One of my favorite achievements as a Professional Organizer is when kids see their freshly organized space for the first time. Whether it's in their bedroom, playroom, or another area in the house, their reaction is almost always a precious testimonial to the power of organization. They notice the organization, feel the shift in the space and appreciate the work that was done to get there. So, if kids notice the change once a space is organized, does that mean they pick up on your clutter habits? The answer is absolutely.
Kids are affected by clutter the same way adults are. Clutter increases stress, lowers the ability to focus and makes it hard to make decisions about what to wear, play with, or eat. If a child sees their parents leaving stuff out on the counter for days, weeks or months they can see that putting things away is not important to their parent and therefore why should they put away their things? If they see paperwork piled up and dishes on the counter, it’s sending them the message that their toys and clothes on the floor isn’t an issue and can often be confused when parents erupt in frustration over a messy room. Why is their clutter an issue but their parent’s clutter isn’t?
Children are expected to put things away at school. I’ve seen kids as young as two years old in a Montessori classroom pick up after themselves without being prompted. The expectation is clear; pick up is a part of play. When given the right prompts and patience, kids can put away their belongings. It’s just like eating vegetables, if they don’t see their parents doing it why would they want to? Something key to changing clutter habits is seeing organizing as part of self-care and respect. If a child wants to keep an item then the expectation should be that they take care of that item with respect for it, the money it took to purchase it and out of respect for themselves. If they’re expected to brush their teeth before bedtime then part of that should be putting away the toothbrush and toothpaste as part of their self-care. If they don’t see their parents putting away their toothbrush and toothpaste why would they?
Something else that children pick up on is when a parent struggles to let go of unused and unwanted things. Learning to let go of clutter and donating gently used items can help a child learn not only to declutter but also to help others by donating to a good cause. Seeing a parent do this with ease makes an impact on children that will last a lifetime. Sometimes growing up in a cluttered home can make it hard for children to declutter as adults. They develop a fear of letting things go because of a “what if” scenario they learned as children. What if I need it later? What if I remember what this piece of plastic is for? What if I regret getting rid of it? Teaching children how to make good and honest decisions about what to keep and get rid of will help them for the rest of their lives. Learning to let go healthily at a young age will help them stay organized in the future. It is a gift that lasts a lifetime.
So if you’re struggling to find the motivation to get organized for yourself (which is the best reason) think about your kiddos. Are they living in a cluttered environment? Is their sleep being affected by the chaos in their room? Are they often bored in an overflowing playroom? They are a great reason to get and stay organized. They are watching your every move and learning from you every day. Do you want them to live controlled by stuff or by the freedom organizing brings? See their faces light up in an organized space. I’ve seen it countless times now and I know that the power of organizing is not lost on the little ones, the pre-teens or the teens. They feel the difference and notice the change just as much as the adults. It’s worth doing it for them.
Cheers to good decluttering habits!
Helping feed your urge to purge clutter from your life!
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