Organize the house

Organize the house

As kids head back to school and families try to return to regular routines, organizing the house for the fall is on many people's to-do list. Where to begin?

buttigieg-hellen-50x55.jpg Hellen Buttigieg

Buttigieg is a certified professional organizer, life coach, TV host, author and founder of We Organize U.

Kids and home organization

"It's crucial to get kids involved in organizing the house from a young age," says Buttigieg.

"They need to take some kind of ownership in order to motivate them to stick to the systems -- not to mention the life skills they will be learning and practising. Some children work best when mom or dad are helping them and others prefer to be shown (or given a list of chores) and then work independently. It's important to determine which of these two styles work best for your child."

Have a family meeting and assign chores based on what each child prefers doing, suggests Buttigieg. "Although no one gets excited about doing household chores, there are always some we prefer doing over others, and everyone is different."

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"Start now and do it in bite-sized chunks to avoid feeling overwhelmed," says Hellen Buttigieg, certified professional organizer, life coach and TV host.

"Schedule small blocks of time on the family calendar for specific tasks that will help everyone get organized for fall. A little advance planning will help parents and children feel less frazzled as we transition from the lazy days of summer to the structure of a new school year."

"Clutter is a big issue for families," says Buttigieg. "One of the best ways to manage this is to have designated, user-friendly 'homes' for those items that are always coming into the home, like school papers, mail and clothing."

Want to get started? Here are Buttigieg's top 10 tips to help organize your house for back to routine:


Create a family communication centre.

To create a command central post, choose a location in your home that is used regularly by family members, preferably near a phone. Put up a bulletin board to display messages and the family calendar. Transfer all the information you need about upcoming activities and events to a family calendar and then toss the original invitation or note. Not only will this cut down on paper clutter, you'll also have the information close at hand on the day you need it. This can include directions, times and things to bring.


End 'what to wear' battles.

A simple five-compartment sweater organizer for the closet can tame morning madness. Have your child choose his/her wardrobe in advance for the whole week and store each day's outfit, including socks and underwear, in one of the five cubbies. Some stores carry child-friendly sweater organizers made in bright colors with each cubby labelled with the day of the week.


School snacks made easy.

When bringing home cookies and other school snacks, immediately pre-package daily portions in small zippered plastic bags and keep them in a bin on a designated shelf. This saves time daily when packing school lunches and removes the temptation of snacking on these items at home.


Routines make life easier.

The fall is an ideal time to establish family routines that will make life run smoother. To make sure everyone is clear on expectations, post a schedule indicating regular times for repetitive tasks, i.e. homework, picking up toys, bath time and bedtime. For auditory learners, consider recording a tape of their daily schedule. Be consistent and firm, keeping in mind that it takes about one month for routines to become part of daily life.


Say goodbye to morning TV and finally get to school on time.

Watching TV while getting ready for school is a distraction which can slow down the entire family. If getting out the door on time is a struggle, consider listening to music in the mornings instead.


Use alarms and timers.

We can all lose track of time. In the morning or before important appointments, set a timer or an alarm to signal a 10-minute warning so you and the kids can get out the door in time without feeling frazzled.


Why waste time filling out forms?

Every time kids go on a field trip, their parents are asked to fill out a permission slip and emergency medical form for each child. Doctors, dentist and emergency contact addresses and phone numbers have to be looked up and transferred onto the forms, which can be time-consuming. Save time by doing it once — and photocopy several to have on hand when you need them.


Is your family over-scheduled?

If you feel you're spending too much time driving your children all over the city for their extracurricular activities, consider limiting each child to only one after-school activity at a time. If you choose to have them involved in more activities, consider carpooling or hiring a university student or retiree to do the dropping off and picking up. Another option is to encourage activities where the teacher will come to your home, i.e. piano or guitar lessons.


Keep track of school papers easily.

Start the school year off right by purchasing a file box for each child to store all the multitude of school papers that would otherwise end up cluttering your kitchen counter. These usually come with hanging folders ,which can be labelled by subject. This acts as a temporary home for exams, assignments and notes that will be referred back to throughout the year (or semester). At the end of the year, they can be tossed to make space for the following year.


Create a homework centre.

Create a study space conducive to doing homework. Find a location away from the TV. Some children like to do their homework in a central location like the kitchen, where mom and dad can help. Designate a cupboard or basket for homework supplies and stock it with scissors, glue, pencils, pens, paper and any other items your child will require on a daily basis. For those who prefer to do homework away from any interruptions, make sure there is a comfortable desk surface, adequate lighting and comfortable seating in addition to homework supplies. Get the kids involved in picking out colourful containers for their space to give them feeling of ownership. They'll be more likely to keep their space tidy.

» More: Organize the kitchen

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