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Tuesday
Sep102013

7 Kid-Tested Organizing Success Tips

Do you wish your kids were more organized? Do you get frustrated trying to help them? I was curious how others taught and transferred organizing skills to their own children. So, I enlisted help from a wonderful group of colleagues (Stephanie Calahan, Leslie Josel, Helena Alkhas, Ellen Delap, Yota Schneider, Diana Quintana and Aby Garvey.) I asked them, “What organizing success strategy have you passed on to your children? How did you accomplish that?”  Their responses are motivating and inspiring. My gratitude goes to each of them for sharing their personal stories with us. If you want your children to become more organized, keep reading to discover some kid-tested organizing success tips that might work for you.


What organizing success strategy have you passed on to your children? How did you accomplish that? . . .

Small Steps

“Ever since my son was small we have worked with him to understand how to take big projects and break them into simple doable steps. For example, cleaning his bathroom breaks down into gathering the supplies needed and then cleaning the mirror, counter, sink, tub/shower, toilet and floor. We did this by sitting with him and having him think through the steps and we'd fill in the blanks when he would get stuck. Now that he is twelve, we use the same strategy for his school and extra curricular activities. We found that by giving him the opportunity to think it through first, he is quite independent with most of his work and often gets it done ahead of schedule because he has thought through the variables.“

Stephanie LH Calahan – The Big Vision Catalyst, Business Strategist, Author and Producer

 

Prompts

“The organizing success strategy that I’ve taught my children is to use external prompts to remind them of tasks or responsibilities they need to get done. So if they need to do homework, call a friend, walk the dog, put dinner in the oven, etc. They’ve been taught to set timers, phones, alarms, or use visual and written prompts. I started teaching them this strategy by asking them the question, “How are you going to remember to…” and having them work out the strategy that would best fit the task. It’s not enough to ask them to do something but ask them how they are going to remember or prompt themselves to do it.” 

Leslie Josel – ADHD Specialist & Author

 

Routines

“I am a believer in having routines to structure our time, know what comes next and to be more productive. We have a clear routine that "guides" us through the day and the kids grew up with that. From the moment they wake up, through going to school and back, all the way to going to bed at night we follow a "self-care/school" checklist that helps them cross the dots of daily life and lets them know when is work time, when is play time. This also teaches them to be independent and to self-guide. As a parent it is my hope that this will stay with them and help them when they have to leave and be on their own.”

Helena Alkhas – Professional Organizer & Virtual Assistant

 

Practice

“My kids are amazing, organized parents! They are list makers with a family calendar in their kitchens. They organize not only their closets, but also their children’s clothes.  Each has a file cabinet with easy access, simple filing. How did this happen?  It’s all about talking the talk and walking the walk.  Living in a home with organized parents created the expectation that organizing is an important life skill.  We focused on strengths, talked about organizing, and down played perfectionism.  They practiced as teens and young adults.  Now as parents of young children they have created organizing solutions in their own homes.”

Ellen Delap, CPO®  – Professional Organizer, Productivity Consultant & Family Manager Coach

 

 

Preparation

“August is traditionally Back to School month and there's tremendous marketing pressure to get out there and buy. The girls, high school juniors, know that I'm not going Back to School shopping unless they've inventoried their closets and desks, assessed their needs and wants, and de-cluttered their space.

Piles of paper, old homework and folders head to the recycling bin, used up school supplies are thrown away, and clothes they've outgrown and are usable head to the donation pile. Next, they create a prioritized list of their needs and wants. I assure them that they'll always get what they need and occasionally what they want. What they’ve learned is that, in order to make room for the new, we simply have to let go of the old and outdated!"

Yota Schneider, Seasons of Change Certified Master Coach – Life Transitions Coach, Workshops & Retreat Facilitator, Blogger, & Mindfulness Meditation Practitioner 

 

Completion

“There is a saying that goes like this: Don’t put it down, put it away. I used this saying over and over with my two boys. When they were very young I asked them to put something away when they were finished with it. This translated to games they were playing with when they were very young. As they grew older this saying could also be applied to things like clothes (in a laundry basket or hung up), dishes in the dishwasher, homework in the correct binder, and taking things they belonged to them back to their rooms.”

Diane N. Quintana, CPO®, CPO-CD® – Professional Organizer & Author

 

Letting Go

“By organizing and decluttering with my kids since they were very young, I've taught them how to let go of things they no longer use or love. For one of my kids, letting go didn't come easy. It required a lot of patience and a long-term focus on my part, as we spent hours going through her stuffed animals, clothing, toys, and books. I always let my kids make the decisions, and never let go of anything behind their backs. In the process, I've taught them that letting go is a natural part of life and maintained their trust.”

Aby Garvey – Professional Organizer, Author, & Online Class Instructor


I love this collection of strategies from my colleagues! As a parent with two daughters in college and beyond, I have spent a lot of time teaching them organizing skills. The investment was worthwhile. I marvel at how they’ve integrated those skills regularly and naturally into their lives. Here are some more articles about transferring organizing skills to our children:

                  Failing Your Way to Success by Linda Samuels

                  Moms’ “To Do” Lists by Linda Samuels

                  Cutting the Organizing Umbilical Cord by Leslie Josel

                  11 Tips to Conquer Your Child’s Clutter by Aby Garvey

Which organizing success tips resonate with you? Do you have additional ones to share? Come join the conversation.

