Wendy was at the end of her tether! She’d had ENOUGH of piles on the floor “They’re not even piles Liz! They just drop stuff where they stand!”
“I’m getting a skip!” Was the threat she’d recently made (yelled!). Of course her three kids just looked at her. They’d heard all this before.
Oh she’d tried. Bin bag after bin bag had made it’s way out of the house. Over and over she’d organised their home as best she could with the very small amount of time she had spare.
She just didn’t have the energy to fight with them over their junk. And she told me a secret – some of the junk lying around was hers.
Most days she’d look at the chaos and switch between outraged bewilderment and exhausted surrender. When I checked her support system, it turned out Wendy’s lovely mum (who picked them up from school) was absolutely no help in this area. She refused to be “The Bad Guy” and rarely made them do anything they didn’t want to do.
But Wendy’s kids were good kids, loving kids who needed cuddles, helped the youngest and did their homework. The family had just never had a system to help them keep their home tidy.
The Better In A Basket System
What’s the one simple thing that’s going to make all the difference?
Baskets (or boxes.)
You’ve tried it and it didn’t work? It could be because you didn’t set up systems to work with your baskets.
STEP ONE: Reduce the amount of stuff in your house.
~ How serious are you about getting your home organised and shoving stress and exhaustion out the door?
Seriously. It’s the amount of things in your home that’s the problem. Imagine for a moment that everything in your house vanished. All you have left are beds, tables and chairs. How easy would THAT be to manage?
- Declutter like a mother (there’s nothing like a motivated mum for getting rid of junk.)
- Get rubbish and recycling out of your house faster than a kid trying to avoid a bath.
- Do not store things for other people. This is your living space, it’s not a storage unit.
STEP TWO: Limit all the stuff coming into your house.
Stop adding to your problem.
- Fewer toys/gifts and only on birthday’s and at Christmas, Gran-Ma!
- No more recreational shopping trips to the store (no matter how cheap) the kids can only use so many colour pens and plastic things that break.
- Say a graceful or loving no to free stuff being dumped on you by kind people and businesses.
Family fun, doing things together, however simple, is better than all the toys, clothes and gear in the world.
STEP THREE: Make putting stuff away easy and special.
- Easy – Big baskets with no lids in every room. Boxes with big colourful labels, no lids, no stacking.
- Special – Hooks with each kids’ names on them. Cute cubbies or cardboard boxes they chose or painted themselves.
They can toss their shoes in their special shoe box, drop dirty clothes in their special basket, chuck big toys in The Big Toy Box, little toys in The Little Toy Box.
Let the kids choose their own baskets and boxes from the limited selection you offer them. If the specialness of their basket or hook doesn’t work, adapt. Put their basket in the place where they dump that thing. Not where YOU want them to dump their things, not yet, this is the training part.
Celebrate every time they do the right thing. Some times a big embarrassing woo hoo or a smoochy hug from mum is enough to lock in that it’s a good thing that they’ve just done.
Are you thinking that’s NEVER going to work for you? If you’ve done some serious decluttering, there’s not going to be that much going into these baskets. Be persistent and consistent. This is all about training. Repetition and reward works.
STEP FOUR: Set up super simple routines and stick to them.
The time you invest in setting up routines and training your kids (and support people) is GOLD. Yes, you are still the person who has to manage all your stuff and remind them when they forget. But it’s worth it.
Because you are the Grown Up, you’re going to deal with this with a calm, firm, loving attitude and bit of humour.
For example: If each kid has a towel of their own in their favourite colour, they can choose to hang it so it dries or use a cold and damp icky towel from the floor. (Each kid has two towels, one in the weekly wash, one in use.) When they whine, and they will, you smile kindly and remind them of the choice they made. Every. Single. Time. This is training in action. (They will be ok!)
Do what you’re teaching them. If you’re serious about this, you will also only have two towels (for example). You always hang your towel. You always put your own shoes away. You always hang your gym bag on your special hook.
They will see what you do and either copy it or use it as ammunition in a battle of wills (depending on age and temperament.)
STEP FIVE: Get your support people onside.
Boundaries, guidelines, limits and rules are GOOD.
You are growing little adults. You want them to be fully functional, capable and caring grown ups right? That’s the goal.
That’s why you teach them to pick up after themselves, think about how their behaviour affects other people and play together nicely. It’s why you teach them that they won’t get a present every single time anyone walks through the door (they get hugs and tickles and attention instead.)
It’s why Grand-Ma (and everyone else who loves them), respects the rules you as their parent have set up. Because they want this too, right?
They need to reinforce the new rules you’ve set up too. It won’t be long and each kid will hang their towel and have a comfy dry one the next time. They’ll show Gran-Ma their shoe basket and she’ll help to remind them to use it.
When you know that this system is working (mostly) you can start introducing more small personal responsibilities like everyone putting their own clean washing away.
And because you have less stuff in your home, there’s less laying around. Less to drop in a pile. They’ll learn that their choices and actions have consequences.
When you change the rules, acceptance of YOUR new way of doing things can be very challenging for those close to you. You’ll need to talk to your kids about why you’re making new rules and routines.
You’ll need to have a serious conversation with your support people about what it is that you’re trying to achieve. It helps to remember that it’s unlikely that they’re purposely trying to thwart you.
You know it’s because they don’t want to miss out on their own warm happy feelings when they bring presents or let the kids do what ever they like. They’re going to have to find a new way to get those feelings. Show them the new way of doing things so they can help.
Even if there’s only a reduction to your chaos in one area of your home or type of stuff, it’s going to make a difference to your sanity.
Next week: Tackling the Family Laundry Chaos.
The Tidy Lady
Declutter Coach & Tidyness Expert