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     Book Review: How To Organize Your Kid's Room

Keeping your kid's room in order can seem like an insurmountable task. You put things away, and they just end up in a pile on the floor again. You set up SYSTEMS, and they become unused over time. You create a neat environment, and it just gets torn apart. You could spend your life cleaning, straightening, and tidying your child's room -- and never see any improvement. What is a parent to do?

The hard part for most parents is understanding that there is a difference between "neat" and "organized." Many people just want to be able to walk through the house without stepping on Barbie shoes, toy soldiers, and library books. But your children do not learn valuable organizing skills when you simply straighten their rooms for them. The trick to helping your kids get organized is to INVOLVE them in the process -- organizing WITH them rather than FOR them. This means working together, explaining the logic behind the systems you set up, and letting your kids have a hand in deciding where things should be stored. 

But, creating an orderly environment with your children is easier than ever -- thanks to Susan Isaacs's wonderful book entitled "How To Organize Your Kid's Room". She suggests that parents must look at kids' rooms in a new way -- one that matches their schedules, activities, and LIFESTYLES. Kids have more "stuff" than ever before, they play inside more than out, most have their own rooms, few have a stay-at-home parent, and they all live very fast-paced lives. It's important that you take these SOCIETAL FACTORS into account when designing the right systems for your kid's room. And Susan Isaacs can show you how -- it's like having your own personal "kid-friendly" Professional Organizer at your disposal!

The first step to creating an organized environment for your child is understanding his or her NEEDS. Organizing is a very personal activity -- and if any system is going to work (for a child or an adult), it must be CUSTOMIZED. Children can learn to be organized, as long as the methods and materials suit their personalities and abilities. Susan Isaacs suggests asking the following questions about your child's habits before beginning:
    What activities does he currently enjoy? What is he losing interest in?

    Starting / finishing a school year? Moving away from toys? Toward adult activities?

    Introverted? Extroverted? Laid-back? Tense? Easy-to-please? Difficult?

    Lots of activities? Not much free-time? School? Extra-curricular activities?

    Can he open drawers? Reach the closet rod? Read? Understand categorizing?

    Lots of friends over to visit? More time visiting friends? Socially active? Loner?

    Throwing clothes on the floor? Picking up before bed? Collecting Beanie Babies?

    Spend less time cleaning? Have a big space to play? Be able to reach everything?
As Susan points out, once you identify your child's behaviors, attitudes, habits, and way of maneuvering through the world, you are more likely to create systems that "synch" with these behaviors -- and more likely to make lasting organizational CHANGES with your child. 

One constant in organizing kids' rooms is the creation of CENTERS -- setting up distinct areas within a child's space for each kind of daily activity. If you've ever sent your child to a Montessori school, you will recognize this concept as a great way to teach kids how to CATEGORIZE objects, supplies, and activities. And this ability is the basis for developing good organizing skills later in life, as an adult. 

Susan suggests breaking your child's room into four areas.
  • The GROOMING area would be centered near the closet and contain the dresser, a hamper, and any additional grooming supplies (hairbrush, accessories, etc.)

  • The PLAY area might contain games, active toys, and a large floor space or table space to spread out.

  • Your child's REST area should be free from "stimulating" activities (busy or noisy games, the TV, etc.) You might want to put bedtime story books on the nightstand and a soft light nearby -- whatever your child associates with relaxing and winding down for the night.

  • The WORK area will contain a desk or table, office and art supplies, a good light, and perhaps a bookshelf or computer (as you see fit). You might also decide to set up other more specialized centers for your child as you see fit -- a "reading" center (with a lamp, bookshelf, and a comfy chair), a "dress-up" center (with costumes and props and a big mirror), or an "art" center (with crayons, paper, paint, clay, and a big drop-cloth for making a mess!)

The final task in helping your child create develop good organizing skills is understanding his or her ABILITIES and SKILL LEVEL. Nothing frustrates a child more than being given a task or responsibility that is beyond what he or she can handle -- intellectually, emotionally, or physically. Susan Isaacs points out that you must design your systems that take your child's size, strength, and mental faculties into account if you ever hope for your organizing efforts to succeed. 

And she illustrates her point beautifully with proven and appropriate organizing methods for each age group:
  • TODDLERS (age 1-3) operate according to the belief that out of sight equals out of mind -- so you must use open containers and exposed shelving if you expect them to put things away where they belong.

  • PRESCHOOL (age 3-5) kids are ready to start dressing themselves, but have a hard time manipulating drawers and reaching high closet rods -- so low rods and open crates are best for them.

  • SCHOOL-AGE (6-11) kids know how to read -- so labeling shelves and containers is a good method for making sure their belongings end up back in the proper home.

  • ADOLESCENTS (age 11-17) can be made responsible for more complex organizing jobs -- like cleaning out their closets and deciding which clothes / toys / books to donate to charity.
By customizing your organizing efforts to your child's developmental level, you are one step closer to success!


Copyright 2000-2009 Ramona Creel -- you are welcome to reprint any article, but you MUST include this resource box.

"Ramona Creel is a modern Renaissance woman and guru of simplicity -- traveling the country as a full-time RVer, sharing her story of radically downsizing, and inspiring others to regain control of their own lives. As a Professional Organizer and Accountability Coach, Ramona will help you create the time and space to focus on your true priorities -- clearing away the clutter other obstacles and standing in the way of that life you've always wanted to be living. As a Professional Photographer, Ramona captures powerful images of places and people as she travels. And as a travel writer, social commentator, and blogger, she shares her experiences and insights about the world as we know it. You can see all these sides of Ramona -- read her articles, browse through her photographs, and even hire her to help get your life in order -- at www.RamonaCreel.com. And be sure to follow her on Twitter and on Facebook."

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