Organizing for kids poses its own special set of challenges. First of all, kids are growing and changing way more rapidly than adults, so systems have to grow and change with them. Also, lots of times parents want to encourage kids to do age-appropriate chores around the house - and the right organizing approach can help with that. Finally, kids are people too, just like adults, and they have their own opinions that must be respected. It's true for anyone - if you don't take someone's personal approach into account when designing an organizing system, no way will that system work for them, and they won't use it.
"Leah" is a mom who asked me to help organize her young daughter's room. Her daughter never put any of her things away, preferring instead to leave them all over her bed and the floor. If this sounds familiar to you, here are 5 things you can learn from Leah's story:
- Have a place for everything. Yes, you've heard this before, but it is especially true if you want kids to put their things away. If there is a clearly designated spot for Barbies, then when you tell little Maxine to put her Barbies away she knows just what to do.
- Change your perspective. Kids are short. Consider walking around your kid's room on your knees and see what it looks like from their perspective. Maybe the bar you installed in Petey's closet is really way too high to reach comfortably, and a hanging bar would be a good temporary option until he grows.
- Build in maintenance. Most kids are not going to maintain (i.e., put their stuff away) without prompting. Have a regular daily or weekly time for this - it should be an amount of time that is appropriate for your child's age, and it should be non-negotiable.
- Plan for growth. Kids grow out of things on a regular basis - clothes, toys, books... Plan for this by having a designated spot to put these items as you come across them. When Daisy tries to put on last year's overalls and finds they are too small, she should have a "too small" bin to toss them in instead of throwing them on the floor of her closet. You might also have a "too big" bin for gifts or hand-me-downs that your child isn't quite ready for yet.
- Get them involved. As I said in the opening, if a kid's personality isn't taken into account, an organizing solution likely won't work - and won't get used. Everyone works a little differently, kids included. Plus, if Joey helps to come up with a solution, he will feel some ownership of it and be more likely to use it.