In my house, I’m known as “Yahoo.mom, the human search engine”. Whenever anyone (husband, three kids, the dog) couldn’t find something, they’d come to me. It usually took me about a minute to find what was missing—rarely more than five minutes. To be fair, that was often because I’d put the item away in the first place.
Clearly, this was a major failure on my part as a parent and spouse—they are still a bunch of lovable but disorganized people.
Thoughts? Ideas? Have I totally lost all credibility as a source of help for other parents? I hope not.
It’s too late for me, but hopefully not for you. Remember the 11th commandment—“Organize thyself”. Children (and adults) who have good organizational skills are usually better able to handle the many tasks of school assignments, projects, tests, as well as outside activities and time with peers. They know how to prioritize, to complete tasks in sequence, to plan ahead. These are important life skills. So, what are some ways to help your child develop a more organized life? You know it has to start with you.
Here are five:
- The kitchen counter in my house used to be a mess, until I got a rack to hold manila folders. I had one folder for each child’s school stuff (papers brought home, IEP); one for notices that I checked often (permission slips, party invitations, upcoming school events); one for copies of the curriculum for my children’s grades; one for health forms or information; one for articles I wanted to save. Communication books went here, too, when they weren’t in my child’s backpack.
- Keep a staging area at the door where you and your children usually leave in the morning, with a basket or mat for shoes, low hooks for backpacks, higher hooks for purse and car keys.
- Use a phone app to store the phone numbers of your children’s friends, school-related numbers, and after-school places (ballet studio, martial arts studio, etc) so you can easily make calls when you’re not at home.
- Have a big basket where you (or an older child) can collect “stuff” that is left around the house. This can be done at night. A child can be given the task of putting the items where they belong (hamper, bookcase, recycling bin, sibling’s room), using a timer to make it more fun and to focus attention. A reward is helpful too!
- A big family calendar should be hung in a public place. Use a different color marker for each family member, and write in sports, playdates, lessons, family trips, and even nights out for you and your spouse. Once you’ve been using this for a while, your children will not only consult it, they’ll begin putting their own events on it.
None of these tips will magically transform your children, and there are surely many more strategies for keeping an organized home. These five don’t even deal with having an organized approach to homework and projects (that’s for a later blog). But they will increase the sense of order and calm in your home, which is something we all need as we help our special needs kids get through the week. They will reduce the demands on you to be the “human search engine”, and that is surely a good thing.
As always, please send me your comments or questions, and feel free to send this on to another parent or professional who might be interested.