Got kids? If so, you probably have messes too. Let’s face it: kids are messy little people. I’ve got two lovely little hoarders (did I say that?) of my own. They especially love the little toys, like the LOL Dolls, Calico Critters, and small toys that have a million plastic parts. Don’t even get me going on the FREE stuff. Free stuff is the most valuable in their eyes!
I’ve been asked by many parents, “what’s the silver bullet to getting your kids organized?” Good question! To be honest, I’ve spent many hours examining their bedrooms, staring into playroom closets, cleaning out bins of mixed toys on my hands and knees, all while trying to answer that EXACT question. I’m still shaking my fist at the tiny Legos which stabbed me in the knees twenty times over! But I digress…
So, parents, I’ve got 5 tips to help your kids get organized. These tips do not address the perfect bins to store their “prized possessions”. In fact, all of the bins at The Container Store will not answer the question, “how do I get my get my kids organized?” Rather, this advice is softer and somewhat more psychological in nature, but I believe will pay off in dividends in the long run. And they don’t cost you a dime! I’ve been testing this in my little lab with my two sweet hoarders and have seen significant changes.
With that said, here are 5 tips to help get your kids organized:
1. Start by selling the benefit for THEM
In sales or marketing, leading with “What’s in It For Me?” is how you get your prospective client/buyer interested in your product or service. Do the same with your kids! Sell them on why it’s important to organize their space, using the benefit to THEM as the main focus. For example:
“You’ve been asking for your OWN private space to relax. If you clear off that comfy chair piled with stuffed animals, we can make that happen. It will be so cozy. Imagine that!”
“Remember that maker space you loved in the Pottery Barn catalog? We could make that happen! We’ll just need to convert the space with the old play kitchen and plastic toys. What do you think about that?”
Notice how we didn’t say, “Your chair is a mess! We’ve got to get rid of your insane pile of stuffed animals!” Or, “You NEVER use your kitchen and plastic toys, it’s time to get rid of them!"
The beauty of this approach: (1) It leads with a positive benefit, (2) It acknowledges something they’ve perhaps mentioned, (3) It ends with getting their buy-in. The last is fodder for what’s next…
2. Prepare them in advance
So, now that you have your kiddo’s buy-in, it’s time to get them prepared as to what’s required to make their vision happen. With my older daughter when we organized her room, I spent about two weeks plugging the plan. All along, I’d drop subtle hints, like “So when we reorganize your room, let’s put on some really fun music. Do you want to create a playlist with me?” Again, all along just planting the seed so it’s not a jolt when the day comes to organize and, of course, PURGE!
3. Make it a joint effort
There’s higher likelihood that kids will keep the room neat(ish) if they are part of the process. You’ve made it this far to get their buy-in, now let’s get to work together.
- Be rested and well-fed: When you’re working together, make sure you and your child(ren) are rested and well-fed. I prefer organizing in the morning right after breakfast because everyone has the most energy and the sun is usually shining. Full bellies and vitamin D make a difference. Play some upbeat music and open the windows.
- Purge quickly with trash bags on-hand: Work together, asking along the way whether the items will really work in their “new” space. If the answer is no, dispose immediately into a dark trash bag so they can no longer see them. In my experience, what starts as hesitation to part with their belongings quickly converts to momentum to purge. Capitalize on that! Move quickly and haul out all trash bags and donations immediately. Otherwise, you may have stuffies and Lego friends creeping back in hours later.
- File away or snap a photo: For papers, if they’re inclined to keep them, find a folder or box to file them away, or even take a photo! Sometimes having a simple photo to remember the paper is all they need.
4. Swoop behind after
As you’re cleaning with your child, make a note of the few additional things that need to be tossed. Rather than fight it while you’re cleaning, sit on it until later. Then…get out your night vision goggles after bed time and toss what’s left! Or, in lieu of night vision goggles, simply swipe those broken or never-used items when they’re not looking. While I’m not recommending throwing away large items, I think it’s fine to get rid of those small trinkets and duplicates that you know they will likely never miss.
5. Praise them again and again
Once you’ve cleaned out their space and organized it — celebrate and praise! Make sure to do this over the course of the following week. “YOU did an amazing job organizing this room! You worked hard and look at it now. This maker space is so awesome! Do YOU just LOVE it?! I do!” Rewarding this positive outcome, will make them enjoy their newly organized space even more, and will also encourage them to try and keep it that way.
Virtual high five if you’ve made it this far! In summary: It’s all how you position organizing with kids! No bins needed — but if you decide to buy some that can be helpful too. I do have many that I love! Now that you’re done, here are two additional pieces of advice speaking parent-to-parent.
1. Be okay with rebound
Marie Kondo claims that her clients nearly never “rebound” — meaning return to their messy state again. Perhaps her clients aren’t kids! Or, perhaps her definition of rebound is different than mine. In any case, there’s a likelihood that your kid’s space will get messy again. It is what it is. In fact, there’s a good chance that your kiddo may realize they are out of control and catch themselves before. This recently happened with my daughter and her cluttered desk — this time she realized it was a mess and reached out for help. I recommend keeping a fresh “after” photo on your phone to remind them what the space looked like and provide the vision they need to restore it — hopefully on their own!
2. Reward yourself
It’s hard work organizing your kids! Not only is it physical work, but certainly psychological. And sometimes emotional! Reward yourself for a job well done. When it’s done, have that glass of wine, or put your feet up on the couch and binge some Netflix. You deserve it!