Organizing with Children: Get on Their Level
An organizing project takes on a whole new set of rules and goals when children are involved.
Kids are natural little balls of chaos, so these projects are about getting them to want to be organized. All it takes is a little understanding and a lot of fun. Read through my experience with Isabella and Avalon for some insight into organizing with children.
“I had the privilege of working with a client’s two young children, Isabella (age 10) and Avalon (age 4), in decluttering Isabella’s room. It took about seven hours to complete. Normally, when organizing a child’s space, the parent works alongside their children; this case was different.
Before the session started, the four of us chatted about what activities would be undertaken in the room, what was to be done with the items that did not belong in the room, what worked and didn’t, etc. It was important for Isabella to have a special space for her microscope, so she could look at items that interested her, and still have a place to hang out with her friends.
I was impressed with Isabella in several ways: she took responsibility for decluttering and organizing her own room, took frequent breaks and decided on her own when she felt she needed them, and always returned in a reasonable amount of time (I did not have to go looking for her and haul her back kicking and screaming). When organizing with children, make sure you take frequent breaks.
I was equally impressed with Avalon, who is only 4 years old. Any task I assigned her, she enthusiastically took on and did not want to quit at all during the session. She asked me at one point “are you coming back to help me in my room?”
After we had everything sorted, it was time to create the organizing system. We used inexpensive baskets from Dollarama. Isabella labeled each basket & even drew the object that represented what went in the basket. She enjoyed this step and got quite creative!
At the end of the session, we chatted about setting boundaries. For example, if a storage bucket is full of stuffed animals and a new one is added, one needs to go. This is a great time to gift or donate.
At the end of our session, I made up a game to see if she remembered where everything would go. I asked Isabella and Avalon several questions like “if you bought a new dress, where would it go?”, “if you wanted to put away your sportswear, where would it go?”, and “where would your socks go?” They both enjoyed this made-up game. Make the session as fun as possible to keep the children interested and invested.
When the project was finished, they were both very excited to show their mom what they had done. It was obvious that both kids were proud of what they had accomplished and I was as well.”
Testimonial from the Parent
“As the parent, it was worth its weight in gold to have a professional, Karen, come in to work with my children. It takes the stress of the parent/child relationship off the project and it gives them more ownership. Looking forward to working together again soon” – Melissa
Biggest takeaways from this experience:
1. Get them involved
Allow the kids an opportunity to be proud of what they accomplish. They love making things, so approach it like a craft project and let them take some ownership of the results.
2. Know their limits
Children just can’t work at the same pace as us. Most house projects can render a grown adult into meltdown status, so imagine how exhausting it can be for a little one. Time frequent breaks to keep them motivated.
3. Set boundaries
A new organizing system usually falls flat when it begins overflowing with new toys and crafts. The key is to set boundaries and rules with children. Every new item must replace, not add. Use this as an opportunity to gift or donate.
4. Work to their strengths
Kids are incredibly creative, so allow them to show that off here. During the project, I let Isabella create her own artwork to label different storage containers. Not only did this give her responsibility for her own system, it made the project fun too.
Nothing works better than a rewards system. Use this during and after the project. Give your children a special treat for doing a great job during the project, finishing a task, taking appropriate break times and keeping up with the new system later on. I made a fun game to help the girls remember how to maintain the new storage system.
Organizing with children can be a fun and rewarding experience for all parties, if you approach it with an understanding of a child’s strengths and weaknesses. Get in touch to involve the whole family in your next organizing project!