Organisation and Kids

Organisation and Kids

At the end of May I asked readers of the blog What Would You Like To Read About? and I had such a fantastic response. On top of the fantastic comments on the post, I also received many topics via email from readers as well. This made my task of planning out the next six months of posts so much easier :) !

Over the next few months I will be writing about the topics that people were keen to read about. Today’s post was inspired by Kelly at Be A Fun Mum who wrote:

I’d love to hear more about how you reconcile the need to be organised with allowing the children to have space to grow, make mistakes and learn.

This is a constant learning curve for me. When the kids were younger it was much easier in some ways to keep things more organised as I was generally the one who was responsible for doing all the work! But as they kids have grown older, I have wanted them to gradually become responsible for organising themselves and their belongings. It takes time for children to learn to organise themselves and like everything with kids, they can develop these skills at different ages and to different standards.

I have listed some examples of how I try to balance the need for organisation and the need for the older kids to start becoming more independent and responsible:

Room Cleaning

My expectations (and tolerance) for room organisation and cleanliness depends on the age of the kids. In my discussion with my 11 year old about what bothered him about me, me going on about him cleaning up his room was high on his list! When I thought about his list, it really came down to the old adage of “choosing my battles” and in the bigger scheme of things a messy room is something that I am going to have to learn to live with as he enters adolescence. We agreed that he would clean it up twice a week and I would not mention the state of his room. I am still however allowed to vacuum in his room at other times and simply move everything into one pile in the corner of the room as photographed above. When the room is at its worst, I just close the door!


There is a tiny part of me that wants the kids to hand their notes and homework in on time, remember all the things they need to bring to school because I worry that people might think I am the one that is disorganised and the reason the kids don’t have the things they need or work completed. I have had to “get over”this and to help alleviate my worrying, at the start of each school year when I meet with the children’s new teachers, I let them know that I encourage the children to do their homework and support them being organised, but that I will not be responsible for this – the children are. This means that if items are left home from school, that I won’t be bringing them up to them and that they need to experience the consequences of not completing their homework. All the teachers to date have been happy with this and believe that the kids need to organise themselves as well.

So through out the school year, I ask the children about their homework and I read and sign their diaries, but I do not nag them about their homework. From experience I have learned that this doesn’t help anyone and only creates hostility between me and the kids. (I wrote a post previously on Homework Tips For Parents, if you would like more info on this.) If the consequence for not completing their homework is staying in at lunch time, then they will have to do that. But this has only ever happened once for my eldest child and not at all for my second child, who has just started homework this year (he is in grade 3).

Learning From Mistakes / Disorganisation

Organization and Kids - Desk
As much as it drove me crazy, my 11.5 year old’s desk frequently looked like this in the past. How did he do his homework on it then, I hear you ask? He moved to the floor of course! I did take this photo at a peak of disorganisation and this peak actually taught him an important lesson. He had completed his maths homework sheet for the week but had then misplaced it. He spent over 30 minutes looking for it the night before it was due and it was nowhere to be found. The next day he had to ask his teacher for another sheet and redo the whole thing.

A few days later when he eventually tidied his desk up, he found the missing worksheet. He then made the observation, that this is probably why he should try and keep his desk tidier. To his credit he has kept it tidier (for the moment at least!). Do I think it is tidy and organised enough? No, but again it is about choosing my battles and letting him learn for himself the importance of looking after his belongings.

How do you reconcile the need to be organised with allowing the children to have space to grow, make mistakes and learn?

Just to let you know that I did ask my son first if he was okay with me putting the photos up and writing about our experiences and he had no problems with me doing so.


  1. says

    I suppose I’m just starting to get into this difference between what my children see as organised and what I think is organised. My eldest and I have recently been tidying and organising his room and he has very definite ideas about where things should go.
    But you are right, you need to let children organise for themselves, they aren’t going to learn to be organised by having someone do it for them.

  2. says

    LOL Is that ALL you had to put into a pile? I would need a front-loader for both my son (10) & daughter’s (12) rooms! I just keep the door closed during the week, and they have to clean their room on Saturday mornings before watching tv. I agree it’s crucial to pick and choose your battles. And I keep reminding myself what an insane mess my room was when I was the same age. Now clutter drives me crazy!

    • says

      My son does tell me that is room isn’t “that bad”! I was the same as a child too, so it is nice to know that there can be improvement.

  3. Catherine says

    Loved your observation on worring about people thinking it is you that is the disorganised one – this is quite often my downfall… especially with regards to homework and personal presentation (I do hate untidy hair!). But as you say, the older they get the more I am going to have to learn just to support their learning and let them make their own decisions (can I just pop in a few clips and a hair ribbon?)

    • says

      I know exactly what you mean about personal presentation! My preschooler as you will see on Sunday, doesn’t wear anything other than t-shirts and shorts – I have now become immune to the looks I get when it is only 10 degrees outside :) .

  4. says

    Some great pointers there for when my girls get older. Thank you.

    Annie is already very good at tidying up her room when the mood strikes her but Heidi finds it all very confusing.