Ask the Organizer: How Can I Teach My Children the Basics of Being Organized?

Kelly Humiston, president of New Leaf Organizing Service, shares some tips for how parents can get their children in the habit of being organized early on in life.

Q.  I have two small children, and I've never been super-organized myself, but I'd like to break the cycle and help my kids become organized.  Do you have any tips for me?

A.  Absolutely!  As a parent, one of the biggest contributions you make to your children’s lives is teaching them life skills.  And one very important life skill is being organized, as it’s crucial for succeeding in school, at work, and in life. 

Of course, as with all behaviors you want to instill in your children, teaching good organizational skills is best done through modeling that behavior yourself.  It’s a cliché, but it’s true — kids learn what they live.

Besides being organized yourself, here are several things you can do to teach organizational skills to your children:

  • Set physical limits on the amount of belongings.  Having a plethora of toys to choose from causes children to feel overwhelmed and over-stimulated; too many toys also means they don't learn to play imaginatively, either.  Consider setting a limit on the number of toys as well as implementing the “one toy in, one toy out” rule.  Also, instead of culling your children’s toys for them, consider letting them choose what to keep and what to give away, based on the parameters of the space you’ve predefined for storing toys.
  • Encourage playing with only one toy at a time.  Before your children grab a second (or third, or fourth, or fifteenth) toy, puzzle, or book, teach them to first put the one they’re done with back in its proper place.  It’s less overwhelming for children to clean up one toy, puzzle, or book at a time than to tackle a roomful of playthings that must be sorted and then put away.
  • Create kid-friendly systems that facilitate organization.  For example, using words or pictures (for preschoolers), label the containers, drawers, and shelves that hold toys, puzzles, and clothing.  Consider installing a wooden rack of pegs low on your children’s bedroom wall so that they can easily hang up their pajamas and bathrobes themselves.  Place their in-season clothing within their reach.
  • Incorporate “clean up” rituals in the children’s daily routine.  Kids love consistency and routine.  Consider adding in “clean up time” for their toys, puzzles, clothing, and books right before teeth-brushing time, bath time, and story time, so it becomes part of the nightly bedtime ritual.  Children as young as 2 can “help” by picking up a toy or a book and returning it to the proper storage container.  Although doing so will likely take longer than if you did it yourself, capitalize on toddlers’ and preschoolers’ willingness to help.


How about you, readers?  What techniques do/did you use to get or keep your children organized?

If you need the help of a professional organizer, consider contacting New Leaf Organizing Service at www.newleaforganizingservice.com or at (203) 450-1099.  We organize things big and small — once and for all.

Have an organizing question you’d like answered?  Feel free to submit it on Patch.com, via the Comments function, or e-mail it to me directly at kelly@newleaforganizingservice.com

Coming next time:  How can I manage the piles of magazines I haven’t gotten around to reading yet?

© 2012 New Leaf Organizing Service. All rights reserved.

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