Organizing Your Kids Starts With You…Guest Post By Miss-Organized


Liz Jenkins


The following post is brought to you courtesy of Tracy Paye a.k.a. Miss-Organized. Tracy wrote this post recently and it really struck home with me which is why I’m sharing it with you.

Organizing Your Kids Starts With You . . .

The clean house self esteem connection

As a single mother of a very, shall we say, spirited 7 ½ year old, I understand all too well how keeping a house organized is extremely challenging. Not to mention managing their school schedules, homework, sports and after school activities. And that doesn’t even take in to consideration your own life you need to manage. It’s no wonder most moms feel like they are totally overwhelmed and don’t have any time to really enjoy their life.

Although our society has progressed beyond the point of where the only role women were expected to play was to stay home with the kids and maintain the house, there is still, I believe, an expectation that women should always be able to maintain a clean home and instinctively know how. Many women experience feelings of low self worth if they are having difficulty maintaining a clean home. It’s almost as if our very definition of what makes a quality woman is defined by how clean our houses are. It is so engrained in us that it doesn’t matter that we recognize how much more we are taking on today than the mom’s before us, if our houses are not clean, many women believe something is wrong with us.

It’s never more apparent to me that this perception still exists than when the wifey tells the hubby that she wants to hire me to help her organize the house. I always prepare them for the reaction they will most likely get. Here’s how the conversation goes. “Honey, this organizer came to our house today to help us get organized and here is how much she says it will cost and how long it will take.” Hubbies jaw drops, hair falls out and eyes bug out of his head. “What. What the hell do you need a house cleaner for? I don’t understand why it’s so hard for you to keep this house clean and why you need someone to help you. You should be able to do this on your own, I mean you are home all day. If I just took a day off work, I would be able to have this entire house clean by the end of the day. There is no way, I’m going to spend money on something that you should be able to do.” Wifey feels even worse and further believes something is wrong with her that she hasn’t been able to do this on her own. On top of that, she feels unsupported which further adds to her stress. A pretty common scenario.

What both are not realizing is that their current organizing behavior was more than likely formed in their childhood by the households they grew up in. They learned it by either being just like their parents or rebelling against them. It’s more than just carving out a Saturday to get it done. You’re dealing with years and years of conditioning and that’s not something that can be fixed in a Saturday. At least not permanently.

Parents model organizing behavior

Why am I talking about the psychology of disorganization rather than tips to organize a room, the best containers to use, chore charts to implement and how to deal with schoolwork? There are plenty of tips on the internet of how you can get your kids spaces organized, but getting to the heart of the matter, which is the internal world of disorganization is what will make the biggest difference and that’s what I want to talk about with my readers.

Because if you want to learn how to get your children organized, you need to realize it starts with you. You learned it from your parents and your kids will learn it from you. I can write about a lot of really great techniques to get your children organized, but if you aren’t modeling organized behavior for them then the chances of them being organized are much smaller.

Let me tell you one of the most common mistakes I see parents unconsciously make that creates the foundation for disorganized behavior. Projecting our feelings about things onto our children. I see it happen all the time, when I’m in someone’s home going through their kids stuff. The kid will pick up something and say, “I don’t want this anymore.” And the mom will say, “Oh, but it’s so cute. Grandma bought it for you and she would be sad if you got rid of it. You don’t want to get rid of that. It looks so cute on you.” Or how about when a parent gives a non-human object human characteristics like teddy bears. This is called anthropomorphism. You want to be careful you don’t say things like, “You need to take good care of your teddy bears. You’ll hurt their feelings if you don’t. “ I can almost guarantee, now that I’m bringing this to your awareness, you will catch yourself saying things similar to this. I’m guilty of it too sometimes. And then you will see how our parents, teach us, most of the time unconsciously to have emotional attachments to our stuff. When parents project their feelings, then the child will feel that if they got rid of something it would upset you. Instead, ask them how they feel about an object. It may surprise you what their answer is.

If they don’t like it, they won’t want to clean it

Maybe one of the reasons why your kid is having trouble keeping his room clean is because he doesn’t like it. Kids and adults alike, we will make more of an effort to take care of the things that make us feel good. Like the guy that won’t have a problem with the entire garage being cluttered but his tool area is pristine. Or the mother that loves to cook and keeps her pantry well organized but there is paperwork all over the living room. Or the teenager that just got his first car. He will spend hours waxing it and cleaning it to make sure it reflects how cool and together he wants to be perceived but his bedroom is a disaster. So if your kid doesn’t keep their room clean, maybe there is something about their room that doesn’t make them feel good and they are not inspired to do anything about it.

