Family time and home organization don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Or, for that matter, miserable.
Dedicating a few hours on a weekend morning or afternoon to organize the home can be a great bonding activity for parents and children. The kids feel invested in homemaking decisions. The adults get a cleaner house and a more responsible brood out of the deal. Everyone wins.
If your family isn’t organizing together yet, there’s no time to start like the present. Here are some tips to get started.
Three ways to organize as a family
1.) Declutter those closets. A messy closet in a child’s room is a bit of a cliche — and cliches become cliches, of course, because they carry an understood truth. With that in mind, however, it’s probably not out of line to suggest that you could organize your own closet, as well.
Let’s start in the kids’ rooms. First, empty the closets completely. Second, clean the inside of that closet — there’s probably dust, grime, and cobwebs in there from the days when Junior was in diapers.
Next, encourage your children to try on and think about their clothes (make a bit of a fashion show out of this and it can be pretty fun). What gets worn regularly? What do they really like or dislike? What fits, and what doesn’t? Is there a better way to organize these garments?
As the kids themselves come to understand the obviousness of removing old, worn-out, or unused clothing, they will participate more fully in the process — and not simply scream “That’s unfair!” when you throw out a four-year-old Halloween costume.
What’s left should be neatly folded, properly hung, and kept at kid-sized distances to allow the children to have easy access to their own wardrobe. The extra clothing, assuming it’s salvageable, can be taken to a self storage unit to save for your next youngster — or family friends.
We’re not done with closets yet — repeat the process and organize your own clothes. Let the children help you to decide what should stay and what can go. This helps the kids to understand the utility of clothing, and can lead to some nice bonding moments. Teach your son to tie a necktie. Show your daughter how to wobble in high heels.
2.) Culling the art collection. Everyone loves their child’s art projects — that tempura painting looks a bit like early Jasper Johns, don’t you think? — but no one has room for everything to be on permanent display, especially if you have several young children.
Encourage your children to choose a few pieces to frame, hang and display. Organize a system to rotate their best work in and out over the course of a school year. The children develop an appreciation for quality — proudly showing the best work — and get a greater reward than just slapping a fridge magnet onto their efforts.
Once the art has been displayed appropriately, sticking the pieces into a closet or a bulky scrapbook is not the best option. Take advantage of climate-controlled self storage, which will keep the child’s art in good shape — and safe from elements, the environments, and malicious brothers and sisters. Years later, you will be glad that you took the extra effort to organize and save these wonderful little works.
3.) Get after the garage. The garage is easy to overlook — it stays closed, it’s not expected to be pristine, and if you don’t turn on the light when you pull in (assuming you pull in), you can ignore it almost completely.
But make no mistake — the garage can be a nightmare to organize if you let it go too long. And if you’re storing flammables, sharp tools, or hazardous cleaning solutions in that garage, it can be downright dangerous.
Fortunately, this is another space the entire family can work to organize. Let’s start with sports equipment — are those skates, baseball gloves, football pads, lacrosse sticks, running shoes, swim fins, track spikes, and hockey helmets still usable? And, in fact, is anybody actually using them?
If not, bundle them off to self storage. Sports equipment can be handy down the road, but not when its strewn across the garage. Your kids will be invaluable, helping to decide what should be there and what should not.
The same can be said for bicycles, which are real space-eaters, as well. Move bikes to self storage during the winter months for extra space.
Anything seasonal — gardening tools, grills (but not fuel!), even snowmobiles or skis — should be moved into a storage unit, too. Let your kids play Sherlock Holmes and deduce what can stay, and what can go.
Hazardous materials, sharp tools, and flammable liquids should obviously be stored by an adult. This time to organize, however, is a great teaching opportunity. Explain to the kids what each item does, why it is useful, why it is dangerous, and how to properly keep it stored. These life lessons teach your children respect for these necessary but potentially dangerous items.
Once you’ve completed a home organizing task, reward the family. A trip to the ice cream parlor, tickets to a ball game, or even some unstructured time at the local park can be fun ways to unwind.
Or, you know, you could organize that attic…