Maintaining an orderly home requires solid teamwork from the entire family, and raising a generation of organized, clutter-free adults begins at home with consistent coaching from you. Even if you struggle with organization yourself - in fact, especially if you do - there are still things you can all do together as a cohesive unit to transform your home into the calm and relaxed sanctuary you all deserve to live in.
Start early by training your young children to sort objects, put their toys away and make thoughtful decisions about their belongings. Establishing routines for everyone in the household (including you!) and stating clear expectations will help all of you stay on track. Instead of barking out orders and making chore-time feel like a punishment, underscore the unifying effect collaboration will have on your family unit. Offering age-appropriate incentives and finding creative ways to make the process fun for everyone will teach them that with a little planning and teamwork, orderly living and a home they can proudly share with others can be easy peasy!
No matter how old your kids are or what state your home is currently in, it is never too early or too late to start adopting some of these strategies:
Keep it Positive
- Use positive language. Calling them "contributions" instead of "chores" will more likely get you buy-in from all family members. After all, who doesn't want to contribute to something positive?
- List the advantages of being organized, tidy and clean to remind everyone why they should make the effort. Post it where everyone will see it and point to it when enthusiasm begins to wane.
- Remind all members of the household that tidying up as they go will make having guests over more comfortable and less stressful for everyone.
- Reward participation by spending time doing something you all love after completing your assigned tasks.
Lay the Foundation
- Declare your home a dump-free zone, where everything gets treated like a gallon of milk and put away as soon as it comes through the door, rather than just dumped any ol' place.
- State expectations clearly. Use chore charts (better described as "contribution" charts), check lists, To-Do (or "Done") lists, or other visual reminders to keep everyone on the same page.
- Work as a team. Institute a family cleanup time each day and make it fun.
- Set a good example. Remember that you are their first and best teacher, so if you need to up your own game, now is the perfect time to adopt better habits for them to imitate.
- Encourage independence and involvement by teaching kids the age-appropriate housekeeping skills they will need to as they get older. Give them plenty of opportunities to practice and continue building upon these skills. (Check out our Life Skills Badge Program).
- Help older kids strengthen their skills by having them teach them to their younger siblings. This has an added benefit of freeing up a bit of your time!
- Teach your children to make choices about their belongings. While this may be especially challenging if you struggle in this area yourself, you can use some of these strategies for training kids to make intentional decisions about their stuff
- Share the burden of more advanced household responsibilities, including oversight and supervision, by dividing up grown-up chores with your spouse or another adult in the home whenever possible. Set a good example of teamwork for the kids.
Go on Autopilot Whenever Possible
- Take the guesswork out of tidying by establishing homes for everything in order to make it easier to put things away where they belong.
- Label those homes so that everyone in the household knows where things belong. Use labels with pictures as well as words if you have pre-readers.
- Establish routines for frequent tasks like getting ready for school or cleaning the bathroom to minimize the chances of forgetting an important step. Post each step of new routines in writing until they become habit.
Evolve and Adapt
- Update your organizing systems as needs change. Storing the scissors out of reach of little wannabe hairdressers may become an inconvenience once they are old enough to know better but still short enough to require you to get them down so they can do their school art project.
- Clean out closets at least every six months and purge what is no longer needed. (Schedule a donation pickup ahead of time to give you a deadline.) This frequency makes it a quicker and easier, less daunting task.
- Assign more responsibilities to the kids as they grow. Remember, you will want them to move out someday and not continue to bring you their dirty laundry to do.
Make it Fun!
- Turn clean-up time into a game by racing the clock or breaking into teams and racing each other to see who can clean up fastest.
- Combine tidying with teaching math skills like sorting, addition/subtraction, geometry.
- Take turns playing Room Inspector. Let the kids have a turn inspecting your room/space sometimes.
- Announce that you've hidden something interesting or valuable in the clutter as an incentive to tidy/organize it.
- Allow them to earn fun money (not real) that can be used to buy a special privilege or activity.
- Watch a TV show with commercial breaks together. Each time a commercial comes on, each family member must race to put something away or clean something. By the time the show is over, the room should be much tidier.
- Comment on this post with your favorite fun strategies for getting the job done!
Parenting is at its most challenging when we are faced with the prospect of teaching our young ones something we, ourselves, are still trying to learn. But in my experience, some of the most special experiences I've shared with my children are the ones where I was learning alongside them. You don't have to have to be an expert at cleaning and organizing to begin teaching your children the importance of learning those skills. You just have to be willing to make the effort to model how to learn them.
With a little effort and collaboration, even maintaining an orderly home can be easy peasy.