What comes to mind when you hear the word, “organize”? Does it create an intense amount of anxiety that makes your head spin? Or maybe you are on the other side of the spectrum, where you are filled with overwhelming excitement at the mere thought of the word? Regardless of which side of the spectrum you fall on, we can all agree that we have room to improve the organizational skills in every area of our lives. So where do we start? I think the best starting place is to define the word “organize.”
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines it this way: “To form into a coherent unity or functioning whole.” I think understanding this definition is monumental in grasping what “being organized” really means. There are so many areas I could go into as I expound on this definition but I want to focus our attention on one primary area: organizing our children/family. Here are three suggestions that might help you as you strive to organize in this area.
1. Don’t give up. Keep trying.
We all function differently. We all have different standards by which we measure things. We all operate at different speeds and different levels. With this in mind, I cannot say, “This is how you should organize your family; this is the right and only way to do it,” and expect it to work perfectly for you. (This is where understanding the definition is crucial.) What makes sense to you or is coherent to you, may not make sense to me or work for me.
But, if you can create some sense of unity and organization in the way your home is run that makes sense to you, then draw it up as your game plan. Run with it until it doesn’t work anymore. Then, try a new approach until you can find another plan that brings coherent unity to your family. Here’s an example with my family: My children are expected to do chores around the house. Now, does it happen with great ease and no conflict? No! But I know that I must have a game plan and for my plan to create unity, it must make sense to me AND to them.
We are a team, and an unorganized team usually loses, right? The reason they usually loose is because everyone has a different idea of what their job and responsibility is. They run around bumping into each other or going in different directions because there is not a coherent plan to unify them. So, when I make a plan for chores to be done, I make sure everyone knows their role and what is required of them to complete the task. To help my older children understand their jobs, I might create a list of tasks that are to be checked off when completed. For my younger children, I might walk with them around a room, coaching them step by step in what needs to be done. Whatever your goal is for organizing your family, just remember to keep at it. Keep trying until it clicks, makes sense, and brings unification.
2. Designate! Designate! Designate!
The second part of Webster’s definition refers to organizing as a “functioning whole.” We understand that a whole is something that has no pieces missing. But, in our house, there seems to be pieces missing often. Our children make us want to pull our hair out sometimes because they cannot find a shoe, a certain piece of clothing, or a favorite toy. You would think that little elves live in their rooms and come out at night just to hide things! The atmosphere created by continually looking for “missing things” causes us to be a team with scattered pieces, not a functional whole. How can we help them to keep their shoes, clothes, and toys organized so that they can contribute to a “functioning whole” mentality?
One thing we can do to alleviate any question or excuses they may have, is to designate a place or “home” for EVERYTHING. Show them where things go. Walk around the house and verbally and physically share with them where shoes go, where toys go, where their clothes go. Make it as easy on them as you can, and, when possible, group similar items together. If needed, use labels to remind them where things go until they remember on their own. If they can learn where things go and are given proper coaching, your family will begin to operate in a “functioning whole” kind of way. It won’t make things perfect but it will help things run smoother.
3. See the big picture.
Let’s revisit the idea that your family is a team: Compare your family team to a basketball team. Let’s say the coach tells the players to go out on the court and play, without any further instruction. There is no unity in their purpose, no end goal in sight. They don’t have a game plan, nor do they have any motivation behind what they are doing. The error in this scenario is a coaching error. The coach must take responsibility for his team. He must teach them the rules of the game, the importance of their individual roles, and he must assess the strengths and weaknesses of each player to maximize their potential.
These elements of coaching are what make a good team, a winning team. Our family teams can be like that. We may tell them to put away their clothes and they just see it as a meaningless task. But, what if we, as their coach, gave them a “bigger picture” motivation? What if we explained to them that, by putting away their clothes they now know exactly where everything is and when it is time to get dressed, go somewhere, or cleanup, they help their team win by creating a less stressful environment that saves time and promotes timeliness? Helping our “players” see their role and how they affect the family team as a whole will hopefully help them to stay more organized as they strive for the big picture goal you have set.
We all want to feel important and know that our specific job matters. One thing we try to teach our children is that what they do effects everyone around them and that it is important to work together with the same goal in mind.
With these three things, I challenge you in your efforts of keeping your family organized by trying the following “gameplans.” Seek wisdom and strength from God (who understands and created order) as you try to bring order to your family. Then, evaluate whether you have a designated place for everything, and if you have a clear, coherent plan to bring organized unity to your family.
I want to encourage you to not loose heart when it gets hard, because it will be hard, but you can do it! Don’t let failure get you down, just keep trying and trying and trying until something makes sense for everyone on your “team.” Last, find a support system of other “coaches” to help you along the way, encourage one another, and share ideas. Remember, there is strength in unity!