how to teach your child to get organised home and decor

Your kid has the habit of leaving her things scattered around, and her room (and the house) is always in a mess.

You try to teach her to be more organised, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Appealing to common sense doesn’t work at all, and using threats and bribes works for a while, before you’re back to square one and a messy home.

Nathalie Ricaud, a professional organiser who founded Get Organised & Beyond – she’s a mum, too – shares the top mistakes parents make when they teach organisation skills to children.

marie kondo for children

Mistake #1: Starting without a valid reason from your kid’s perspective

Telling a child “you must get organised” is not going to work even if you come up with very valid reasons to do so.

She might agree to do something about the clutter or her lack of punctuality, if you’re lucky, but without personal motivation, it’ll be difficult for her to get going.

Do this instead

Have a discussion with your child and adopt a non-judgemental attitude. Help her develop awareness of what her disorganisation is costing her.

Look for a point of leverage – what would be the value for her in getting organised.

For instance, getting an 11-year-old to be on time for her morning school bus pick-up was achieved by carving 5 minutes out in her morning routine for her to style her hair – something she was desperate to do – once she had shown that she could consistently be on time for three weeks.


Mistake #2: Organising for your child

Organising is about establishing processes and systems that are going to work for the individual based on her needs, habits and preferences.

Imposing your ways onto others, including your children, is unlikely to work in the long term because they might not suit them or they might just resist them.

Do this instead

Involve your child in the organising process and help her build a system that takes her preferences into consideration.

For instance, getting a 10-year-old boy to put his dirty clothes in the laundry basket involved moving the laundry basket from the bathroom where his mum had placed it to his bedroom, where he was getting undressed.

Mistake #3: Letting your child organise herself

At the opposite end of the spectrum, some parents just expect their child to solve the problem on her own. But wouldn’t she have already solved the problem had she had the skills?

Do this instead

Volunteer your help to your child, but make sure to respect her decisions.

If organising is not one of your strengths or if you feel you may lack patience or detachment, you may want to seek the help of a professional organiser who is sensitive to your family’s situation.

organisation tips for children home and decor

Mistake #4: Jumping to your child’s rescue as soon as she fails

Nathalie confeses that it’s difficult for her to see a bag of dirty soccer clothes left unattended. She has to resist the urge to pick it up and deal with it. But if she does, her son will very quickly delegate this responsibility to her.

“It’s the same with being mindful of the time in the morning for the school bus pick-up. If I keep reminding him of the time, he will just rely on me even if he doesn’t like to be reminded,” she says.

Do this instead

Give them a chance to learn from their mistakes by bearing the consequences of their actions and decisions. Make sure the rest of your household, including your domestic helper, acts accordingly.

As renowned advice columnist Ann Landers put it: “It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.”


Mistake #5: Expecting perfection

If you expect perfection from your kid, it might stop her all together if she believes she cannot live up to your expectations.

It’s also unrealistic to expect changes overnight. As in many other areas, it does take practice to find a system that’s going to work for her and it takes about four weeks for a new habit to kick in.

Do this instead

Don’t try to change things all at once, but start small. Focus on the progress they’re making. Reward them appropriately when they’ve achieved a milestone.

It’s certainly not easy to get a child’s cooperation when it comes to getting organised, especially if you don’t take into consideration her own needs and quickly jump to her rescue.

So, be patient and celebrate small successes when they happen and build onto them.

This article was first published on Young Parents.