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Calling all parents: One of the best things you can do for your child is to teach them to stay organized. I know, as a parent myself, that it’s not easy, but I also know that it’s possible. If you teach your child how to stay organized from the time that they’re young – say, elementary school age – you will see that this training helps in many other areas of life, too. Kids who learn to organize their own rooms are better at holding onto their things (e.g., bringing their jacket home as opposed to leaving it at school), remembering events and times for activities and appointments, and managing their homework. Organization teaches kids the all-important life lesson: When taking on a task, look at the big picture and create a plan. In a moment, you’ll see what I mean.

The “Nothing On the Floor Rule”

This is the easiest and most clear-cut rule. There should never be any stray items left on the floor. The floor should always be clean. Items belong in containers, and there should be one large container for miscellaneous items that can be stored under the bed or in the closet. The logic: Having no mess is not realistic; having all messy things in one container is a workable compromise.

Organizing the contents of the child’s bedroom

If you are going to train your child how to get and stay organized, clear plastic containers will be your most important educational tool. Take your daughter’s room as an example. Have a separate container for dolls; doll clothes; hair accessories; brushes and combs; pictures; cards; paper; and so forth.

Sorting items with your child

My daughter is seven, and I still have to sit on the floor with her and sort items with her. We grab a stack of stuff from the table in her room, and we go one by one with each item. Example: “This is a birthday card, so make a pile for cards. These are drawings you made. Make a pile for art work. This is a barrette. Make a pile for hair accessories.” Teaching your child to sort items sounds like a trivial thing, but it actually teaches the child how to think and approach problems in a strategic way.

Organizing clothes by season and systematically checking to see what still fits

A few times each year, you have to go through all your child’s clothing items to make sure that the clothing is right for the season. For example, when winter approaches, pull out (from whichever container you keep them in) the winter items and have your child try them on to make sure they still fit. Again, this type of organizing with your child teaches your child about planning, and teaches the child that smart decisions are not made based on impulse or immediate gratification.

The overall benefits of organizing

A child who lives in an organized environment will feel more secure and less anxious than other children who live in a messy environment. Kids who learn to keep their rooms organized will also be more organized in managing their homework and sports activities as they get older. Ultimately, by teaching them organization since the time they are young, you are teaching them a skill that can last a lifetime.