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Melissa Schmalenberger, Published March 03 2013

Ms. Simplicity: Sharing home tasks with your entire family

As busy people we are always trying to find more time in our day. With my clients it’s my job to help find those hidden pockets of time that they didn’t know existed. But when creating systems for my clients, I must also think of the habits and ages of the whole family.

Another way of thinking of this is delegation. When my boys were little we had all of their toys organized in clear bins with stickers on them indicating what went in each bin. My husband would sit on the floor in the toy room, also known as our living room with no furniture, and point to which bucket it went in. Soon the boys realized where the toys went and my husband no longer had to sit and supervise.

The key was he did not do it for them. We just created the system that would be the greatest success for their age and ability. Now my youngest unloads the dishwasher and just throws the utensils in the utensil drawer, basically putting them where he can find room. Since the task of unloading the dishwasher is now his, he is going to spend 10 minutes with me today on creating the organizing system that works for him. I have the baskets and label maker at the ready.

Want your children’s books organized in alphabetical order? Chances are slim that you will have success with that. What may work is having a basket where all of the books the kids are currently reading are simply placed. Rotate the books on a weekly or monthly basis. This way you only put the books away when you rotate them. You can even enlist the children to help with this task as well.

Tired of hanging up your 4-year-old’s coat and backpack? Place a 3M hook at their level for them to do it themselves. If children start to feel a sense of accomplishment on these small tasks, it makes them feel like they can take on bigger ones as well. Perhaps the task of emptying the backpack and putting the papers on a certain spot in the kitchen or office is the next task. Giving children a sense of responsibility is a great gift to give our children.

All my kids know how to give our diabetic dog his insulin shots twice daily. By doing this my youngest has now declared that he is no longer afraid of getting shots. Who knew it would be a 10-year-old diabetic dog to teach him that lesson? Thanks for being a champ Rex!

Have a spouse that drops their dirty socks in the same place every night, and not in the clothes basket or hamper? Start to place the basket where they dump these items … and slowly start moving the basket back to where it belongs. Soon you will have created a new habit of the socks finding their way into the basket.

Have a fear of having the wrong item of clothing go into the dryer? My husband and boys know that all my items should just be hung up to dry, just in case. Yes I have come home with my pajamas on hangers! I have a friend who is a professional organizer in New York who writes with a dry erase marker right on the lid of the washer what should be taken out. That way everyone is sure exactly what should be thrown in the dryer. Now every member of the family can do the laundry with confidence.

So take a look around your home and start to see your house through the eyes of everyone who lives there. What tasks can you take off your plate and share with others? Keep in mind ages and abilities as well. Label when needed and reward and praise often … even to the spouse. It is so much easier to function in a house with positive praise instead of anger and frustration.

Also, do not be afraid to have the child or spouse help set up the system, because maybe we could learn a thing or two from them.


MS. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo. Her website can be found at www.mssimplicity.com.