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The Essence of Family Organizing

Try to find ways of organizing that are a win-win for everyone in the family. Give each other the benefit of the doubt when you are sharing tasks or trying to find a place for things. If you can, find a way to build new habits and systems together over time. Randy and Rick were both highly disorganized. When Randy decided she was ready to get more organized, it wasn't easy. She explained, "At first, Rick experienced any attempt I made to plan ahead or get organized by making places for things as controlling. Finally, he started to see that if we put things back in the same place, we could find them again. He experienced the logic of 'a place for everything' because it made his life better. He mostly replaces items when he is finished with them, but that was a tough fight."

Organizing Shared Spaces and Managing Possessions

One challenge of family life is to shape our spaces so that we each feel a sense of home, even when we have different tastes, styles, and different levels of tolerance for mess. This challenge includes wisely managing our desires for the many luscious-looking toys (for all ages) and the fantastic variety of products that the American marketplace is so adept at producing. Then, when we have the many things that we have purchased, deciding together how can we store them and use them so that they are valued. And, finally, families must face how to agree to give things away when they are outgrown or no longer fill the purpose they once did.

Sometimes, organizing is catching. Suzanne, who is a massage therapist, sees clients in her home. She decided to prune her books in the family room, without making a big deal about it. Then her husband noticed and joined in. Then her daughter got involved and organized all of her makeup in the bathroom. "I now spend a little more time straightening up and a lot less time being mad about how the place looks," Suzanne said. "Then, an interesting thing happened, I cleaned up the whole family room and it looked beautiful. My daughter came back from a school trip and she said, 'Mom, the family room looks great, but I notice that you didn't touch my room; does that mean it's my responsibility?'"

From It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys by Marilyn Paul, Ph.D. Copyright © 2003. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here or on the book cover. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.


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