Get Organized: Help for Moms

Whether you're the mother of an 18-year-old girl who refuses to pick her clothes off the floor, or a soon-to-be mom whose home is in disarray, you're in the right place. Zen Organizer Regina Leeds, leader of the Get Organized Community Challenge® answered questions from all types of mothers whose homes are in need of help. From teaching your kids how to respect their things (and yours), to learning how you can make time for yourself so you can clean out that closet once and for all (really!), Regina will show you how to take your life from chaos to control.

Training Preschoolers to Clean
Q: How do you suggest training preschoolers to respect the work you've done to keep the house organized? More importantly, how can you get them to contribute by helping out (rather than having tantrums) every time they are asked to pick up after themselves? --iVillager annie.graham

A: The first word that popped into my mind was "consequences" and the second was "rewards." Make it a game to help and enforce those consequences! I find that young children, like puppies, really long to have someone in control. If it isn't you, they will, like puppies, happily take over.

Organizing With a Small Baby
Q: I have a 10-month-old baby. How can parents with very young children keep up with organizing and the daily tasks of parenthood? --iVillager sday2me

A: You are in the most difficult situation of all! Under these circumstances -- and these alone -- I suggest working in shorter time spans because that's about all your children will allow. Do try to enlist help as I suggested above so that you can create the template for a calm home. It is such a nurturing experience for children to grow up in peaceful environments. Let that desire guide you. Don't think of getting organized as an addition to a long list of should's. Think of it as a precious gift you give yourself and your family. With that motivation, it will be easier.

Single Mom of Three Daughters
Q: I am a single mom of three girls (15, 12 and 11). I work all the time because of money issues and have trouble keeping up with the house. Is it totally unrealistic for me to hope to get my house clean and organized for good? I've always thought that I could do anything if I set my mind to it, but lately I just can't seem to muster the energy. Any thoughts? --iVillager grwing

A: Hands down, no questions asked -- all three girls should have had tasks to perform starting at two years of age with consequences if they did not do those tasks.

One day they will each be on their own -- how else can they begin to understand what it takes to maintain a household? Remember, you aren't punishing them if you ask them to take on tasks around the house, you are giving them the opportunity to develop a valuable skill: getting organized. Not to mention that you, my dear, deserve the help!

Be gentle in your approach; if your daughters are used to you being their maid, this shift isn't going to be a popular one! But necessity should win over popularity. And remember, kids always want to act grown up. Tell them you see how mature they are, and you realize it's time they assumed some of the responsibilities that accompanies being an adult.

Getting My Teenager to Pick Up Her Stuff
Q: How can I get an 18-year-old to want to pick up and clean up after herself? She just doesn't want to, and I hate to nag and get upset at her. --iVillager sante000

A: Well, this may be the way she has decided to rebel. I would tell her she needs to respect the common rooms shared by the entire family. If, at 18, she wants to live in a pigsty in her room, close the door and let her do so. She needs to see that the way she manages her room is synonymous with how her first apartment and home will look. In other words, if she wants to be treated like an adult she must act like one.

Here's the rub: Are you organized? You want to be sure you are setting the example.

Teaching the Invaluable Skill of Getting Organized
Q:What do you do about the person who messes up what you have just done after you've cleaned? It is very frustrating! --iVillager stress_2000

A: I presume you are speaking about a child or spouse. If it's a child you need to teach them to respect the work of others. I swear to you that I see very young children (even one who was two years old) who pick up after themselves! It's not easy, but what an invaluable skill to teach! When all the children are organized, the professional organizers will retire!

Single Mom With Two Boys
Q:When and how do you find time to organize if you're a single mom of two very active boys, work full-time, and care for a house? -- iVillager debs1999

A: It's not easy. Let's honor that first, okay? Quite often we get lost because we fail to realize that daily activities are actually helping us get to our goals. The area it sounds like you need the most help in is time management, which I cover in the second week of the Get Organized Community Challenge.

You can also make the Community Challenge last longer than six weeks if you need to stop and spend more time on an area that particularly challenges you. I want you to work at your own pace rather than rush ahead before you are ready. I hope to help you change the inner patterns that have directed you to establish the outer one you follow now.

Six Months Pregnant -- and Have Lots of Stuff!
Q: I'm six months pregnant, in nesting mode and spending tons of time at home cleaning out closets, etc. But I'm feeling really overwhelmed. I know I have to get organized before the baby comes. Where do I start? --iVillager Jenny

A: The two most important rooms in the house will be the baby's room and the kitchen. If nothing else gets done, at least the baby's immediate world will be in order.

Try to schedule your time before you give birth so that you do not overwhelm yourself with activities around the house. If possible, ask an experienced mom to come and help you make decisions about the new structure in the home. Moms always know the shortcuts. Why not take advantage?

When Your Family Creates Clutter
Q: My family creates the clutter for me! I can't win. No matter what I say or do, my family won't stop making messes for me to clean. I live with my husband, his brother, my three children ages four, seven and 11 and two dogs. Is there a way to keep my family in line? --iVillager fleureange

A: I would suggest two avenues of attack (no pun intended). The first one involves your need to address the cause at the root of this situation. You have two grown men who are capable of helping around the house and three children old enough for chores. Why are they all dependent on you? Can you look back and find the time when this situation was created? Understanding your part of this problem will empower you to change it. You may want to take the Get Organized Community Challenge for help.

We begin our organizing with lots of journal work. We also set out to create three positive habits. If you assume responsibility for three tasks around the house (my favorites include putting the keys in the same place, taking out the garbage every day, leaving no dirty dishes in the sink nor any clean ones on the drain board) and perform them with grace before you address your family, I'll bet they all notice.

Presuming that your family loves you, they will respond more positively if you ask for their help rather than assailing them with blame. Can you call a family meeting and calmly explain that you can no longer continue picking up after everyone? Have a list of chores handy. Make these things that will lighten your load and are age appropriate. Ask each person to assume responsibility for three things and then share what you have put on your plate. Be sure there are consequences for nonparticipation!

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