A couple of weeks ago, one of the points in my post about organizing tupperware raised some interesting discussion. Two readers who blog at The Road to Hobbiton and Autumn Asks Why both pointed out the challenge of sticking to organizational systems. They expressed their frustration with dealing with other members of their family:
“Everytime I come up with a system, it fails before long because no one else in the family sticks to it. I could be the crazy woman who follows everybody around and yells about putting stuff where it goes, but who wants to live that way?” – The Road to Hobbiton
“No amount of threats, punishment, rewards or anything else can get my brats to follow the system. They literally toss stuff in and shut the door before it can fall out.” – Autumn Asks Why
Now this got me thinking. I have it pretty easy right now apparently because my husband and I haven’t started a family yet. So right now the only person I have to tell to stick to my system is, well, me. But I totally recognize the potential for failure when you introduce more people in the equation. Hey, I was a teenager once. And I was a roommate several times. Furthermore, in the future my husband and I plan to have kids and I want them to stick to my organizational systems. Is it a lost cause?
I don’t think so. After some time to ponder this challenge, I’ve thought up a few ideas that I’ll offer below. Hopefully these ideas can help anyone struggling to implement or follow organizational systems in the home. Why organize something if we can’t keep it organized? There’s got to be a way. So here we go…
1. Make sure your system is realistic
The harder your system is to follow, the less participation you will likely have from other members of your family. Take a look at the organizational systems throughout your house that aren’t being followed and ask yourself how complicated they are. Also consider asking your family to be honest and tell you what they think. Maybe the reason your family won’t stick to your system is because they just can’t!
2. Introduce systems to everyone in your family
Sometimes we can make a mistake right off the bat when we organize something by just expecting everyone to automatically take notice and follow our system. I’ll be the first to point out that not everyone in your family will be as excited as you are about your brand new tupperware system or alphabetized DVD’s. You have to show your system to your family and explain it in detail. Help them understand not only how it works or how they can use it, but also how important it is to you that they stick to it. It’s possible that all your family needs is a little explanation and to know how much you care.
3. Make sure you set a good example
If you are asking your family to stick to your organizational system, then you’d better make sure you stick to it too! Think of the expression, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Don’t be that person. No one wants to take orders from someone who doesn’t follow their own orders.
4. Establish clear rules
If you can have rules in your home about making the bed or doing chores, then why can’t sticking to organizational systems be a rule too? What do you do if your child won’t clean their room or take out the trash? Consider using the same discipline methods you would use in these scenarios for anyone who doesn’t follow your organizational systems (out of disobedience, not ignorance). There’s no real difference between making your bed or putting the tupperware back into the cupboard the right way. In both situations, if a child chooses to not listen to you, then they are simply breaking the rules.
5. Let someone else take ownership of the system
If someone in your family doesn’t understand your system or refuses to take it seriously, then a useful practice might be to have them do the organizing themselves so they can take ownership of it and actually care. Feel free to help them with the project so they do it right, but allow them to take the bulk of the time and effort to get the job done. That way they will feel as if they’ve invested in the system and will have more incentive to stick to it. This concept is not much different than the following common situation: a teenager might take care of something they purchased with their own money more than something you bought for them. They don’t take something for granted if they’ve worked hard for it. The same can be said for organizational systems.
I certainly don’t have all the answers and would love to hear any further insight into this challenge. How do you help your family stick to your organizational systems?