Now more than ever, modern families are busy, overwhelmed and challenged by too much stuff. We have an opinion on this common difficulty, known as the cult of busy, which you can read here, but that is a different topic.
The truth is this: the single most effective way to get organized is to drastically reduce the amount of stuff you own. As our minimalist friend Henry Thoreau once said:
The cost of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.
Owning less means you get to spend less time cleaning, organizing, finding things and fixing things. It means more time for being with your family, creating memories and being present as a partner and parent.
A big part of how organizers help our clients is to show them the way toward owning less stuff. And news flash: owning less doesn’t mean leading a bare-bones, grey monochrome life. Quite the contrary: it means experiencing life in full color, because you are present and undistracted enough to see it.
However, when you have growing kids whose needs, maturity level and shoe sizes are constantly changing, it can be tough to make decisions about decluttering. Life has many seasons, and some of them include more LEGOS on the floor than others.
So how to create organization when you have a busy family?
First, teaching organizing skills to your child is critical to their success in life. Allow your child to be a part of this process – even in a small way. After all, you will never say “Oh darn, I should have waited longer to teach my kid how to be organized.”
Second, remember to add the words “right now” when you tell yourself a truth about your current situation. The house is a mess…right now. I am so tired…right now. Everything is temporary, and things will get better in time.
Finally, as Julie Mortgenstern said, “there is such a thing as organized enough”, especially when you have kids. Embrace this notion as you go into your organizing projects.
How to be Organized Enough?
The answer to this question will differ from family to family. That said, we have come up with some basic ground rules for our clients that have served us in good stead over the years. Here are some of our favorites.
Make your organizing systems grow with you
When you set up a new organizing system, think about its potential for working on a long term basis. For example, when setting up your 5th grader’s room organization, keep in mind that very soon they will be in middle school, and their taste, style and needs will change. Focus on helping to declutter and preserve old memories rather then spending tons of money on new decor until they ask for a change. This will give your child the freedom to grow into the space and take ownership of it.
Additionally, if you are thinking of installing any new closet systems, we encourage those that are interchangeable and adjustable. They will grow with your child as they grow. For example, you should be able to convert it from a hanging space to a shelving space, or move from triple hang to double hang once the kids get older.
Keep things visible
Visible is visual, and many of us need visual cues to remember where to find things and where to put them back. Clear bins are one of our favorite organizing products. They let you see everything that is inside. This is especially good for younger kids as they learn where things belong!
Pull-out baskets are also good if they are clearly labeled. We like to use big shipping tags on these since you can tie them through the weave of the basket, or clip on labels.
Word to the Wise: DO NOT purchase containers until you know exactly what you need. Containers are fun to buy, but all too often we see people wasting money because they do not know what they are buying the containers for. Do the work, then get the prize.
When shopping for clothing for yourself or your children, remember that we wear 20% of what we own 80% of the time. Kids grow out of their clothing really fast, which gives you an added reason not to buy too many items.
Transfer Organizing Skills to Kids
Many parents make the assumption that it will be faster to put things away themselves rather than teach our children to do it, but that mindset is reactionary rather than proactive. It may take kids time to learn where things go and how to declutter, but it will always pay off in dividends later on.
Here are some great products that make it easier for kids to participate:
- Metal Hooks or Command Hooks are a great, easy way to encourage kids to hang up their PJ’s, robes, backpacks, towels, etc. You can even picture label the item that should be hung there so that they can see when it’s missing and needs to be put away. Hang them low enough for little ones to reach! We love hooks.
- Place clothing in low bins or drawers, divided by type. Limit the amount of clothing so that it’s less overwhelming for the child. They should be able to choose their own clothing.
- We like a hanging sweater organizer for shoes or folded items, since they can be placed in a “low-hang” area and accessed easily.
- Use hanging shoe organizers on the backs of doors for kids accessories, shoes or outdoor gear (hats, gloves, etc). They are clear and easy for kids to access.
- Label bins and baskets in the playroom, and limit the number of toys you own.
Remember to have reasonable expectations for your home organization – it will not stay perfectly tidy all the time – people live there after all! Focus on the few things you can put into action today to make your life easier.