them to have input in what containers to use, how to label them, and where things should be stored. By them having a say in how their things are stored, organized and displayed they are more responsible at keeping them that way. They also have small daily chores that help with keeping the house clean and organized. One of the main chores is that their rooms are kept reasonably clean and orderly everyday and their beds are made every morning. And the last thing is that we have a quick pick up around the house before everyone goes to bed at night. They are responsible for putting away their own things or I get to keep them and they have to earn them back by doing a small chore of my choice. I believe children function better in order and feel safer and more at ease in an organized home.
By making it fun. Especially with younger kids, singing songs and dancing while you clean can keep things fun. Creating a reward system/chore chart is also a great help.
I make it a team effort. We get a lot accomplished when we work together. There are things that even very young children can do to help. Giving children age-appropriate chores helps to develop a real sense of accomplishment and responsibility. I set a time in our schedule each day where we all work on keeping things neat and clean. When your children see you set a positive example, they are much more likely to follow it in the long run.
Not surprisingly, kids will be more apt to help keep their home tidy if the clean-up process is easy AND fun. I really work hard to make their playroom and bedrooms easy to clean up. Therefore, it makes clean-up less stressful on everyone. We have lots of little mesh bins in our playroom that are designated for specific categories. That makes it easy for the kids to toss the toys inside each bin and then we can put them away in the storage closet. Sometimes we make a fun game out of cleaning too by either counting as we toss items in or counting how many toys each child picked up. But they key is to make it fun...and a game where everyone wins. There are no losers in this house! :-)
To keep my children involved with helping around the house, I have created chore charts and they work really well. I sell a lot of different printable chore chart designs in my Etsy Shop.
Anyone can learn the skills needed to live an organized lifestyle especially children. I've taught my children these skills from a young age and share my process for how to do it on my blog. Ebook coming soon! Never wait until your children aren't home to purge their stuff, all that does is make them not trust you. Teach them how to make difficult organizing decisions at a young age while the stakes aren't as high.
We have a chore chart posted inside the kitchen cabinet. Each boy is assigned an after-breakfast, after-lunch, and after-dinner chore according to his age and ability. Even the 2-year-old gets to participate by helping wipe kitchen chairs. I have found that the younger children, who have always participated in this activity, don't complain, because they've never known any other way than to help out.
Keeping the house organized with children is like shoveling while it's still snowing right? It's a never-ending uphill battle, but it's one that we must fight as mothers every day. Depending on the ages of your children, your system might be different, but with a 4yr old and a 6yr old I use the following 4 tips.
1) Realistic and age appropriate expectations for kid driven cleanliness
2) Child involvement in household routines
3) Small and specific instructions given and repeated frequently
4) Big reactions and small rewards
This is a topic that I blog about often, so more details on how this approach works in my house can be read here:
My children are very young - my oldest is only 2 years old. However, I'm already encouraging her to help with organization. Her toys are organized into boxes and bins in our living room, which is her main play area, and her bedroom, with labels. When we clean up at the end of the day, she is given a "type" of toy (play food/blocks/dolls/figurines/Little People/books/etc) to put away. Even at 2 years old, she understands how to categorize her toys and where each toy is placed in her room or in our main play area. She can find what she wants to play with easily, and knows how to put it away. Every night before bedtime she is given three clean-up tasks to do. When it's less overwhelming than being told to "clean up her toys", she is much more willing to participate.
Set up is key in all areas of the house. She knows where her snacks are in the fridge and pantry, and they are easily separated and labeled for her. She knows where her socks and underpants are in her dresser. She knows where her coat and shoes are. As she gets older, she can begin to take more of an active role in the house because we've set a good foundation for her.
Limit the stuff! I've learned how much easier it is for ME to keep things under control when there's less to deal with, and this is even more true with children.
Keep decluttering their belongings until you find how much they can handle. At that point, use the one-in-one-out rule to keep things under control.
But remember, cleaning and organizing are two different things. I have an e-book called Teaching Kids to Clean with ideas and lots of printable lists both for readers and non-readers. http://www.aslobcomesclean.com/2012/05/bring-on-the-summer-of-clean/
We always chat about the importance of working together and the importance of organizing. I be sure to frequently remind my kiddos that by working together, we get to play together. They are able to earn small treasures when they go above and beyond or do helpful tasks without being asked. We believe in celebrating positive behaviors.
Like most parents, I think it's safe to say that our system is not perfect! However, we do have toy bins that keep things separated, and we operate on a system of putting the current item away before a second toy is taken out. We've always taught our children to put things in their proper place when finished with them. I think the key is to start early.
I love to organizing and clean, so I've always incorporated a little cleaning and organizing into our daily routine. We do little quick clean ups before starting a new activities, and before transition times (rest time, dinner, and bed time). This reinforces the habit for my kids. I like to set the timer for 5 minutes and we do a quick game of clean up.
Since my kids were very young, we've had systems and a place for everything. When they were pre-reading toddlers, I used clear bins with pictures on them to categorize toys and help them assist when picking up at the end of the day! Appropriate systems have been introduced as they've grown. We've introduced chore charts, made all of their crafts and homework tools accessible, and even created allowance savings charts.
My kids rotate chores weekly: we have an "A List" and a "B List" and they swap lists weekly to keep things fair. The chores have changed over the years to be age-appropriate, but now include larger tasks of garbage, bathroom cleaning, lawn care and mopping the floor.
We also plan our meals out weekly, so everyone knows what is on the menu. This makes it easier in every way to shop, prepare and clean up. When we run out of items - there is a running list on the refrigerator that everyone can add to to be sure we capture needed items right away.
Scheduling is a very big priority for us to stay organized as a family. Now that my children are teens, we all use online calendars, cell phones and texting to keep communicating and organized. One KEY practice that we've done for years is to sit down as a family on Sunday evening after dinner, and go through everyone's calendars to be sure each of us knows what is most important for the coming week. Not only has this helped us to stay in alignment as a family, it's been a cornerstone to keep us all grounded.
By setting the right example. I cannot expect my children to be better organized than I am. I give them the tools they need as well as guidance and usually they surprise me with their own version of order.
I find that a great way to get kids to help keep things organized is to provide them with their own space to store their toys and belongings. Labeling where everything should go is also helpful, so kids will know where all their toys should go when they are done playing with them. To that end, I have been working on creating a basement playroom space for my kids – that way, their toys can be stored in their own space and will be less likely to end up in our family and living rooms.