Kids have a lot on their agenda for the summer. Camps. Play dates. The pool. Video games. Some even have homework (gasp!). One thing that should definitely be on their list…organizing.
Organizing is a life skill, right up there with hygiene and money skills. And guess what, your kid is probably way better at it than you think. Have you seen their classroom? Most schools are models of organized spaces. Kids know where everything is in their classroom. You can help them bring those skills home for the summer.
Believe it or not, even if it’s hard to get a kid on board with most other things, organizing their room can be easy, or at least enlightening. Like anything, starting with small steps with a small child lays the groundwork. As they get older, they can do more for themselves, so let them. A child as young as 5 or 6 can organize their own room with only a little help from a parent. An older child can usually be bribed.
Don’t fall into the classic trap of telling them to go organize their room and not to come down when their room is clean. They’ll be there until they are 30. It’s isolating. There are too many distractions. It’s confusing. It’s not fun. You’d feel the same way, right?
Instead, follow he first rule of organizing your child’s room. Head into their room with them, start at the door, and work your way in a circle around the room, until you come back to the door. Ask them:
- What do you want to do with these things?
- Do you want to keep this, or are you ready to part with it?
- Where do you want to keep them?
- Is there a better way to organize these?
- Is there anything that would help you keep the room organized?
Don’t do the work for them. Let them handle their stuff. You can just be there with the questions…and the trash bag and bag for things they want to donate.
By asking them these questions, you are giving them permission to make changes and you are letting them know that you trust them to take responsibility for their space.
Yes, it may take longer organizing their room this way, but you learn an awful lot about them. You may find out that the reason their clothes end up on the floor is because they constantly break or bend flimsy hangers. (Solution: Invest $20 in sturdy hangers.) You might find out that they forget to carry cups and dishes to the kitchen. (Solution: Buy a serving tray to return things once a day.) You may find out they wear the same socks all week because their sock drawer is jammed closed. (Solution: Fix the drawer or put their socks in a bin on a closet shelf.) Of course, you may find things that can only be described with one word…teenager. But that’s to be expected.
If it’s time to redecorate, get some input from them on what works in their room and what doesn’t. You may find that their room could be completely organized just by utilizing the space under their bed. The whole room may be off kilter because the outlets aren’t quite in the right places for lamps and electronic chargers. They may be completely willing to make their bed every day if there is only one duvet to pull up, but a mess of sheets, blankets and quilts is overwhelming them. None of these changes have to cost big bucks, and that’s a good thing, because they may completely change their taste next month.
If guiding your child to organize his or her room is rule number 1, then making sure he or she has places to store things is rule number 2. Ask them if they need more shelves, drawers, bins or boxes. Allow them to personalize, paint and label to suit their taste, and they are much more likely to use the storage that they picked out.
Kids can’t put things away if they don’t know where “away” is.
Teach them not to use the floor as storage, and they’ll carry that skill into adulthood.
Don’t be surprised if “organizing their room” takes one day, and “organizing their closet” takes a second day. That’s completely normal!
Let them read this article, and let them tell you what would or wouldn’t work for them.
Organize their rooms at the beginning of summer to set expectations and clear out the old school year papers and accumulated bits. Then organize again at the end of summer to help set them up for the new school year. Help them set up a place to study and store all of their things for their new grade. Because, really, doesn’t everybody love a fresh start?