Free Your Space: Help them help themselves

The school year is upon us and parents everywhere are trembling with both joy and fear. Joy both for the chance to regain what little control they can in their homes and for the long anticipated silence that will resound through their daytime household. Fear for the onslaught of school meetings they will have to attend, second only to the children actually being in school day after day after day. It seems as though educating our children is as grueling, if not more, for parents as it is for kids. Parents plan to be up early so that kids can be up on time. They have to account for school supplies, clothing, homework, lunches, activities and carpools.

As a professional organizer and mother of three, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of organization to raising grownup human beings.

Now that your kids are school-aged, you may be remembering the days when every puzzle piece was accounted for and bath and bed times were set in stone. Now, you might just be happy enough that the kids have shoes on when they walk out the door (never mind whether the shoes match).

However, the road to organization and creating responsible children starts early. Schedules and routines, whether you’re used to following them or not, become the norm when you have children. Case in point: Annabel misses her nap and you know you will pay for it later. So, you adjust. You see what works for your child’s internal body clock and you do what you can to set things up to match it. You organize your schedule. Why? Because you can clearly see that they are at their best when they have had enough sleep when their body requires it.

Taking that concept, let’s take a look at school. What are the things that can be organized to make sure they are at their best? Here are three to think about: sleep, supplies and sustenance.

Sleep. Kids are growing and sleep is a must. However, homework demands and extra curricula’s sometimes leave us all counting fewer and fewer sheep. Help your kids to know their limits and set their boundaries. Give them a schedule to fill out with non-negotiables (like hours of sleep) already in place. Put it on paper, a white board or black board, and let them play with it. See what they come up with. Then, be ready to discuss what is acceptable and workable for the entire family.

Supplies. Children can’t be held responsible for things that are out of their control. It is imperative that the supplies they will need to complete their assignments are available and accessible. It is a nuisance to parents to be constantly bombarded with “Where are the scissors?” “Where is the glue?” “The printer is out of paper.” Keep supplies available and reachable and then allow them to be responsible to know where they are. Make things simple. Have designated places for supplies. If your child misplaces something, empathize. It happens to us too right? Let them know you care and that you are confident that they can figure out where to find what they need. Start with questions that encourage autonomy: “Hmmm, is it in the supply bin? That’s where I would look first.” This type of question is a reminder to them that once found, they may want to put it back in that place. It takes time, but the empowered adult you are creating is worth it.

Sustenance. It’s hard to think on an empty stomach and harder still to find the energy to tackle a difficult task without the calories that keep us going. And, those lucky little buggers can burn them quickly. (Ah, those were the days.) Organize your fridge and cupboard so that the things that are easiest to grab and eat are healthy and nutritious. Cut-up fruit, peanut butter, hummus, carrots, cheese sticks and hard-boiled eggs are all great grab-and-go snacks to have on hand.

Yes, it is a lot of prep-work on your part. But that’s what organizing is — setting up environments and systems that support our best lives. And that is what you are teaching your children when you create an organized environment. Organization breeds confidence, independence and responsibility; life lessons that can be carried from childhood throughout life.

* Annette Reyman is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO®) and President of its Greater Philadelphia Chapter. To contact her for organizing work, professional unpacking, productivity support, gift certificates or speaking engagements call 610-213-9559 or email her at
Visit her websites at and Follow All Right Organizing on Facebook and Pinterest.



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