Monthly vlogs and blogs on what to declutter seem to be “trending” these days so let’s talk about what you can do in September. Now that the kids are back in school it is important to put structure and routines in place to reduce the stress of this transition. No matter what your “pandemic” situation has been, this is a chance to get back some normalcy. That often starts with decluttering.
Where did this clutter come from? Was it impulsive buying for that quick shot of dopamine – felt good in the moment and now you trip over it every day? Was that what you wanted? Or was it to quiet the kids you had to take to the grocery store? Look around – what is this costing you? And I don’t mean moneywise, but emotionally, socially, psychologically, physically and in your relationships with your loved ones. Clutter makes you grumpy.
WebMD says, “Researchers have found that being around disorganization makes it harder for your brain to focus. It can be especially tough for people with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).” “Some people who live in cluttered homes have a poorer “working memory,” according to research. Your brain is wired to be able to keep track of only a few details at once for a short period, so it can get overloaded when there’s too much going on.”
Clutter causes stress and conflict and undermines the lessons you want to be teaching your children and worst of all it takes up your time and mental bandwidth even if you do nothing about it. Constant stress reduces your lifespan according to researchers at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare by 2.8 years.
More research: Children who live in homes that are “chaotic,” that are noisy, overcrowded and have a lack of order, have significantly more challenges than kids who don’t. Research has found that kids who had homes like this, “tend to score lower on tests of cognitive ability and self-regulatory capabilities, have poorer language abilities, and score higher on measures of problem behaviors and learned helplessness than do children raised in less chaotic environments” (Jaffee, S., Hanscombe, K., Haworth, A., Davis, P., and Plomin, R., 2012). They also have, “lower expectations, a lack of persistence and a tendency to withdraw from academic challenge” (Hanscombe, K., Haworth, C., Davis, O., Jaffee, S., and Plomin, R., 2011).
So, can we agree clutter is bad?
Let’s start by clearing one category of toys – baby toys. By baby toys I mean all those toys, books and games that are no longer age appropriate for your children. Electronic toys that make sounds or have lights but otherwise don’t do much were meant to help stimulate a baby’s brain while it was in its early developmental stage. It is through play that children learn, explore, use their imagination and problem solve. (If you don’t have kids, then look around at your own “toys” and hobbies – what have you outgrown?)
Start collecting the baby toys and those odd little things that have been randomly picked up while out or only served their purpose for a short time. Anything that your children played with before kindergarten and no longer play with REGULARLY. Things that are not really toys but mementos from events. Really how many foam fingers and blown-up superheroes do you need? Push or beginner ride on toys, chubby crayons, finger paints and stuffed animals are in this category as well. Legos and building blocks are not.
Are all the pieces together? (Puzzles, games, stacking rings, etc.)
Is it in good shape to donate? (Cradles to Crayons, Big Brother Big Sister)
Was it a gift? (No obligation to keep it)
Is it sentimental? (Create a time capsule to save it out of the mainstream)
Is it broken?
Can it be recycled?
Is it really just trash?
Once you have collected all of these and decided what you are going to do with them – get them out of the house. Not in a closet or in your trunk but delivered to their final destination. According to Joshua Becker of becomingminimalist.com, with fewer toys your kids may ” learn to be more creative, develop longer attention spans, establish better social skills, learn to take better care of things, become more resourceful, and less selfish. He also says, “True joy and contentment will never be found in the aisles of a toy store. Kids who have been raised to think the answer to their desires can be bought with money have believed the same lie as their parents.”
Wouldn’t you rather spend time playing a game, then clearing a space to play?
- Collect and remove all age-inappropriate toys
- Trash, recycle, repurpose or pass on
- STOP the inflow of new toys and trinkets
- Spend more time with your children
- Help children put toys away before bed
- Make a space for storing like toys together
- Contain what you can
1. Clean out your child’s closet with them and make room for the clothes they will be wearing to school this year. Pass along things that they won’t wear or that do not fit. No need to take up valuable “real estate space” with things they won’t wear. Do the same with the dresser. Hooks are great for hanging sweatshirts, jackets, pj’s and tomorrow’s clothes.
2. Together with your child, buy any school supplies they may need. Make sure the binder opens easily with one hand and will last till December (at least). Work with them to put them together in an organized way.
3. Be a reading role model. Set aside some evening time when the whole family reads either together or separately. Kids can work on their summer reading and you can catch up on those magazines.
4. Talk with your kids about what they want for lunches and/or snacks and work together to come up with a week’s worth of healthy ideas. Next week you can shop for them.
5. Start working towards the bedtime you want your child to have during the school year. Kids require 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep so calculate when their bedtime should be in order to wake up easily by the necessary time for school.
If you’re dreading the start of school and are hoping that this year will be different, then check out www.endhomeworkhassle.com. I’ll send daily reminders to your child or teen with tips and strategies so they can have an organized year.
Summer is a great time to help your kids strengthen their learning skills. The more they use them the less they will “lose” them. Summer learning doesn’t have to be pages and pages in a workbook but with a little creativity you can have fun and learn at the same time.
Most schools now expect students to read one or more books over the summer. Whether your child is just learning to read or reading to learn, finding books that interest them is key. Don’t just send them to their rooms to read but show you are interested in what they are reading. Be curious and engage them. Have them summarize, compare or simply talk about what they liked about the book (don’t just accept it was a good book). Reading increases vocabulary, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, comprehension and increases their knowledge base. I think it is the number one skill for learning. If your child is a strong reader, then they can learn anything.
