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Magic of Tidying Up
It’s one thing to get your home decluttered and organized, but what’s the magic to keep it that way? Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic spell to cast that will keep your house tidy. But through trial and error with my own family, I’ve found strategies to teach your family to keep your home organized.
Set the example
You’ve probably heard Gandhi quote, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” And while that’s usually attributed to loftier goals, the idea behind it applies even to home organization. You can’t expect your family to make changes to their behavior if you don’t change yours. You need to be the leader and be consistent with your actions.
Check out these tips for staying organized at home.
Teach Your Family to Keep Your Home Organized
Set ground rules, put them in writing and post them where everyone can see them. Have a conversation as a family to explain the new rules and expectations. Don’t be a dictator – getting their input will make them feel involved and more likely to actually make changes.
Use their personality to your advantage
Different personalities are motivated in different ways. Figuring out what drives each family member will help you come up with solutions that will work for each person.
My oldest son is super competitive so turning cleaning into a challenge can be an easy way to get the job done. I’ll say, “I bet you can’t complete your list in 15 minutes and it has to be done well.” Sometimes that’s all it takes to get him motivated. Although as he is moving into his teen years, this tactic isn’t quite as effective as it used to be.
I never thought of myself if competitive but I must have some in me because time challenges work really well for me too, although in a different way than my son. I’ve timed myself doing certain chores and on occasion I’ll use that to try to beat my time. And yes, it was a little game for me when I was first timing myself (maybe I need to find some hobbies). I’d think it probably takes 8 minutes to unload the dishwasher, but guess what? In reality, it takes about 3-4 minutes. I almost always thought the chore would take much longer than what it really does.
Timing each chore at least once to get a baseline is a really good motivator for me. There are plenty of times that I don’t want to do chores but then I think, it takes less than 5 minutes to unload the dishwasher. That’s not that big of a deal, I can do it.
Time challenges definitely aren’t for everyone, though. My oldest daughter has always moved through life at her own pace and that pace is never the fast lane. Time challenges put too much pressure on her, she gets anxious and then she either slows down or shuts down. She’s always been my most challenging child to figure out but I have found methods that work so keep reading for more tactics.
You have to be living under a rock to not have heard of rewards systems to motivate people. There’s a good reason it’s used in classrooms and workplaces – it works! The key is tailoring the reward system for the person’s age and personality. And no, rewards do not always have to mean spending money on stuff (think trips to the park, more time on an electronic, having a friend for a sleepover). Some people need more immediate gratifications, others can wait and save up for a bigger reward. And while reward charts are usually referencing kids, it works for adults, too! Just tweak the concept until it makes sense for your needs.
Becky at Your Modern Family has a super simple reward system. She created her system when her kids do something extra special but I think it’s also a great system if you’re just starting your kids out with chores or a new set of expectations. This is the easiest reward system I’ve seen, no charts to make or stickers to buy.
Most people need a visual reminder, especially when they are starting something new. There wouldn’t be a million to-do apps and lists if people didn’t need reminders.
This goes for keeping your house tidy and clean, too. Make a list for each person in the family of the expectations and individual chores. That way they have something to reference until it becomes a habit. Laminate the paper so then they can use a dry erase marker to check off their list daily or weekly.
I hate nagging (I mean who really likes it?). But again, people need to be reminded of stuff until it becomes a habit. Enter reminder signs. Post signs in large font reminding your family of what needs to get done. For example, I set stuff at bottom of the stairs of things that need to go upstairs on my next trip. But I don’t need to be the only person who does this. If someone goes up before me they can just as easily take it upstairs and put it away. No one ever does this though – even when it’s their stuff! So I posted a sign so everyone knows it’s expected that they do it.
These signs don’t need to be posted forever. Eventually, they will learn. And if something starts to get messy again, then just post the sign again. If it does take an extra long time for your family to catch on, then consider rotating the sign with different colors or fonts or even a slightly different location so they don’t go blind to it.
What’s a gratitude jar have to do with home organization? Sometimes being appreciated for your efforts is all it takes to motivate a person to do it again next time. I express gratitude when someone goes beyond expectations but not usually for everyday things. It took me a really long time to realize the benefit in remarking on the small things. I may say a quick thanks but that’s not nearly as meaningful as expressing your appreciation in writing.
A gratitude jar provides the opportunity to recognize a family member’s hard work, even for mundane tasks. And if your family gathers to read aloud each gratitude card placed in the jar that day or week, it can really make them feel proud to know what they are doing is noticed and praised, not just expected. While everyone in my family likes being recognized for what they do, my oldest daughter, in particular, has really responded to this.
Of course, gratitude jars are for way more than to just recognize a job well done. This little jar can really make a positive impact on your attitude by focusing on the good in your life. And by saving some of your favorites, it can be really uplifting to read when you are feeling down.
Ask for Help and Offer Options
People like choices, but not too many choices to become overwhelmed. By offering choices, your family members know the expectation is something is going to get done while also making them part of the decision.
When I first became diligent about keeping the house in order, I was handling a lot of the work to set the example. But that becomes old very fast and your family doesn’t always catch on that they should be helping out.
One night my husband was sitting on the couch as I was trying to clean up the kitchen. It was time to put my two youngest kids to bed but I knew if I stopped cleaning up then it wouldn’t get done. So I simply said, “Do you want to clean up the kitchen or put the kids to bed?” He didn’t mind doing something, he just didn’t think about it. While I always have a list (in writing or in my head) of what needs to get done around the house, he doesn’t. All I had to do was ask (nicely) and offer options.
What struggles does your family have with keeping your home tidy?