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5 Ways to raise organized kids

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Raise clean and organized kids

When the urge to purge the excess "stuff" of your life hits, best to act. Clean it out, clear it up, make a fresh start. Kids, though, can be hard to engage in this sort of decluttering. The effort is often punctuated with, "Not my rattle! It's special to me!" Even though it hasn't been used in years and years.

Girl helping pack

But rather than doing the clean out when kids are out of the house, there are ways to get them to help. It still may not be as easy as just doing it yourself, but engaging them in the clean out can help them understand what it means to keep a house clean and organized - and that they really don't "need" that much stuff.

Communicate

First, talk to your kids about what you are going to clean out and why. If the playroom has gotten too cluttered, there's no place for new toys from the holiday, and it's time to clear out stuff they've outgrown, communicate that. Discuss how you'll deal with things you decide to part with - whether a future yard sale, giving things to a younger cousin or to a charitable organization, recycling, or simply throwing away broken stuff.

Specials

Inevitably, there will be items in the clean out that your child will not want to part with. You can help manage this urge by designated a small box for super special items. Tell your child that if there are things she wants to keep they must fit within the small box. If the box gets too full, then she has to make some further decisions. This helps kids prioritize those "special" things.

Keep jobs small and appropriate

Saying, "Clean out the toy room," is too monumental a task for a child, but, "Sort through this toy bucket, and put things in piles for recycling, giving to your cousin, and things to keep," is a little more manageable.  You may still have to help a bit, but it's far more understandable and less daunting to divide the bigger task into lots of smaller ones.

Take breaks

Kids' levels of endurance for this sort of thing is much lower than our own. After every few small tasks, take a short break, and have a cookie or something before getting back to it. The shorter time spans - not to mention the cookie reward ! - can help keep the bigger goal on track.

Praise and thanks

No matter how long the cleaning out takes and how much or little your child does to help, thank them for their specific contribution and encourage the helpful behavior for the future. Clean outs might take a bit longer now, but it still adds up to the bigger job. Getting your kids' cooperation for such very necessary tasks is a great thing - for now and for the future.

Does a parenting dilemma have you baffled? Whether it is a potty training question or a teen with a major attitude, our parenting expert will help answer your toughest questions.

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