A Guest Post by Sarah Chardo
Do you live with a pack of wild animals? Are you tired of being the only one decluttering and organizing your home? Do you feel alone on your island, floating in a sea of clutter and chaos? Have no fear. Here are five ways to whip your family into shape.
1) Remove yourself from the equation.
Lead by example. Are you certain that all of your personal baggage is decluttered, organized, and put away properly? Do you dump your coat on the chair and kick off your shoes in the living room like the rest of the slobs you live with, because you don’t see the point? Do you have boxes in the attic filled with dusty momentos your mom gave you when you moved out, fifteen years ago?
If so, take the time to change your own habits. Get excited about getting organized. Do your best to move around the mess of other people and worry about your own personal piles.
Once you’ve settled your own affairs, not only will you be emotionally unburdened from your baggage, but you’ll be able to support your family through their setbacks as well.
You can arm yourself with knowledge and tricks, and pinpoint where it is your family needs the most assistance. But you can’t do this while you’re still digging out your ill-fitting band t-shirts from 1992.
2) Adjust your expectations.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. You can’t expect your spouse to give up their beloved baseball collection at the drop of a hat because you want to clean out the garage this afternoon.
If you ask other people to part with their treasures before they are fully ready, they will resent your nagging and you will find yourself frustrated and the tasks incomplete.
Start with the easy stuff. Ask your spouse if they can please tackle the junk drawer in the kitchen. Ask your kids to bring you all the pants they won’t be caught dead wearing to school. Ask your cat to fetch all the random bottle caps and bread tabs they stashed under the couch (Good luck with that one).
Start small. When you encounter something you think your spouse or your kids don’t want, ask them if you can toss it. And then when they shrug and say “sure,” celebrate. If you have young tornadoes currently ruling the roost, you may have to come to terms with a little clutter. Just know that this phase does not last forever.
3) Let them stay in charge of their own stuff
Let’s say you’ve inspired your family to jump on your decluttering and organizing bandwagon. Fantastic!
Now let’s say your kids want to donate all of their stuffed animals, even that special one you made together at build a bear four years ago. Or they want to toss that super expensive porcelain doll from Great Aunt Matilda.
Resist the urge to talk them out of it. Don’t project your own feelings of hypothetical future regret onto other members of your family. If you believe deep down that they may be traumatized by parting with something special, box it up and put it out of sight for a while.
But be aware, this may slow your progress, and create more of a mental load for you. You do not have to be the keeper of other people’s crap, physically or metaphorically.
4) Help in a way that actually helps
Everybody has different needs. It’s possible that your family has been hiding their inner organized selves this whole time, and just need a little push to unlock them. But you need to be helpful in ways that actually benefit the individual, if you want lasting change.
For example, some people might need you to be sitting with them on the floor, pouring over every last Barbie and deciding where to put every last shirt in their closets. Someone else might just need help carrying bags of leftover pizza boxes out of their room. Someone else might just need a shopping trip to Target for some cute bins to keep their clutter off the bathroom counter.
What nobody needs is endless nagging. Find out what motivates your family, and stick to it.
Do the kids need spending money for an upcoming trip? Help them organize a yard sale. Is there a big holiday approaching with the potential for fun new toys? Suggest that maybe Santa might skip your house if he can’t see the floor in their bedrooms, because they obviously have enough toys already. Or, remind them that there are children out there who don’t have as many toys, and encourage them to donate in the spirit of giving.
5) Enlist outside assistance.
And no, that doesn’t mean invite your mother-in-law over to yell at your husband for failing to pick up his socks. (Although if that works, by all means).
If you’re trying to make large, lasting changes in your house, you might need some reinforcements. Bribe a friend with some beer to come help you haul an old couch to the curb. Ask the neighbor to hang out with your kids for an hour or two while you and your spouse tackle your closet together. Hire a professional organizer (like Jen!) to come help get the ball rolling.
Having an outside opinion about the chaos in your home can help fuel a fire underneath your family’s butt. Even someone coming over to say “Wow, this place is really coming together!” can really help. Don’t be afraid to look outside for help on the inside.
And there you have it. If these tips don’t work, you could always lock your family outside while you enjoy your clean, organized space in peace. Good luck!
Sarah is a freelance writer and two-time toddler wrangler. She enjoys home decor and copious amounts of coffee. You can find her on Instagram or reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.