Last week I started teaching an organizing class at The Winston School in Del Mar. When I asked the students how they felt about their bedrooms, coincidentally each one of them that had problems with organizing also said they “hated” their rooms. They complained about the colors of the walls, that the carpet “felt like glass” or that they even had to share a room. I then started asking them how their rooms effected their emotional state. One felt depressed and had insomnia. Another was very frustrated and worried about the constant nagging and criticizing from her father. Once I got them to start imagining what they wanted their rooms to look like from the color of the walls, to the type of furniture, their eyes lit up and it was as if they couldn’t wait to get back to their rooms to start drawing up a design plan for their new room. Because these kids now started to feel more like they can make a space of their own, they will also feel more motivated to keep it clean.

Respect and honoring differences to increase cooperation

One of the biggest sources of conflict that I see in a household when it comes to disorganization is a lack of respect for boundaries and not honoring the differences in individuality. You may love someone very much, but every human being needs space. It doesn’t have to be a whole house, a piece of land or even an entire room. Nonetheless, everyone needs a space in the home that they can claim as their own. If someone doesn’t get their own space, no matter how small it is, it starts to breed resentment. They start to feel like their needs don’t matter, they aren’t important and that will create un-cooperation. The thought process is “They don’t care enough about me to respect my needs so why should I care about their needs?” And if one of your needs is to have a clean space, you may get it from them, but chances are it will require a lot of effort to get their help and it could possibly
t them up to be future clutters just to spite you. I see resentment clutter ALL the time. So do your best to allow each member of the house to have their own space, no matter how small it is, where no one else’s stuff can go and they have more of a say, if not total say, over what it looks like.

Not honoring the differences in individuality also causes big problems. When a person feels understood, they tend to relax and creates the space for them to feel like they want to be more cooperative. It is very common that one member of the household is organized and another isn’t, especially in marriages. That is not the problem. What the problem is when one person attempts to impose their ways as the right ways on to the other person without realizing that maybe they are more of the creative type who processes information different than a linear thinker and needs their environment set up differently too. What will happen is the non-organized person will start to think something is wrong with them and their self esteem will be affected. When really it’s they just do and see things differently. Not right or wrong, just different. So in this case, recognize that even if you are a structured, organized and linear thinking, your child may not be and rather than continue to attempt to make them do things the way you want them done, work together with them as a team to determine how they would like to go about getting things done. The end result is the same, but how they go about it and how you would like them to go about it will be different. If you focus more on the end result rather than how it gets done, your child will feel more listened to, more empowered and you will get greater cooperation.

Along those lines, set very specific expectations for what you want done. Rather than saying, “I want this room cleaned today” say “By 4pm today, I would like all of the laundry to be picked up off the ground, put in the hamper and brought to the laundry room. I would also like all of your Barbie dolls to be put back in the pink plastic container with flowers on it. Please also vacuum the carpet.” By giving them specifically how you would define clean, they know exactly what it will take to meet your standards of clean and they will feel accomplished when they get done. Teaching them how to define expectations is also an invaluable skill that they can apply to the workplace. The biggest source of stress in jobs many times is employees attempting to do what they think their bosses want but never really being sure if they did and always being worried they have failed. Set your kids up for success by defining what a successful cleaning project in your eyes looks like. You might even ask them what they would consider to be a cleaned room. Again, they may surprise you with their answers.

Make staying organized easy for them

And finally, set up their room so they can easily keep it organized and clean. If you expect them to change the sheets on their bed, don’t put the sheets up so high in a closet that they have to do the extra step of getting a step stool to get them. Have containers where items are separated out and it’s easily identifiable what belongs in there either with labels, pictures or color coded containers. Make sure they have space to store their items back easily rather than having to shove and move things aside in order to make it fit.

The simplest way to handle your children when it comes to organizing is think of how you would like to be talked to, listened to, asked to do something, and shown how to do something and treat them with the same respect and consideration you would like. And be aware, they may think differently from you when it comes to organization. If you can honor that, you will get a lot more mileage out of them as far as cooperation is concerned because they will feel like you care enough to understand them and let them be who they are. Let them have more creative control over their space and make sure if they don’t have their own bedroom, there is a space in the house they can call their own. Remember, that being organized is a learned skill for most. Be patient with them, model organized behavior and your home will feel a heck of a lot more peaceful.