I am bringing you a really fun topic that I know you are going to love! I have had a couple of moms ask how I get my kids to pick up after themselves. I’m telling you, it all starts with the foundation we will discuss. Let’s learn my top organization hacks to teach our kids to be organizers instead of hoarders. This is just going to be one small step that will allow you to gain a huge win.
Listen below for the entire episode on The Systemize Your Life Podcast
Raising Organizers Instead of Hoarders
I’ll be breaking down how I have transitioned my kids from the trendy cultural way of living with excesses to simplicity. We aren’t a hardcore minimalist family, but I have come a long way with my kiddos. I am so excited to tell you how I went from my kids having all the things to having very few. I believe it is possible for you and your kiddos too!
Let’s talk about how to teach your kids to be organizers instead of hoarders. No, not all of our kids are going to be hoarders. My kids aren’t, but one of them could be if she wanted to be, and she likes to collect things. It was becoming a problem very quickly at a very young age. I feel strongly about having fewer things in our homes to keep up with the chaos and the mess. With our kids, it’s the same.
Change The Way Your Kids Attach Themselves to Items
With many families, one of the biggest problem areas is the kid’s bedrooms. Many of the moms I coach end up cleaning their kids’ bedrooms on their own. We help our kids, but our kids are always present; it is a joint effort. That will be a very gradual release of responsibility as they grow. Our 9-year-old is pretty good at it now. She can almost clean and organize her entire bedroom. Getting an organization system in place took a while, but she now knows how to purge her things.
I vividly remember the first time teaching her this process, feeling like I was failing as a mother or betraying my children because I was teaching her to get rid of things that she was telling me were important to her. I consciously tried to change how she attached herself to items from a very early age. Most members of my family keep everything. I grew up doing the same thing. It became hard to move all the time, so I constantly was just leaving things and purging to make it easier to move. As a wife, a mom, and the keeper of the house, it became difficult to keep up with the house. I didn’t want her to have to grow up that way. I don’t want her to have to attach herself to things, but rather the type of space she was creating for herself.
Simple Hacks to Teach Your Kids to Like Organization
I started this organization system with them. We do this several times a year. It looks like the same thing I teach inside the The Systemize Your Life Academy for organizing your own home, but I just brought my kids into it. We would just go into her room and pick a certain drawer. You can’t tackle the whole thing at once. I used Christmas and gave incentives for them to get rid of things.
Use Birthdays and Christmas as an Incentive
I was running into issues where lots of new things were coming into the house. Around birthdays and around Christmas, we get an influx of toys and things. For a while, it was just one kiddo, so she got lots of things because she didn’t have a sibling to share with. I would take her into the bedroom and show her there was no way to fit new toys in the space. If she wanted new toys to come in, she would have to get rid of old toys.
I would get a few things out and tell her, “If you haven’t played with it and it doesn’t make you super happy to play with it again, it might be something that someone else will love, and we can donate it.” We would use a big box, and she would start putting things in it. I would walk her through item by item as quickly as I could get her to go through it because she would instantly attach feelings and emotions, and memory to that item.
Use “Just Yet” Piles to Help With Transitions
I told her she had so much stuff in there that she didn’t even know what she had, and it wasn’t getting played with at all. I explained how fun it would be to be able to see what she had and was able to play with it. We had a lot of conversations, and it started slowly. We had to compromise. I would find something she had never played with, but to her, it was her favourite. We made a pile of favourites and a pile of not favourites, but she wasn’t ready to get rid of it “just yet.” We would use the “just yet” phrase a lot. What came to be, is that the next time we went through this, that “just yet” turned into an “I don’t want it.”
Allow Your Child to Have Control Over Their Environment
As I eluded to earlier, the main times of year we do this are just before Christmas and before birthdays. We purge and ensure there aren’t random things stuffed in random places. We have gotten much better about maintaining a clean, organized, purged space. It used to be clean out, purge, clean out, purge again. I think that happens until you and your kiddos understand what they love and want to keep. That is ok. I don’t want to control my children’s environment so much that it is so stale because I have to live in a minimalist environment in order for my house to look pristine. Would I love that? I would. But I also want my kids to be free to explore different items they think they might love.
For kids, I don’t want to push them through this process. I think you can push them to the other end, the negative side. The other end of this is the kids growing up and feeling like their mom never let them keep things that were important to them. That can turn into some negative habits. I want to encourage you to let your kids make these decisions independently and just guide them through the process.
Organization Hack to Keep Toys Under Control
One of the most important things you can do here is to ensure that you have a space or structure established where the toys will live. We use anything and everything from toy cubbies, hanging toy bins, dresser drawers and stackables. Just make sure that you have a designated space for toys. Make sure you are providing some kind of segmentation inside those large compartments. We use cardboard boxes, old tissue boxes or shoe boxes. You don’t have to pay for any of those. Or you can go to the dollar store and find things there. You can also make adjustments when needed if you use boxes. Say you have two different boxes in the drawer, and it’s not working well. You can take those out and pop a new one in there. No need to make it complicated.
