I love to organize, and I expect organization from my students as well as from my daughters (they’re all getting there). Having a (flexible) routine and an assigned place for everything makes life run so much more smoothly, especially at home with kids.

That’s why this topic seemed very fitting for my latest “Teacher, Teacher!” segment on CHEX Daily, where I discussed tips with hosts Teresa Kaszuba and Mike Judson for helping your child get organized.

I really found that using rewards with my girls helped to get them in routine initially. I know rewards can get a bad rap sometimes, and that in many situations you want kids’ motivation to be intrinsic, but if they don’t yet see the value of something (a perfect example is using the potty) then rewards can help get the right habits established, and can be weaned off when the child is ready. I have never seen a school-aged child ask for a Smartie after using the washroom, so clearly the intrinsic motivation takes over at some point. When my daughters had their charts (get dressed, eat breakfast, brush hair, brush teeth, etc.) they would checkmark every task that they completed without reminders, and if they got a set number of checkmarks (not all) they earned their bedtime show. (Screen time works at our house, and my kids are well-rounded so I won’t apologize for it.) I also try to highlight for kids how being organized is beneficial (“Because your laundry is away and your rooms are tidy, we get to leave for Grandma’s early!”, or at school “Because your materials were ready, we got the assignment done so quickly that we have time to play a game now.”)

I also firmly believe in having a place for everything, including toys and clothes, so kids are able to organize on their own (once it has been modeled for them, which is an important part of the process). I started my girls with hanging closet organizers, and I would put complete outfits (top, bottoms, underwear, socks) in each cubby, and they could pick their own outfits each day. Then I took away the underwear and socks, because they knew how to get those out of their dressers themselves. The final step was designating drawers for tops and bottoms, and the girls started matching their own outfits. (This was hard for me, I will admit!) Now when the laundry is folded, they take all of their own stuff and put it away exactly where it belongs. They haven’t taken to laying out their outfits the night before like I do, but fortunately they don’t agonize over style too much yet. (Nor do they really care about matching…)

Having everything packed up in the evenings (agendas, homework, lunches in fridge) can make mornings much smoother too. Our girls make their lunches right after school, and this has become so routine for them that it seems odd when we deviate from the schedule for some reason. (Usually at this time I’m sorting the mail over the recycling bin – only touch items once! – and then signing the planners.)

When it comes to school items, if your child has an agenda or planner, it can really help to put a binder clip in to hold the right page for the week. Often parents/kids will keep the planner open to the current week, but the exposed pages inevitably end up wet, ripped or stained, so it’s much better to keep the book closed. Slipping it into a large ziploc bag can help as well. Make it your child’s job to put the agenda back in their bag so they are always responsible for it.

We also do “weekly cleanouts” at our house, where the girls dump out all backpack contents and file/dispose as necessary, and do the same with their bedrooms. I’ve even been known to instruct the kids to “get ready for inspection!” At this time of year, they’re motivated to clean out toys and books for donation, because they need to “make room” before they can write their Christmas lists.

Now before I wrap up, just to make sure we’re clear: I’m not anywhere close to being “perfectly” organized (I choose to use the term “efficiently organized”) and I have rough moments like all parents. My MO seems to be yelling idle morning-rush threats, like last week’s “If you aren’t in the car in one minute, you won’t like the consequences!” Not sure what the consequences were going to be, but fortunately I didn’t have to decide. When sharing tips like this I think it’s important to keep it real, as I’m highlighting my best practices, but not for a moment claiming that this is how things work in our home 24/7!

Finally, please feel free to leave a comment and share any organizational tips that work in your home, as I’d love to hear them! Next time we’ll be delving deeper into the homework routine!

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