Reading and math skills can be used; while “playing” school, planning a vacation or a day trip (give them a budget and have them make a plan), grocery shopping or making something in the kitchen (with supervision of course).
One of my favorite activities was a competition with my Dad and my sister to list the 50 states in five minutes or less. We still talk about those nights at the dinner table racing to see who could list them the fastest. We also tried the capitals, countries and the presidents (which I did not do well at). The ideas are unlimited.
For outdoor fun, try geocaching. Geocaching is finding hidden “treasures” that other people have hidden in local parks and recreation areas. Google it and you can get coordinates to use with a gps (or smartphone) or written directions to use for a treasure hunt walk. Take along the digital camera and have the kids photograph plants, bugs and wildlife that they can identify once they get home or to the library. Play tourist in your own town, or head into Boston or south to Plymouth and make history come alive. Have your kids send postcards to their friends.
Using math and reading skills throughout the summer will help to strengthen your child’s skills but it will also show them how often we use those skills in the “real world” and not just in school.
I’d love to hear what you do to make learning fun over the summer. Please use the comment box below to let me know. I look forward to hearing from you.
Interactive 8 week small group class for 4-6th graders starting in September that teaches homework strategies, organization, project planning, using an agenda effectively and lots more. Help your child improve their grades, ease the transition and end the homework hassle. Contact us for latest class schedule and locations.
Here is the third tip on organizing your kids for summer. If you just started reading I suggest you follow the links to the first part of this three part blog and start from there and read back. Although the summer is often the time we think of breaking out of our daily routine, it is a good idea to maintain some sense of schedule even during the summer. Following a routine can teach responsibility, accountability and time management skills. Teach responsibility by having kids follow a routine to get ready for the day and to end it, such as get dressed before breakfast or a ten minute pickup of all their things before going to bed. Create a job chart and let them pick which jobs they want. Explain that the family is a team and everyone helps so everyone can have time to play together.
Scheduling some reading time each day will help get through the summer reading list with ease and Mom and Dad may get to read the newspaper too. Keep up those academic skills by playing games together, practicing math facts, naming the 50 states or putting together a family newspaper for the relatives. Have a family game night or movie night towards the end of the week as a “reward” for staying on track. Making learning fun encourages your child to learn more. Maintaining a structure develops habits, makes children aware of what is coming up and reduces outbursts. Also if they know what is coming up, you may not hear “I’m bored” quite so many times this summer. So plan in some structure and some fun this summer and let me know how it goes.
Last week we talked about being prepared for the summer by checking out all the kids’ toys, games and sports equipment to be sure they are in good working condition. This week the second tip to having fun this summer is to always have a plan B. Thinking ahead and having some activities and day trip ideas can prevent the “I’m bored” syndrome. Spending time with your children is an important role. Playing together strengthens family bonds and builds important social skills. Children are often so busy doing things that they don’t have time to play. Use the summer to cut back on the “doing” and have more fun just “being” together.
Get into the action by having the whole family involved in an obstacle course (designed by the children), or a fitness test done several times throughout the summer to see if each person can beat their personal score or design a treasure map or scavenger hunt. Plan a day trip and be a tourist in your own town. Are there museums or historic sites nearby that may help your child understand next year’s history class a bit better? Find other activities happening in your area by searching www.whofish.org.
Simple things like a picnic in the park or campout in the backyard can add some fun and excitement too. Get the children involved in the planning for vacations, summer camp or a week at Grandma’s. Buy a few games or toys to pull out on rainy days and be sure to have plenty of craft supplies for creative minds. Use your imagination and have fun together. You can also find other great ideas at: kids turn central and creative kids at home.
The school year is nearing its end and everyone is excited about the coming of summer. Want to make sure the summer goes smoothly? Here is the first of three tips that will help you and your children enjoy the summer.
The first step is to be prepared. What does that mean? For safety and for fun it is important that all the equipment (“fun” stuff) be in good working condition. The “fun” stuff consists of toys, games, beach and sports equipment that will be used this summer. Together with your child or children, take a look through all their “fun” stuff and determine if it is still wanted or needed, used and played with and determine if it is in good working condition. Repair anything that needs it and be sure to check brakes and tires for safety. Also check your supplies including chalk, bubble stuff and birdies for the badminton set.
Next, determine if the item is stored in the best possible spot. It should be easy enough for your child to get and to put away by themselves. You probably don’t want to be called to the garage every time they want to ride their bike and you don’t want to be tripping over toys that have been left out. Encourage children to put things back when they are done or at the end of the day. If you need to move some things around I would suggest grouping things that go together in the same area. In organizer speak that is group like with like (helmets near the bikes, all water and sand toys for the beach together, etc.) Don’t forget to check the outside play equipment as well. The play structures can have sharp edges, loose screws or fraying rope swings. Check the sand in the sandbox too. By being sure all play equipment is ready for action the kids will be safer but accidents can still happen so keep bandaids and ice packs ready as kids will be kids.
PS For adults, you can use this time to get all the yard and garden tools in top working condition. Think of how much you can get done if there is plenty of string in the weedwacker, or the clippers are sharpened. Ah, the joys of summer. Enjoy!