How to Keep Your Family Organized

Make It Fun
Discover our best tips for getting motivated, staying motivated, and taking your whole family with you on your journey toward organization.

Ready, Set, Go

Getting and staying motivated are common organizational challenges. Get past all of your mental roadblocks by repeating this mantra: Be realistic. "Your disorganization didn't happen overnight, and it's not going to disappear in a short period of time, either," says Audrey Thomas, productivity consultant and founder of OrganizedAudrey.com.

Set a Timer

Getting Started

The easiest way to foster motivation and long-term organizational success is by breaking up the project into doable increments. Start out small by setting a timer for just 15 minutes. You can always reset the timer if you're on a roll.

Make a Date

Getting Started

Put it on your calendar as you would any other appointment. And if you have children, arrange a sitter so you truly have time to focus on the task at hand. Can't block out an entire afternoon? Schedule shorter time periods over several days or weeks depending on the scale of the project.

Get Inspired

Getting Started

Post inspirational pictures from favorite home websites or magazines in a prominent place to generate excitement for what the result will be. If you find yourself struggling to beat procrastination, write down your goals and a timeline for accomplishing them and post it up along with your collection of inspirational photos.

Enlist a Friend

Getting Started

Being accountable to someone else is a powerful motivator, but family members might bring baggage that affects decisions about what to keep and what to toss. A nonjudgmental friend can gently help you tackle tough organizing decisions. Make it a point to check in with your friend weekly to foster consistent follow-through.

Remind Yourself Why

Staying Motivated

Even the strongest, most inspired start can abruptly stall out. Write down the benefits of your project and post them in a prominent place in your home to give you inspiration if you feel your resolve waning.

Give It a Rest

Staying Motivated

Unrealistic goals are often the culprit for stall-outs. Getting organized almost always takes more time -- and more energy -- than people anticipate. Acknowledge this fact, take a break when you need it, then plow forward when you feel rested. And make sure you stop any organizing session before exhaustion hits. If you stop while you still feel like you can do more, it'll be easier to sustain momentum for the next session.

Continue with Caution

Staying Motivated

Another common organizing mistake? Not creating the new habits necessary for maintenance. "People feel as if they're done when they finish the project, and they're disillusioned when clutter starts creeping back in," says Aby Garvey, professional organizer and founder of Simplify101.com. The solution? Maintain one newly organized space for a while before moving on to the overhaul of the next space to allow family members time to fully adjust to the new system.

Schedule Upkeep

Staying Motivated

Follow up each overhaul with special attention to upkeep, remembering that it takes at least 21 days to adopt a new habit. Set aside a bit of time each day to foster the habits necessary to maintain the space and eventually it will become second nature for the whole family.

Showcase the Benefits

Everybody On Board

Just because you share a home with others doesn't mean they share your organizing goals. Kids, especially, might have trouble making the connection between, say, being able to find all the pieces of their Lego set and putting it back properly after a play session. Kindly and patiently outline the benefits of an organized home to any resisters.

Follow Through

Everybody On Board

Make sure you're really doing your part before getting after any other family members to do theirs. Lead by example, and tell them it's important to you. Though it's obvious to you, others might not truly understand how much anxiety the cluttered kitchen counter or the messy living room causes you. Sit your family down, look them in the eyes, and explain your reasoning.

Make It Easy

Everybody On Board

Keeping kids organized is one of the biggest obstacles you'll likely face along your journey. Foster strong organizational habits little ones can carry with them as they age by incorporating kid-friendly organization solutions throughout the house. Children are more likely to keep their playthings organized if they feel included in the process.

Label, Label, Label

Everybody On Board

After you've reorganized a space, such as the mudroom, pantry, or linen closet, label shelves and storage containers with what you want stored in them so everybody knows where to return used items. Use picture labels to help nonreaders understand where everything belongs. If you think everyone can handle it, remove the labels after three months to see if new habits have really been formed.

Make It Fun

Everybody On Board

Play music during organizational sessions. Make it a game for kids. Create a reward chart for following through, or designate one reward for the completion of a large project, such as a night out for the whole family.

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