Can Children Be Tidy ?

Bringing The Children Along For The Ride

Like it or not children make a mess! From the minute they arrive on this earth there is a host of paraphernalia that comes with them

It starts off LARGE, with cots; cribs; highchairs, and walkers. I distinctly remember the year with 2 under 3, we were visiting family and ended up taking 2 cars to accommodate everything we needed for a week’s stay…utter madness!

As they grow the size of the items shrinks, but the quantity grows. If you have ever had a child who loves Lego you will know what I mean.

So living a minimalist life with children probably isn’t your goal. I know it was not mine, but when they went to bed, I loved to put their stuff away and enjoy some tranquil adult space.

As they grew, we had the usual battles over bedrooms & stuff, but overall, I was blessed that it was all in moderation. My mottos were “pick your battles” “control the controllable’s” & “this is a home, not a show home”

If you are the only one in a family trying to create order out of chaos it can be completely soul-destroying as you clear the clutter only to find it is being redistributed behind, you; like a snow plough dispersing the snow only for it to end up on the pavement.

So how do you train your family to join you on the tidy house train?

Well the clue is in the training. Don’t expect miracles overnight. It is going to take time, training, many trick and reinforcement.  It’s true that many children who come from a hoarding home can go on to display their own hoarding tendencies. Likewise, it isn’t always true that a child taught to be tidy will go on to embody that in their future.

Learned Behaviors

So here are my Top Tips for educating your children to partner with you as you try to create a calm & comfortable home environment for all. A functioning and more liveable space, that helps everyone get out the door on time and without a fuss, saving much angst & stress. UTOPIA!

  • Start them young

Children are never too young to start to learn to tidy away their things once they are old enough to toddle around. They take great delight in removing EVERY toy from the box & spreading them far & wide.

Make a game out of putting them all back again. Play songs, get others involved, and make it a reward or race, but it is important the toys have a dedicated space the children will recognise as the toy area/storage. Remember everything should have a place. If it doesn’t have a place. It doesn’t belong.

  • Don’t shout, keep calm

Once you put negative energy around tidying up it becomes a battle. There will be times when everyone is tired or overwrought. “Pick your battles”

  • Once old enough allocate tasks.

Responsibility can be a great encourager. Children love to feel grown-up & important. Explain how important this help is to you, allowing you to be more present with them. A task sheet with rewards teaches them the power of give and get. If you are a working parent, it can be a great way to instil work ethics from an early age, especially helpful is older siblings helping with a younger child.

  • If at first, you don’t succeed, breathe deep & try again.

Nothing worth working for is easy. You are looking for less stress in your life, not more. When they can’t find something help them to look but use this time to explain how much easier it would be if everything was put away correctly leaving time for more fun and play. At this point, I must reiterate missing items are not always down to the children. Remember dogs run away with shoes, Dad’s think they are helping tidy but don’t always place items where they should be& sometimes things simply disappear. No Blame – No Gain.

  • Create a Drop Zone.

This has to be my top tip. Once they are at school create a drop zone as close to the front door as possible. We all know how it goes; home from school there is a trail of discarded bags, PE kits, coats & lunch boxes all the way from the front door to the fridge.

Hey presto; next morning it’s chaos as no one can find their reading book, homework, drinks bottle or shoes. Create a routine from the get-go, using your drop zone.

Ideally as close to the front door as possible have a row of children’s height hooks for coats and bags, and a little bench to sit on to remove shoes and unpack their bags. Baskets for shoes and bags is ideal and if possible, a tray or magnetic board for school letters invites & notices about which days require PE Kit or reading bag.

Try to make this a fun time, as you decant from the day &catch up with each other’s day over a snack. Time invested now will pay dividends in the morning when invariably everyone is chasing their tail.

Moving on.

As your children move onto high school, fostering this sense of independence & responsibility for their own possessions will stand them in good stead as they transition into higher education. They cannot rely on you forever & you are equipping them with the skills to look after themselves.

  • One in One Out Method.

Teach your children the value of possessions using the one in one out method. This is especially useful around Christmas or Birthdays. As they start to list their wishes or receive gifts, use this as an opportunity to remove something they no longer need or play with. Help them to choose where it goes. Explain how others may not have much. Help them choose who or where to donate the items & consider what space they have and what needs freeing up to make space.

It all sounds so easy but remember my go-to Quotes.

“Pick your battles” It’s your home & it is what you are comfortable with. Don’t compare yourself with others or impossible Pinterest images but have your boundaries clear & focus on the life you want to live with your family.

Good Luck – Rachel – The Declutter Lady

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