Today I worked with a couple preteens in their bedrooms, helping to sort items, get rid of old toys and generally make sense of their rooms. First, we cleared through the girl's bedroom, donating about 8 trash bags of items. After that, I moved into the boy's room to help give him a plan of attack for his toys and clothes. It's always interesting to work with kids and teens because what they feel is important to keep, is not always what Mom and Dad think should be kept.
It's important to help young adults and teenagers create organized spaces for a few reasons. One, if they learn theses skills early on, they can continue to use them later in life, living on their own, working and creating successful lives. School work can become less stressful; Later on, real-life work can become easier to attack when you know where all your papers and projects are at the office. And, of course, if you're the organized roommate, life can be that much better. Plus, if the kids are more organized, the parents are less likely to yell about a mess, and stress everyone out. An organized home is a happy home.
So, how do we help our kids learn to be organized?
1) Teach them to let go of items they don't want. If a child learns that there are others who have no toys, perhaps they'll feel compelled to give away items they won't use anymore. It's also important to understand that keeping belongings just because they're from someone we love, even if we don't use or want the item, doesn't help our space become more organized. Keep sentimental items gathered in a memory box, but let other items go so someone else can love them.
2) Break it down into chunks. Instead of saying, "Clean your room!" we can try tasks like "Clean off your desk." Or, "See what you can get done in the next 15 minutes." Breaking an overwhelming project down into smaller pieces is easier for everyone to wrap their head around.
3) Make it easy to put things away. Make sure smaller hands and shorter legs can reach what they need to, but not items they shouldn't. Also, make sure homes make sense to each child. They are more likely to remember where to put items away and keep up with the system.
4) If they're involved, they're more invested in keeping it just so. Most of the time, if anyone has contributed to a project, they are more interested in seeing it through the end, and making sure it's done well. Kids are no different. Involve them as much as possible in creating an organized room, so they are compelled to keep it how they want. Something earned is sweeter than something given.
5) Create a lifestyle that allows you to do the things you want to do, not just the things you have to do. Isn't this the goal of everyone? There are always going to be things we have to do. But, we are always looking for more time to do things we want to do. If kids are able to do this at an early age, you're much more likely to make a priority later in life, as well.