Disorganization derails success. That’s true for adults and kids too. So as we embark on a new year, here are 10 tips to help your kids get organized.
1. Adopt a Mentorship Mindset
Punishment, frustration and anger don’t help kids learn to be organized. We, the parents, are their teachers and mentors. A messy room or a disorganized backpack is just a red flag telling us they need new or better tools and consistent training to help them learn how to stay neat and organized.
Today I’m going to share some tips for organizing their rooms, clothes, toys, school supplies and arts and crafts, but with Google and Pinterest by our side, we can easily search ideas at any time to help our kids overcome any organizational problem. The key is our willingness to teach them, follow up and tweak the system until we have a winner.
2. Use Checklists and Inspections
Want to make sure your kid keeps his room clean? Start with a detailed checklist of every step it takes to clean the room. Include a list of cleaning supplies, and make sure he knows where to find the supplies. Type up the list, stick it in a page protector on a clipboard, and attach a dry erase marker. Hang the clipboard in his closet, and have him cross off each item as it’s done. You should try hiring this Deep Cleaning Service.
Make sure the last item on the checklist is to ask for an inspection. Jody and I often say, “Don’t expect what you’re not willing to inspect.” A job isn’t done until someone has inspected and signed off on it.
If you have multiple kids, you can have them inspect each other’s work. The checklist will help the inspector make sure everything was done correctly. Then, when the inspector feels the job is complete, she can come get mom for a final inspection. If mom finds a problem, the inspector makes the adjustment.
Checklists are also a good way of helping kids keep track of things. We can help our kids make checklists for all sorts of things — sports equipment bags, backpacks, art supplies, etc.
3. Give Everything a Sensible Home
Every single thing that our kids own should have a home that makes perfect sense to the owner. We can organize our kids’ stuff in a way that makes sense to us, but if it doesn’t jive with their thinking, they won’t remember where the stuff goes. That means they need to be fully involved in the process of choosing a home for each thing.
Sometimes, the problem is that a child has too much stuff to manage. When our kids are living in the incompetence zone (the place where they do not yet have the skills to succeed), they don’t grow, and they don’t learn how to be organized.
When my older daughter was about seven, her room was constantly a mess. I’d help her clean it and let her choose places for each thing, but soon it would be a mess again. I realized that she had more stuff than she was capable of managing.
I walked in her room one day with a large tote and said, “Sky, you are not in trouble, and this is not a punishment. But my job is to help you be successful, and I have realized that there are too many things here for you to manage.” We carefully and respectfully placed her things in this tote. When it was full, we began filling another one. I kept a small box of books next to her bed and allowed her to choose three of her most played with toys.
Then I told her that for the next couple of weeks, she would learn how to manage these things. When she was successful, we would bring down the totes and another two things. We could continue doing this until she integrated all of her belongings back into her room. That took well over a year to accomplish, and of course, by the time the year was up, she was ready to part with many things that were no longer important to her.
4. Corral and Label
An important key to helping kids of all ages get organized is teaching them to group like items together, find a sensible place for those things and label the place.
When my oldest two children were toddlers, we turned one of the bedrooms into a playroom. We lined the walls with three foot shelves and gathered like items into clear, plastic bins — cars, balls, dolls, puzzles, pop beads, toy food, etc. For each bin, we took a picture of what was in it, laminated the picture and fastened the picture on the front of the bin. Then we taught them how to put things away in their proper bins.
You can find some amazing and beautiful ideas for organizing all kinds of things, but the principle is still the same — corral like items into one place and label that place.
5. Keep Up
Before we move on to tips for organizing specific things, we have one last important principle: make it a point to keep up with organization. Get kids in the habit of quickly cleaning out their backpacks and notebooks before bed, while they are preparing for the next day.
Schedule a day once a month for them to reorganize their drawers and closet. Teach them to consistently ask themselves the key questions to eliminating clutter and in doing so, to purge regularly.
Organization is not a one-time event; it’s a lifestyle.
6. Tips for Your Kid’s Bedroom
If your child’s room is currently in a state of C.H.A.O.S (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome, as the FlyLady would say), you might want to start with our recent blog on How to Permanently Declutter and Organize Your Home. It will give your child a clean slate.
A great way to organize a kid’s bedroom is to create stations: a dressing station, a reading station, a homework station, a crafting station, etc.
