Helping Children to Organize

Do you wish your child would pick up after themselves? Is your child a collector of sorts and cannot let anything go? Would you like to help your children to be more organized? I don’t have any young children living in my home but I did at one time.  I do have grandchildren visiting from time to time and I do expect them to clean up after themselves, make the bed for the next sleepover, pack up their clothes, etc. etc. Children need these kind of guidelines or boundaries and I believe they learn respect when they know what is expected of them. Our grands love to come over for Gramma time (x2) and a sleepover.

What if your child is a Collector (of stones, feathers, shells, treasures, etc.)

If you have a child like this, perhaps you could help them to have a way to display their items.  If they start to get too much, help them to be able to make decisions about which ones to let go of.  Always reward them for not bringing something home and/or for discarding items.

What if your child loves everything?  

Ask your child to pick out a number of items (say 10) that they love.  Next ask them to rate each of the items on a scale of 1 – 10 as to how much they love the item and how much they need or want the item.  Ask them if they are able to let go of their least favourite item.  If they are having trouble with this and think they cannot let go of this or any item, suggest that someone (maybe you) hold on to it for them for a week. They will think they can’t do it but they can. At the end of the week ask them how they are feeling, if they have actually missed the item and if they are now willing to let go of the item. Praise them if they can follow through.  

What if your child has a hard time with making decisions?  

This is very common with adults as well.  Feeling comfortable with making decisions has to do with self esteem, knowing who you are and what you want and trusting your intuition.  It takes time and practice.  When it comes to young children, I suggest offering them a choice whenever possible.  For example; “do you want to wear the pink pyjamas or the blue pyjamas tonight?” 

What if your child likes to acquire things?  

Teach your children that there is a difference between Need and Want.  Ask them questions such as “do you have room for that?”, “where will you put it”, “how will you use it?”  Make a deal with your child.  If you really believe you “need” it, then you have to make room by getting rid of something else.  Limiting items might be helpful, explaining to children that there is only so much space so this is what we will allow in this space.  

What if your child does not want to clean up?  

As a busy parent, I really get it.  It can really feel easier and quicker to do it yourself.  However, you will want to have patience and take the time to show and help your child to put their toys and things away. Everything needs to have a home and keep like with like.  This will make things easier for you and your child. This will help your child to see what he has and to help him to have respect for his belongings. Don’t forget that you are your child’s role model. They learn from you.  

What if your child doesn’t want to let go of anything? 

Generally, I do not think it is a good idea to get rid of children’s belongings (or anyone’s for that matter) without their permission.  Especially for children eight years and older.  If they figure out that their belongings have been discarded, this can be traumatic for them and likely they will hang onto their items even tighter.  If your child is pretty adamant that they cannot discard anything it may be time to get some outside help.  There are ways to help children and the earlier this can be addressed the better.  

Some of the therapies would be things like Exposure Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Mental Health Treatment for OCD, Anxiety, Trauma, etc.  Dialectical Behavioural Therapy.  There is a really good resource below if you need more support.  

Children need to be encouraged to follow their passions no matter what they are. Never shame or blame your child.  Honour their choices.  Parenting is the hardest job we will ever have. Kudos to all the parents out there who are doing the best everyday. Please let me know if you have found this post to be helpful. Happy Decluttering!

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About Kim

I’m Kim, your go-to Professional Organizer and Virtual Coach! I’m beyond excited to embark on this clutter-free adventure with you. With a background in mental health and a passion for transforming spaces, I bring a holistic approach to decluttering. It’s not just about neatening up physical spaces; it’s about fostering a mindset shift that radiates throughout your life. I founded Space For You Clear the Clutter, Heal Your Life and have been working with individuals and groups for about 15 years. I've also trained with Professional Organizers of Canada and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization.
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8 Responses to Helping Children to Organize

  1. Kim, as a mother, grandmother and Clutter & Hoarding Specialist, you are definitely qualified to offer this advice. I love the way you’ve broken down your tips into specific problem areas, and the video series is a great find!

  2. Karen says:

    This advice is so valuable and important. As parents we are teaching our kids a skill and the skill or organization will help them in the long run. Thank you for all the resources provided too.

  3. “Start as early as you can!” I always say. But, there’s no time like the present to teach a child how to organize–regardless of their age. Letting kids make easy decisions (like pajama color in your example) will help build their decision-making muscles. Teaching them to create ‘homes’ and categories for their toys will make clean up time easier and encourage critical thinking skills. Great post!

    • Kim says:

      Hi Stacey,
      Yes, I totally agree. We need to be teaching our kids how to make decisions and how to organize their belongings including letting go of items no longer needed or appreciated. It can be easier to do it for them but better for them in the long run to learn these skills themselves. Thank you

  4. Children are like adults in that organizing and decluttering is easy for some, very difficult for others. I’ve worked with children a number of times, and even those who struggle with the process are so delighted when it is over. It is about letting them know that you aren’t trying to throw away all of their stuff. Some kids are natural “collectors,” (I had one of these!) Here I like your idea about displaying, although sometimes they like having a box of secret treasures. The important thing is to place a limit on how many collections a child can have! Wonderful and very helpful post:)

    • Kim says:

      Hi Seana,
      So often children and/or adults are so worried we will be telling them what to throw away or that we would throw their items out. I love your point about how it is more difficult for some kids. I love working with kids. Thank you so much for your comment.

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