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Reader Comments (19)

Love the different ways we as parents help our children learn. This is a powerful resource for everyone with kids. Thanks for collecting these strategies.

September 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

Thank you, Linda, for including me in this collaborative post! I really love what the other contributors have shared, particularly because their tips are ones I regularly teach my chronically disorganized clients.

September 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDiane N. Quintana

Thanks Linda for including me. What great strategies from all the participants. Love the "don't put it down, put it away". I am always looking for sayings that lisa can remember. This is a goodie!!

September 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

Thank you for including me in this entry, Linda! As always, there is so much wisdom and experience shared here. I love Stephanie's idea of breaking projects into small, doable steps. This strategy is one of my favorite, not just for my kids, but for myself. Life can be overwhelming for children and unless they are told to focus on what they can do, right here and now, they get lost in the big picture of their lives. Actually, that goes for me too:-)

September 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYota Schneider

Wonderful to hear all of your strong, wise voices! You each have shared such fabulous strategies with not just your children, but with all of us. I'm also enjoying how you're enjoying one another's contributions. Wonderful!

@Ellen- Love the word "resource." So apt.

@Diane- How cool that many of these kid-tested strategies you also find useful for your CD clients!

@Leslie- Also loved Diane's full circle thinking philosophy, "Don't put it down; put it away." Who is Lisa?

@Yota- As you said, it's so easy to get lost in the "big picture." Breaking things down to the small, actionable steps helps reduce that overwhelm. Love how Stephanie worked with her son to implement that concept.

September 10, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

As Organizers, it's so interesting to see the different ways our skills spilled over into our children. It validates that they were paying attention. My children were raised in a home of readiness and preparedness, but did not learn the value and benefits until their adulthood (probably because I did it FOR them). They watched me make daily lists, set holiday tables early, and have ample back stock from printer cartridges to toilet paper. Although they may not follow suit all the time, they have the tools. Hands down, list making is the #1 tip they've inherited.

September 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Borg

Nancy- Teaching by talking about concepts, or having our "students" learn by doing are both ways we learn. However, you bring up another method of learning, which is by modeling behavior and habits. This can be especially effective with our children. How wonderful that you've been that role model for your kids and that they've acquired the skill of list making from you.

September 10, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Thanks for asking me to contribute to your post Linda. I laugh and tell people that we have a house of balance. I'm pretty structured and my husband . . . well . . . let's just say that his idea of organized is different from mine. I've found that our household is not that very different from many. As my son continues to age, one of the best things I've done is let him explore the organizing methods that will work for him. Sometimes he aligns with my thinking and processing patterns and sometimes he doesn't. I see a lot of parents trying to fit their child into one style of organizing or thinking about structure. That works great if your child happens to match your personal style, but can bomb miserably if they don't. Thanks again and take care.

September 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie LH Calahan

Stephanie- Great to have you here with us. I too find that there are many styles and personalities within a household (that seems to be the norm.) It's a give and take...and also about respect for other people's styles, ideas, and ways. The fact that you honor your son by allowing his strengths to shine, says a lot about you and your parenting style. I was just listening to an interview that Leslie Josel did on student organizing and she highlighted that point. Respect your kids's needs, learning styles, and preferred study environments rather than imposing the "shoulds" on them.

September 10, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

My stepchildren observed my organizing systems from the time I entered their lives. I can still remember how impressed the older one was with my home filing system! I'd like to think a little of that rubbed off on them. :)

September 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

What a terrific post Linda. Thanks for including me in it! Now I have even more success strategies to share with my kids. :) Thank you to all of your contributors!

Aby

September 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAby Garvey

Every one of these tips is terrific! I'm starting to think "organizing/executive functioning" should be part of the elementary school curriculum. Might save a lot of stress when the middle school and high school years descend!

September 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

So happy to hear from all of you!

@Janet- How lucky your stepchildren were/are to have you as a role model!

@Aby- One of the things I most love about the blog is the wonderful sharing that happens. We all learn from one another. Thank YOU for your contribution.

@Seana- Incorporating lessons about organizing into the curriculum early on would be great. It happens sporadically (depending more upon the teacher than what is required they teach.) But wouldn't it be great if it was actually taught by ALL teachers?

September 11, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Like many of you, we walk the walk and talk the talk. That said, my oldest son is on the spectrum so organizational skills were a challenge. When he entered high school with an A/B schedule, I helped him organize his desk with the required materials for each day. I labeled a shelf with an A and a B and stand up organizers with folders also corresponding to A days and B days. He's followed the system for two years now and he's always prepared.

Great post, Linda. Nice to see all the good advice from women I admire.

September 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlys Milner

Alys- How fantastic that you figured out an organizing system that works for your son. Even better that the system has been working well for two years, AND he's always prepared. Excellent passing on of organizational skills. Way to go, Alys!

September 12, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

So true and amazing. Once kids get the hang of helping out around the house then each new things gets easier. At least in my case. Thanks for the post!

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Hi Michelle- Great to know you've had good success with enlisting help from the kids. What kind of help do they give around the house?

July 27, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Letting go is always the hardest part for me since I'm such a perfectionist. Thanks for the article!

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Michelle- How does perfectionism show up for you in the letting go process?

August 23, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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