For little ones, the principles of a Montessori Bedroom are excellent guides for creating an organized and functional space.
7. Tips for Your Kid’s Clothing
Pinterest has some awesome ideas for organizing kids clothes, so I won’t try to reinvent the wheel, but there are a few principles that might be helpful to keep in mind.
For starters, make sure that you don’t have more clothes than space. If your daughter has a shirt drawer, for example, make sure she only has as many shirts as she can fit in her drawer. If there are more shirts than drawer, and she absolutely loves every single one and wears them all regularly, consider making two shirt drawers or a hanging shirt section in her closet. The key here is making sure that she truly adores and regularly wears every single shirt she chooses to keep. Otherwise, find a new home for the ones that are not her favorites, and keep the shirt drawer full but not overstuffed.
Also, keep a hamper in your kid’s room. She needs a convenient place to put dirty clothes so she’s not tempted to leave them on the floor.
8. Tips for Your Kid’s Toys and Crafts
Toys and craft supplies have the supernatural ability to turn almost any room into a war zone in just one afternoon. Pinterest has a treasure trove of super cool tips for organizing these things, but here are a few ideas to get you going.
Toy boxes are not actually useful for most toys. They are typically too big to keep toys corralled and labeled, but they can be helpful for containing big items like baby dolls, stuffed animals, large cardboard construction bricks, and big cars and trucks.
If if any of your kids love stuffed animals, you can line the top of their walls (near the ceiling) with a shelf that runs around the perimeter of the room, and display the stuffed animals there. You could also construct this super cute Animal Zoo. The website is in another language, but the picture is probably enough to figure out how to make it. Large netted pop-up hampers are another good tool for corralling stuffed animals.
When it comes to containing the mess that arts and crafts can bring, check out this blog for tips.
9. Tips for Your Kid’s Keepsakes
For the sentimentalists, keepsakes can be a real problem. I have one child who has a hard time parting with candy wrappers, she’s so sentimental. We solved the problem with a few simple things. First, I gave her a large manilla envelope and said, you are welcome to keep any birthday cards, wrappers, papers, and anything else that has meaning and fits in this envelope.
Next, I bought an extra large poster board, folded it in half and duct taped two sides, leaving a large opening along the top for storing art work. I let her decorate it, and whenever she drew or painted something new, she could store it in this homemade portfolio until it was full.
Last, I gave her a special treasure box for all other keepsakes. As with the other two things, I told her she could keep whatever she wanted (except for things that rot), but when the container is full, she has to make some decisions. She can’t keep more than these three things could hold.
Some things are worthy of being displayed. Consider helping your child make a shadow box to preserve special memories or displaying a few sentimental items on a shelf, where she can look at them often and enjoy the memories they hold.
10. Tips for Your Kid’s School Stuff
School brings it’s own brand of clutter: books, papers, pens, highlighters, sports equipment, etc.
Most kids carry some sort of backpack. Consider creating sections for your child’s backpack: a section for books and notebooks, a section for writing tools, a section for gym clothes, and so on. Once you have the sections mapped out, have your child draw a map of the backpack, and then have them practice packing and unpacking it.
Binders can be a huge challenge for some kids. Create one binder for each subject, and email the instructor before the start of the year for suggestions on how to use tabs for the binder. If it’s a literature class, you might divide the binder with a tab for each book your child will be reading that year. If it’s a civics class, you might have a section for notes, one for handouts, one for maps, one for papers and one for tests.
For the notes section, have your child put a post-it flag at the start of notes for each new topic. Keep textbook and lecture notes together under that flag.
At the back of each binder, include a few page protectors to hold the syllabus and rubrics the teacher hands out, and behind that store a two-pocket folder. Have your child use one pocket for everything that has to be handed in and the other for everything that is coming home.
For students of any age, a well stocked pencil case is always a good idea and a good way to stay organized. Teach your kids to keep it stocked with pens, pencils, highlighters, binder clips, post it notes and flags, page reinforcers, white out and any other tools they might need.
If you’re interested in more tips for helping teens succeed in school, take good notes, and get great grades, check out our online course Smart Study Skills for Getting Great Grades.
When you make it a priority to help your kids get organized, you set them up for a more successful year.
Drop us a line and share some of your favorite organization tips in the comments section below or on our Facebook Page.