This post is Part 2 in the series of 4. Remedy your home and family systems your kids use to create more sanity and tame their clutter!
What is a system? A system is a way of doing things. For kids – it’s easily described as a common routine, approach, or common way of working inside a home or family. Here are some great tips to make your systems really work for your kids.
Label, Label, Label… Did I mention… LABEL?
Kids need labels to see what they have. ALWAYS…. yes, ALWAYS label the home for each item. A great way to help young children stay organized is to use pictures as labels. This ensures they can properly identify a category or location.
When my kids were young, I elicited the help of my (then) toddler, to define the categories to fit the storage spaces. His categories included: creatures, vehicles, doll house, matchbox, lincoln logs, legos, animals, Playschool, and Rescue Heros to name a few. It was very helpful to have his words vs. mine. With proper labels created based on how kids think, toy categories will stick. Many kids organize how they use toys. Since each person organizes differently, it is a good idea to elicit your children’s help in the planning process!
Once categories are established, find cool and visually enticing ways to display labels. Your kids can cut out pictures or draw items on labels to help them remember. I used paint pens to label plastic bins with large categories and had fun creating a category icon for each label.
Select Useful Storage Solutions
After trying SEVERAL different organizing solutions for Legos and Knex, my kids decided the best way to store their tiny-pieced collections was to just group all like items together in one BIG BIN. All legos went into a clear tub with a double flip lid. Since I have Lego-lovers, these toys were our particular nemesis. However, this solution would work with any multi-pieced items.
Once in a bin they could dump and sort, or look for the pieces they needed, and build new sets accordingly. This solution was the one that worked out best for the way they enjoyed playing.
The other, more complicated solutions (storing like pieces together, or storage by playset in a gallon sized baggies) didn’t match the way my kids played… so they were very unlikely to put items away after use.
One of the largest systems affecting most families is how they handle the incoming paper. I recommend setting up a Paper Dispatch Center to help you speed up your decisions regarding the paper and mail that come in and go out routinely. A paper dispatch system should contain everything your family needs to quickly decide on incoming papers, and immediately know what to do next. You’ll need to keep some paper needs temporarily. This is why I have school folders, weekly agendas, sports or activity schedules in one place. Keep incoming paper organized and placed conveniently. That makes it easy to locate and update when the new information comes in.
No “kid”ding around… as soon as you have children, you realize that although they may come into the world with nothing – as soon as they are here, they begin collecting papers! Believe me, they’ll have papers. It first begins with their medical and birth records, religious records, then there will be family mementos, invitations, a baby book charting their “firsts”, gifts and items… and on, and on, and on.
To start, create a personal file up for each family member. Label a hanging file folder with the child’s name, and create sub-files (smaller manilla folders) with categories such as Medical, Birth, Personal, Achievements, School (add additional files by school grade). KEEP ONLY WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO REFERENCE IN THE FUTURE! This small effort will pay off big time when it comes time to pull these records and files in their future.
Function Over Form
This is a key organizing philosophy that is all about creating easy and simple systems. Sort items by ‘Function’ instead of by ‘form’. This means items should be grouped and located “functionally” – how they will be used.
For instance, if your children do homework at a kitchen table, st0re school supplies within easy reach. Create a caddy or storage location for these items nearest where they are used. This simple system increases the odds kids will return these items to their homes when finished using them.
Routines, Chores, Maintenance
The systems for kids are necessary to support your family are typically referred to as routines. Most families have common routines for bedtime, weekends, homework, maintenance, (chores)… these are all systems that help your family operate. Sit down with your family today and have a meeting to discuss and align your family routines if you are running harried and out of control. We use Sunday evening after dinner to share and write out our schedules for the week, fitting in chores and maintenance when we can.
I found a great erasable whiteboard monthly calendar. I use it differently. One family member gets one row (since there are 4 of us). I use the top row to plan our dinner menu. Weekly updates are simple and take place during our Sunday Sanity Summit (after dinner on Sunday evenings). This plan reduced chaos at home. The visual calendar helps us see the big picture and each person’s commitments.
Taming kids clutter is easy when you have working systems and a plan. If you’d like to look at your current level of “organizing health” these ideas will help tidy your family’s systems.