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?
When working with kids, ALWAYS…. yes, ALWAYS label the home for each item. You may want to create picture labels for younger children to ensure 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. The most important consideration when creating categories is to either understand how your kids think, or how they actually 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. You can work with your kids to cut out pictures or draw items to help them. I used paint pens to label plastic bins with large categories and had fun creating a category icon for each label.
Match Storage Solutions To How Items Are Used
After trying SEVERAL different organizing solutions for Legos and Knex (since I have boys, these were our particular nemesis – but this solution would work with any tiny, multi-pieced items as well), 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. This way, 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) just didn’t match the way my kids played… so they were very unlikely to put items away.
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. Some paper needs to be held temporarily (school folders, weekly agendas, sports or activity schedules), but should be 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 be ready (or to get in control, if the children are already with you) 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. Function over form means that items should be grouped and located “functionally” – or by how they will be used. If your children do homework at a kitchen table, be sure to keep their homework and school supplies within easy reach. Creating a caddy or storage location for these items nearest where they are used, will help simplify the system, and increase the odds that your kids will return these items to their homes when they are 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: each week is dedicated to one family member (there are 4 of us) and the top week is dedicated to our dinner menu. We updated it weekly, and this simple task has REALLY helped reduce the chaos at home because we all see the big picture even though each person is running his/her own way.
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” in your home and family systems, take the quizzes to assess your breakdowns! https://sanespaces.com/systems-dimension-quiz/