Go in and assess your space. Look at what kind of structures you have in place right now to house all of their things. Everything should have its own compartment. If I have a big bin and different types of toys can all fit in there, I will take a piece of cardboard and duct tape it in there to make a divider. This big bin now becomes two.
Keep Activities Organized by Using a Rug Play Zone
With your littlest, what I like to encourage, is using a rug. You can get a super cheap rug from the dollar store. I love the ones from Walmart that are bound around the edges, they are so cute for a kiddos room, but it can be anything, even a yoga mat. That is where I encourage my kids to play.
I keep it next to their play area, and every time we get a toy, we go to the center of the rug and teach them to put the items they are playing with on the mat. That is where they keep them, then they can play off the mat. If the rug is too small for them to sit and play on, just put the toys there, and they sit and play around it. When they are done, everything goes back in the bin and the bin gets put away.
If you teach them to bring all their things out to a certain space, then you have them tidy up the space and put things back before they move onto something new, guess what kind of mom they are going to grow up to be. They will be the kind of mom that gets all of her scrapbooking stuff out, spreads it all over the kitchen table, picks it all back, and puts it away before she starts cooking dinner. That is the kind of little girl you are going to raise. The boys are going to be the same way. These are the kinds of things you want to instill in your children. They are not going to
“If you consistently teach them to bring all their things out to a certain space, then you have them tidy up the space and put things back before they move onto something new, this will become a habit for them that will continue to adulthood.”
How To Allow Your Kids To Keep Their Creativity While Maintaining Organization
If they like to collect things, you can work with that. Frankie has this space in her closet that is the art side. She loves to do art projects. All of her art supplies are there. She loves to collect different shapes of cardboard and tubes, anything made of different types of cardboard. We made a village out of it at one point. What I did with that collection when it was spilling out of the closet, I set up a basket. I now tell her that if that basket is full, you can’t add anything else to it. You have to either take something else out or you need to make something will all that you are collecting. This isn’t hoarding; it’s intentional collecting for a purpose. That has made a huge difference.
It’s the same thing with her sentimental items. I gave her a box where she can keep the items that are important to her, and once it fills up, she has to look back through there and see if there are things that she can get rid of. Or, we can get another box if she is willing to look through this drawer where the sentimental box is kept and get rid of some toys that are in there to make more space for a larger box.
How To Purge Items With Young Kids
For your young kiddos, sometimes I have purged them when they are not home. Once I went through and got rid of the things that I know for a fact they don’t even remember they have, and if they did, they would play with it once, then never again. Those are the items that I would get rid of, but I would never get rid of things I didn’t have an attachment to that I knew they did. I would leave those for them, and with the littlest ones, I would work with them and turn things right around to other families that would love to have them. I would encourage them to donate the things that don’t fit in the space they were supposed to be in.
My kids have never had an issue when I suggested donations. I would say, “Can you pick just one you can eliminate?” Do it often so they get in the habit of getting rid of things and realize it’s not the end of the world.
Learn About Organization Together
This is how I got my kids to stop having so many things. I think a lot of it comes from us as parents. This can be a bit controversial. I think it is hard for you to be able to instruct your kids to do a certain thing that you are not willing to do yourself. Or you don’t know how to do it yourself. You and your kids can learn together. You don’t need to be a professional at this, but it does make it really hard for you to go into your children’s bedroom and get rid of things that you have personally grown attached to.
There are certain things that my kids had that I had when I was little because my mom saved and collected all the things. I appreciate that now, but at some point, we do have to stop collecting things from all the babies and generations. The elastic is gone in all the bloomers my mom saved, but my kids can’t wear them. I had to make a decision. I now have one tote of things that I am keeping that I love that were my girls when they were babies. Once it gets filled up, I have to decide if I want to add something new to it, I have to find something to take out of it.
Use This Time as a Time To Connect
As daunting as it seems to go into one of your kid’s bedrooms and go through the fight, choose to go through this battle with them. Pick a date and go in there; don’t come out until it’s done. Put fun music on, have snacks prepared, and know that you are ordering dinner out that day. Just be in it for the long haul. Bring in a trash bag for things that can be thrown away, bring in another bag for things that can be donated, and make your kids set up a love pile and an I’m not sure pile. Help them go through it and stop avoiding it because you don’t know how to talk to your kids about it because you are too lazy to get your bum up and do it.
Just go in there and get it done. They are going to love spending time with you. All of you that are feeling guilty about not spending time with your children, so go do it and play games when you are doing it. If you have older kids and you have never asked them about their favourite things, ask them what they think about or are dreaming about. Bring some conversation topics and cards with you. Set up a specific playlist. Don’t make excuses for what this process is supposed to look like. Get into your children’s bedroom and get the crap out that they never play with.
