Organizing with Your Kids: A long term perspective pays off.
Right before we left for Michigan, my daughter got spring cleaning fever. She was in the mood to pitch things like she’s never been in the mood to pitch things before. Now, if you’ve taken any of my online workshops, worked with me one-on-one, or have been reading this blog for a while, then you know this: this was a huge development. See, my girl loves to hang onto things. She loves her stuff — all of it — and really if she could, she would keep all of it. She’s a sentimental girl, who is attached to all sorts of things, even pajamas. I remember one decluttering session years ago where she did everything in her power to convince me a way too small pair of p.j.’s still fit her just fine, even though they were way, way too small. So when this girl is ready to let things go, this momma is happy to jump on board, regardless of what was already on my to-do list.
My girl and I worked for hours in her room, clearing out all sorts of things…Barbies, baby dolls, Groovy Girls, and even dollar store treasures that were once completely off limits. We did put aside a few things for the keepsake box, but for the most part, things headed straight out the door. The next day was her first official day of spring break. She came down to my office where I was working and said “My room looks so empty.”
“Empty good or empty bad?” I asked. “Do you miss your stuff?”
“No, I don’t miss my stuff. It looks so nice and clean. I don’t know why I held onto that stuff for so long.” She answered.
And the Hallelujah chorus erupted!
Okay, that last part about the chorus didn’t really happen, at least not in my office, but it sure did in my head. This was a huge moment! Seriously. Huge. In fact, for over seven years I had been planting the seeds for this moment to happen. For the past seven years my daughter and I have decluttered her room several times a year. The progress was slow but steady. She always let things go, but she’s also always held on tightly to things. And she has always pushed the limits of her room’s true storage capacity.
Now I could have forced her to let more go over the years. But I’ve always maintained a long term focus, giving up a bit of order in her bedroom for the promise of giving her something greater—a sense of control and ownership in her surroundings. I believed that my role was to teach her how to let things go, and to make it safe to let things go, but also to make it safe to keep and honor the things that matter to her.
At times this was uncomfortable for me. At times I felt like her room didn’t look like I thought other people would think her room should look. I am a professional organizer, after all, so shouldn’t her room be, well, perfect? While I didn’t believe that, I did struggle with what I thought others might think. But in the end, I let what I thought was best for my child, both in the short term and the long term prevail, as uncomfortable as that was. My goal was that she knew how to organize and let things go, and that her room was functional for her—that she could find her clothes and shoes, and do her homework—but if it was a bit more visually cluttered than my personal preference, I let that be okay.
Here’s the thing. When getting organized, you have to be ready to let things go. This holds true for adults and for kids. My girl woke up one day last week ready. So ready in fact that she kept going on her room all on her own. In the space she cleared out by getting rid of the things that no longer mattered to her (dolls, etc.), she stored her furry friends (stuffed animals) which really matter to her a lot. She let go of books and papers and trinkets and treasures…all on her own. Is it perfect? No. But is it darn good? Oh yes it is. All those years of working slowly, remaining patient, and putting her in the driver seat of her room…finally paid off.
So for all you moms out there with kiddos who cling tightly to their things, my advice is this: know what your long term goals are for your kids. When it comes to decluttering and organizing, what do you want them to know how to do before they leave home? Then, maintain a long term perspective, and work move gradually in the direction of those goals. And know this, in time, you and your kiddos will get to where you want to be.
For more ideas on organizing with kids, check out these resources:
Related online workshop:
Organizing with Your Kids (on early bird sale through 4/19/12.)
Okay, Moms, I'd love to hear from you. When it comes to organizing with your kids, what's your biggest challenge? Thanks for sharing. :)