Parents often feel overwhelmed, frustrated and guilty as they guide their children through the stages of childhood. For most parents, cooking, cleaning, carpooling, grocery shopping, bath time, bedtime, and potty training are on the shortlist of what they are responsible for daily. It can feel like the tasks keep mounting up and there are no parenting tools to help keep up.
Chores can preclude important parenting responsibilities like teaching children about good behavior and manners, playing games as a family, or just sitting back and enjoying some peace and quiet together. Clutter and disorganization can heighten the strain that many parents already experience raising children.
Good organization is a parenting aid that leads to a more manageable life and more time to interact with the children. Maintaining a well organized life helps in parenting with less frustration and stress. Taking time out to keep the home clutter free and running smoothly does wonders in reducing parental stress.
Following are ten tips to increase peace, quiet, and free time in your home:
1. Pick-up, toss and donate. Place an attractive large basket with handles in a central location. Designate a separate bin, basket or container for each family member marked with his or her name. Keep the bins accessible, for instance on the stairs leading up to bedrooms or lined up in the hall near bedrooms.
Every evening before bedtime walk through the house with the handled basket and pick up everything left on the floor, on counters or draped over furniture.
Transfer the salvaged items from the handled basket into the owner’s bin. Make a rule that bins must be emptied before bed or the bin owner will lose a privilege. You can go even further and say that items left in their bins overnight will be donated to those in need. Be insistent and consistent about children putting away their things and disciplining appropriately for leaving items in their bins. Being responsible for one’s belongings and helping to maintain a clean environment is a very important behavioral lesson that teaches children respect for home and family.
2. Make sure that everything has a place. It is impossible for children to put their belongings away if there is no designated location. Make sure that there are plenty of shelves for books, drawers for clothes, bins for toys, hooks for bags, bathrobes, coats and hats. Putting things away should not be random; sometimes it goes here, sometimes it goes there. Everything needs a permanent home; board games always go in the closet, socks in the upper right hand drawer.
3. Set up hooks for coats and a bowl for keys. Inside the door where the family comes and goes, hang a labeled individual hook for each family member where he/she can hang a coat and backpack. A wonderful addition to the hook is a cubby placed underneath the hook for hats, mittens, lunchbox etc.
Place keys, sunglasses and cell phones in an attractive bowl close to the regularly used door and be sure to get in the habit of throwing all items into that bowl. Not searching around the house looking for the keys will save a lot of time and energy and reduce parental stress.
4. Save one and toss the rest. Children bring a lot of paperwork home from school. It is impossible to save and store it all. Choose a small representation of what the child is doing in school and toss the rest. A thin well labeled spiral ring notebook with plastic sleeves works nicely for storing a small sampling of the child’s hard work. An alternative to the notebook, is to scan the pages into the computer and keep a CD of the child’s school year.
Really wonderful pieces can be brought immediately to a great frame shop to be framed and later displayed in a prominent spot in the home. One expertly matted and framed piece of artwork honors a child’s hard work far better than keeping a stack of papers hidden away and yellowing in a musty box or drawer.
5. Do one load a day. Wash, dry, fold, and put away one load of laundry a day. As soon as a day is missed, the laundry starts to pile up and the work becomes overwhelming. Teach children how to sort their own laundry and put into appropriate laundry baskets. Get children into the habit early of picking up their clothes. Teach the children how to put away their own clothes in the appropriate place.
6. Hang up a shoe tree. Hang a shoe tree on the back of the door that the family uses most frequently. Parents should insist that everyone hang their shoes as soon as they take them off. This eliminates the line of shoes scattered across the house and makes shoes easy to find as the family is scrambling to get out of the door. If the kids don’t hang their shoes, they lose the shoes or a privilege. Remind children consistently and the kids will begin to hang their shoes automatically.
7. Keep the bathrooms tidy. Wipe down the bathrooms daily or the mess can become daunting; at a minimum put clothes in the hamper and hang wet towels. If the sinks, toilets, tubs and mirrors are quickly wiped clean daily there is less need for a massive and exhaustive cleaning. Make sure that the children have their own towel racks to hang wet towels on and hampers in the bathroom. If there aren’t enough towel racks the towels will end up being thrown on the floor and can’t be reused. Wet towels on the floor lead to extra laundry.
8. Sort the mail. Sort the mail daily and immediately throw away all junk mail. Open the bills, remove the actual bill and return envelope, and throw away everything unnecessary remaining in the bill envelope. Place all bills in a folder marked “Bills to be Paid” and keep the folder next to the computer and/or checkbook. Keep a roll of stamps, plain white envelopes, a pen and a wastebasket within reach. Pay the bills on the same day every month.
9. Dispose of broken, empty and out of date items. Out of order telephones, obsolete computers and electronics, toys missing pieces, unused or out-of-date cosmetics, broken appliances etc. all need to be thrown away. Sometimes these items are stored in the hope of finding, fixing, mending, combining or selling. Often what happens is the useless item ends up gathering dust and taking up precious space. Throw away the unsalvageable and donate the salvageable. Take one Saturday every two or three months and go through the closets, drawers, attic, basement and garage and collect the unused items and get rid of them.
10. Use a large calendar to reduce stress. Posting a large dry erase calendar in a central location allows parents and children alike to know what is coming up that day, week and month. The calendar should have everything posted so there are no surprises. Set a good example and be on time to appointments, school, events etc. Teach children that being even five minutes late is disrespectful to those who are waiting. Tardiness adds to anxiety and stress so being on time will help to calm down the household.
None of the above habits are difficult to implement, and each one on its own will help make the job of parenting more manageable. You don’t need to put everything in place at one time. Consider making one change every week. That way, within three months you will enjoy more control, free time to devote to children, and peace and quiet.