Get To Know Who Your Child Really Is
So you get it all out, how do you keep it from coming back in? How do you ensure your kids don’t constantly have many things and move into truly having very little things? Get to know your kids. Get to know what you, as their parent, see them not only love but what you see that they are good at. When your children are good at something, they are more inclined to do it more often. Sometimes we self-impose different things on our kids because we want them to like or be good or creative in the way that we want for them, but it’s not actually who they are.
Each of Your Children Is Different
I want you to observe your kids. When I sit and observe Frankie, she is super creative. Insanely creative. That is what she wants, so when she sits down and asks if she can collect all these cardboard containers, I would give anything to throw them away, but I realize that is something that is helping her flourish and giving her a creative outlet. There are other things that she is never going to be all that excited about.
Bailey Mae would live and die to play dress up. She changes her clothes 15 times a day. When her “ok to wake clock” is yellow and she isn’t allowed to come out of her room yet, she puts on her dress-up clothes and prances around her room. She comes into my room in the morning with a pair of fairy wings and a tutu and magic wand in her hand. I just laugh, do I want my child playing with all those Disney dress-up outfits? No, I would never have let my first child do that. But she is going to be who she is going to be, and I can’t control that.
Make Your Child’s Room Functional For Them
I would never have a box of crayons in her room, but Frankie has had crayons in her room since she was tiny. Frankie has never written on a wall. Bailey would have her whole bedroom coloured purple in two seconds. Observe your kids, determine what they need in their room, and make it a functional space.
If you have the toys in there that they love, they are going to go in there and play with them. Get rid of the items they don’t love so they aren’t distracted by them. When you make the space have compartments, you can encourage them to put their things back in that space before they get something else out. This will make them see the benefit of having minimal things instead of a lot of things.
It is so easy for my girls to go in and navigate their space because it’s not crowded, and it is true for you too. This is a lesson we want to teach our kids not because it makes our lives easier but because it is going to make their lives easier when they learn this skill. It’s a skill you are probably still trying to learn and figure out for yourself. If you haven’t learned this already, learn it right alongside them.
Take One Small Step To Teach Your Children About Organization
I say it’s like one small step. You can start with a drawer. You can start with a shoe bin. I remember feeling like Frankie had to have all the shoes. That came from me. I used to get her all the shoes. If you sit back and watch your kids, they will have like four pairs of shoes that they wear. They won’t have a lot of shoes that they wear over and over again. They are so fine with wearing their favorite comfortable pair of shoes. That’s all you need. Get a little basket, put their favorite shoes in there and get over it. It really just becomes obvious that you don’t need all the things, and the children don’t even want it. The less they have, the more creativity they are able to spark and enjoy in their day.
Here is the other fun hack about that. It is so easy for me to say go get out your puzzle bin and do puzzles. I know when she is downstairs and feeling bored, she can go and be independent with her play because it is so simple. This is how you carve out time for you to have uninterrupted time during your work block. You just strategically distract them from being bored with certain items in their bedroom with items that you know they love.
My Number One Tip To Maintaining Organization
This goes hand in hand with the topic of why I think you are not teaching your kids how to do this. Yes, it is partially laziness, maybe not just the first attempt at it, but knowing that the upkeep feels like it is going to be a battle, but it doesn’t have to be. After you have organized the space, I can give you the number one tip: first and foremost, everything needs to be labelled. I don’t care if you use masking tape and a Sharpie, which was my go-to label maker for almost all my life. Even still, I do without my label maker often.
If you care a lot about your success at home, motherhood, business, and as a wife, you are going to want to do this. You will want to get your home organized, and you are going to want to teach your kids how to do this. That also means you are going to have to spend some time in your kid’s bedrooms with your kids. What that looks like is setting up certain cues throughout the day, I call them tidy cues, where you go into that space, and you help them put things back. AKA they help you. Over time it will become them doing it on their own. It won’t start out that way. You are going to have to do the work to keep the space organized and well-kept.
Keep Giving Reminders To Create Organization Habits In Your Children
I am constantly giving these reminders to my kids because I want them to think of these things themselves when they get older. They aren’t going to do that unless you start programming them from a very young age. It’s constant. Kids aren’t going to think about these things. They will once it becomes second nature to them. The only way it’s going to become second nature to them is if you train that in them.
I know this was a lot. I would love for you to pop inside of the Facebook group and share with me what you though about all this. Let’s get your kids bedrooms organized and teach them how to be little mini organizers instead of hoarders. Also come check out the The Systemize Your Life Academy and learn all the things to help get your whole house organized!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have any resources to help with creating a cleaning schedule?
Sure do! Part of my weekly schedule involves scheduling fundamental needs – one of these is cleaning! If you want to learn more about your fundamental needs, start with this workbook.