Family Management | Parenting | Work/Life Balance | Home + Garden

Buried in Clutter and Chaos? 5 Tips to Organize Your Home and Family

From thinking ahead to enlisting the whole family, here are 5 tips to help you become more organized

happy family washing dishes together

The advent of the holiday season (and all those new things!) is a prime time to get your house in order. What you may not realize is that you do not have to undertake the daunting task alone. Yes, despite reluctant children and tired spouses, you can actually enlist your entire family for help in clearing the clutter. You may find yourself devoting countless hours to dusting, polishing, scrubbing and mopping but cleaning does not equate to organizing.

“A lot of people think if they straighten things or tidy up that it is organizing but that is not the case; organizing is about making sometimes difficult decisions about what needs to stay in our lives and is serving a purpose, looking at space and figuring out how to use it,” says Laura Leist, certified professional organizer and owner of Eliminate Chaos

Meet on it

The first step is to carve out the time. A wonderful idea is to hold a Sunday family meeting

“You can choose whatever day of the week you want but you should have a meal together and prior to the meal, someone should look at the calendar and chart out the whole week doing big picture planning to keep the family on the same page,” says Denise Allan, certified professional organizer at Simplify Experts.

If you want to be thorough you can even plan meals in advance. “If you build the whole family into expectations the transitions during the busy hectic week are much easier,” Allan says.

Consider making an appointment with yourself that you will not break. “You may set a timer for 20 to 30 minutes to focus on one activity because sometimes people try to bite off more than they can chew,” Leist says.

Determine what you need to accomplish each week. “You need at least 60 to 90 minutes to go through paper that comes in and sign school things, figure out how you can volunteer on the field trips and where your family will go for spring break,” Allan says. 

Schedule it

Have a schedule by strategizing what certain times of day look like. “If your child does not transition well in mornings and has a hard time getting out of bed you may want to lay clothes out the night before or have a timer or clock in the bathroom with signs knowing that he needs to leave the bathroom by 7:42 to make the bus on time if he is a teenager,” Allan says.

Cell-phone alarms can be helpful for waking up. “Some kids need out-the-door checklists to make sure they have everything if they are visual,” Allan says. Similarly, know what evenings are like and if bath time is going well or if homework is getting done productively. “Some kids have a cell phone box when they walk in the door so it is not close to them when they are studying or they may have a homework supply bin that has things on hand to support them like rulers, protractors and paper.”

You will find that your home is the most productive when you work as a team. Be a role model and let your child watch you organize other parts of the house before you ask him to chip in.

Everyone needs an office

Determine what you do with your home office. “For a lot of people it is a multi-purpose room and can serve as a place to store files, for kids to do their homework, for crafts and for paper,” Leist says.

It is important to have a system or central location for kids to put paperwork that comes home from school so it does not wind up in a pile. Do not just go out and buy accessories without carefully planning first. “You might set up a daily action center where you get an open top file box where you drop in hanging file folders and use a 3-D tab that stands up tall and customize it so family members can see whose folder is whose based on color code,” Leist says. You can pick out fun, decorative folders instead of boring manila to spruce things up. 

Kids get a job 

Kids can contribute more than you may realize, often before they can even read. All you have to do is show them the system and give them an opportunity to participate. You can ask questions like what colors they prefer or what type of items they would like to use to help get organized. That way they get to have something new and exciting in their room that serves the purpose of putting things in place.

“If they cannot read you can find fun clip art and print it out on labels so you can label things with pictures versus with words,” Leist says. “Ultimately it saves time, money and keeps you from feeling overwhelmed because you will be happier living in a home where things have a place.”

Think ahead 

Leave space in drawers. “I am a big fan of 80 percent with clothing drawers, junk drawers and sock drawers because it is all about you need to be able to retrieve things without drawers being too full,” Allan says.     

You will find that your home is the most productive when you work as a team. Be a role model and let your child watch you organize other parts of the house before you ask him to chip in.

“Start with your own area first and explain why you are doing this and how it will help the whole family and then tackle your child’s room because you will probably have much better success,” Leist says.

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