Kate Ibbotson, our guest blogger, is a Professional Organiser who owns A Tidy Mind in West Yorkshire, The Midlands and South London. As Mum to six year old twins, Henry and Eva, she knows better than most how critical it is to have an organised home.
Being a mum of 6 year old twins myself, I’m a realist – perfection is not the end goal here – but a chaotic home can have an impact. Did you know that research indicates that clutter and disorder increases stress levels for both parents AND children?
Here are my top tips for a calmer home and head with kids:
Often when working with families, I find children are being asked to tidy their rooms but they’re unsure about what that means. Younger children can get very frustrated & older children despondent. If your child’s bedroom is untidy, firstly make sure you’re modelling the behaviour you’re asking of them i.e. keeping your own spaces in order. And secondly offer to help them tidy & help them think of habits that will maintain their tidy space and an organised home.
From a young age, you can encourage children to take some responsibility for their spaces and help with achieving an organised home. Hard as it is, resist the urge to ‘do it for them’ but at the same time, try to give specific instructions e.g. to straighten the duvet and pillow on their bed when they get up each morning. It’s good to get into the habit of ‘tidying up time’ at the end of each day - they will do this at nursery and primary school anyway. Make it a team effort and fun by putting on music or setting a timer. And incentivise it – perhaps tidy up time has to happen before they receive a treat such as watching TV.
What counts as clutter is very individual to each child so watch your children closely as they play. What gives them pleasure and what frustrates them? Some may love their vast collection of Lego. Yes each and every piece! Others never touch it. Just because an older sibling played in a certain way, it doesn’t mean a younger one will. Don’t keep things because you somehow feel you should. It’s better to pass on the toy to a child for whom it WILL bring joy.
Unless they are very young, it’s best to involve them in any decluttering so you build trust and so that they learn how to do it! Get them to look at each and every toy and ask them whether they use it and love it. You may think they will say “yes” about everything but you might be surprised. Even if they refuse to let anything go at first, you will at least have planted the seed that ‘things’ are potentially fluid and they can come and go from our lives and help towards an organised home.
Encourage them to value experiences as well as things and make it the norm that ‘a present’ can be a cinema trip as well as a toy. Let them see you buy toys second hand and explain that you’re extending the life of it and supporting a charity or individual. Also, because you pay a fraction of the cost, you’ll feel less guilty if you pass things on again afterwards. Involve your child in the process of donating to charity and discuss why other children might need their toys. By encouraging them to pass their old toys on, you can empower them, make them feel good about themselves and send an important message: it’s is well documented that doing things for others makes us happier in the long term.
When it comes to toy storage, I find many people don’t have enough of it. Make sure toys are easy to put away (simple but large sliding drawers or boxes). You might want to separate into categories i.e. jigsaws, vehicles, dress up, instruments etc or just keep it simple and have a large chest for each child. Most families find it necessary to have toy storage in more than one place i.e. in a bedroom and living area so choose storage you like looking at and that goes with the rest of the décor.
It's good to follow these basic principles to create some level or order. But be prepared to embrace the chaos too - a home with children playing is never going to be minimal or tranquil!
Kate Ibbotson, our guest blogger, is a Professional Organiser who owns A Tidy Mind based in West Yorkshire, The Midlands and South London. You can find out all about Kate at A Tidy Mind and you will find her all over social media on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
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