Life Lessons: Teach Your Kids to Get & Stay Organized

Is never too early to start teaching your kids important lessons.

Look both ways when you cross the street. Brush your teeth twice a day. Remember the Golden Rule. And, of course, learn to get organized. Of course, it’s often easier and faster just get them organized yourself, but it will save both of you countless headaches and stress in the long run. How early is too early to teach your kids to get organized? At around age two, most children are able to help with basic things like putting away toys. So the sooner you start establishing organizational habits, the better.

Alicia on having ‘the talk’

The best advice I heard was from my friend, Marci. Marci wrote down a short list for her 9 and 12 year-old sons. She made sure her husband agreed to it and then she walked the boys through what they needed to do and offered to help them as well. The list was simple to start. 1. Organize the family DVDs and video games. Donate to charity the ones you don’t use anymore and alphabetize the rest and put away. 2. Sort through the sports toys. Put away on the shelves in the garage and label them. While it took a bit of reminding from Marci, in one week both tasks were completed and the boys were ready for more.

Sarah on making it fun & rewarding

Organizing can be a chore, and kids generally hate chores. To get real results you have to give them incentive. There is always the tried and true way…give them money or a gift to get it done. But that’s merely a bribe. It’s much better if you can think of ways to make organizing fun. Let the kids play their favorite tunes while they are working. Let them make huge mess of things before they clean it up. And most importantly, when they have completed their task make a big fuss over what a great job they did.

Here are three life Lessons it’s never too early to instill.

#1: The 12 Month Rule

Closets are bursting with clothes, 80% of which are never worn. Beds overflow with stuffed animals, 90% of which are outdated and dusty. Teach your children the one year rule: if you have not used it in 12 months, chances are you never will. So muster up the courage to get rid of it. Throw it out, donate to charity, sell it on eBay — whatever works for you — just get rid of it. It takes up space and you don’t need it.

#2: Technology is a Pack Rat’s Best Friend
Do your kids have piles of magazines, photos, CDs, school projects, etc…? Figure out what your kids love to horde and find a technology solution that saves space and clutter. For example, almost all magazines can now be found on line. Why save them? CDs can be put on the computer. Digital photos can be stored electronically and you can even get a scanner to store regular pictures.

#3: Quid Pro Quo
It sounds so obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often this little thing is overlooked. Your kids cannot put things away if they don’t have a place to go. Work with them to choose some fun (inexpensive) shelves, cubby holes, bookcases or storage boxes for their things. Work with them to figure out how to label the boxes (let them pick silly names — anything to make it fun!) and decorate the labels you make for each shelf. The more involved they are in the process of defining the structure, the more invested they will be in the process of staying organized.