Years and years ago we lived in a big yellow house on a hill, with a 5 acre horse stable right behind it. With two girls already madly in love with horses, this was a dream location! Every window on the back of our house overlooked our neighbor’s barn and an arena where our daughters spent every free moment. When we moved there Matthew was one, Elizabeth eight, Rebekah eleven, and John Mark thirteen. We luxuriated in all the space this new home afforded, with storage closets tucked under the eaves and twice as may kitchen cupboards as our previous home.
And somehow, somewhere along the way, we started storing stuff in all those closets and cupboards. Lots of stuff.
I went to garage sales and found stuff, then to the dollar store, where I stocked up on stuff. I bought books for the kids at the grocery store for $3.99— such a deal!
Cheap stuff, unnecessary stuff, too much stuff.
At Christmas we filled stockings with stuff, grandparents sent stuff, friends stopped by with stuff. And before long all that stuff started to back up into our living space like a clogged drain choked with excess… stuff!
Between buying organizers to store all that stuff, then clearing up clutter and putting stuff away, my days had become one long chasing after the chaos all that stuff created.
You know what I’m talking about? Does that describe your home?
Are you ready to exchange all that for a sense of order and cleanliness that doesn’t come at the cost of your relationship with your kids? Unfortunately, I too often sacrificed niceness on the alter of perfection. I wish I could say I was always patient and kind, but if my kids read this they'll call me out! And though I struggled and too often failed, I've learned some things along the way I wish I'd known at the start. Here are...
10 Ways To Teach Your Kids (And Yourself!) How To Bring Order Out Of Chaos.
#1. Reduce the amount of stuff
Where does this strange compulsion to accumulate and collect come from? Is it from the Spirit of God? I don’t think so. Is it from my flesh? Yes! that greedy, grasping, heedless part of me that craves stuff. So why do we keep it? Why spend money on plastic bins and organizers and shelves and systems to store all that stuff? Why indoctrinate our children in our greedy inclination to gather more stuff?
#2. Set a limit on stuff
You’ve helped your kids edit their possessions down to just what they love, what they pull out several times a week, what they actually use. Now it’s time to be clear that if they get something new, and they want to keep it, something old has to be given away.
In other words: this much and no more!
#3. Give your kids responsibility for their stuff
Instead of being the chief keeper and cleaner and put away-er of your children’s stuff, give them that job title. Make each person over the age of three responsible to clean it up and pick it up and put it away where it belongs.
#4. Incorporate ‘Once-Throughs’ into your daily routine.
When my kids were little, every night before bed the whole crew made sure every thing was picked up and put away. School papers, shoes, toys, every odd bit and piece had to be put away. Then, after breakfast, another once-through that included beds made and clothes picked up. One more once-through before dinner enabled our home to stay reasonably tidy.
Whenever I failed to keep this routine running, I inevitably defaulted into that annoyed, unfriendly my-kids-are-driving-me-bonkers mode.
#5. Train your kids to focus and notice stuff.
The child who can stand on the edges of his mess and evaluate what needs to happen in what order, is already way ahead in management skills! But most kids do not learn this automatically— they need to be patiently taken through the process of a quick and thorough clean up of toys and clothes and towels and last week’s lunch.
#6. Give your kids daily chores.
By training your children to have a daily work routine, you are preparing them for real life. In the real world no one steps in to do our job for us when we don’t feel like it. In real life something not-good happens to us when we drop the ball on one of our responsibilities.
#7. Institute periodic family workdays.
Something about cleaning out your closet while mom is cleaning out hers just takes away some of your child’s reluctance. We’re in this together! Or getting the whole family to chip in for a spring yard clean up, or window washing, or tidying up the garage. Teach your children that we work as a team, everyone contributing, everyone sticking with it until the job is completed.
#8. Whistle while you work!
This, of course, starts with mom. No barking orders (gosh, my kids hated that!), or getting mad (after all, it’s your job to stay on top of it by wise management), or grumbling (I can’t believe this mess!). Instead, teach yourself and everyone in your family to enjoy the sense of achievement that a clean up or a project can bring. Make sure they step back and admire their work- and that you step up to cheer them on.
This, for me, was a big fail. If I had it to do over again…
#9 Work before play
It’s a whole lot easier to get your kids to clean up and do their chores before they get involved in playing than it is to interrupt their creative play. But I still use this phrase to motivate me when I’m just not feeling in the mood to get something done.
After I work on this project for 2 hours, I can enjoy a break for tea and read a book for a while…
#10 Teach your kids how to break big projects into small steps
Some of us are not born knowing instinctively how to tackle projects. We don’t see those logical steps that lead to the finish line. Which may be why your child doesn’t even try.
If you’ll come alongside and do it with them, teaching and training them how to make lists, how to start, how to backtrack a timeline so they get it done on time… you will save them so much angst in our extremely project-oriented world.
My home is empty of children now, just the two of us in this small space. And I still find myself defaulting back to clean-it-up-only-when-it-drives-me-crazy mode! Back to those once-through’s for me…
From a heart craving a life of order,
P.S. Okay moms— this is your clue. What are you doing to bring order out of the typical chaos that seems to cling to children? How are you managing all that stuff? Send us the ideas in the comments so we can all learn from each other!