Character Corner: Orderliness– musings, quotes, and parenting tips from


Oscar and Janet have been trying for years to find the right balance in their housekeeping. Janet’s mother had a hoarding disorder, and clutter drives her nuts.  When she gets home from a long day in her family practice clinic, she wants to walk into a place that feels put together and serene.

Oscar gets six-year-old Janie off to school every morning, and then is home all day with their 4-year-old twins.  Although he’s sympathetic to Janet’s need to have “a place for everything and everything in its place,” he doesn’t mind when things pile up a bit, and in fact that is his natural tendency.  He scrambles to get the breakfast and lunch dishes cleared away before he goes to pick up Janie from her school.

For Janet’s sake he hastily picks up the biggest kid projects and shoves things into closets before she gets home.  Last week Janie’s teacher pulled him aside and said that Janie was losing her homework work and pencils a little too often. She gestured at a desk with crumpled papers sticking out and suggested that Oscar might be able to help Janie with organizational skills.  Guiltily, Oscar wondered if the last minute scramble wasn’t working so well.

What is orderliness?
Orderliness is having a sense of where things belong and how they relate to each other, and keeping them organized accordingly. When there is a place for everything and everything in its place, then we are able to think and work efficiently. We are also more able to work collaboratively –to share tools and space with others.
To be orderly, we also must have a sense of priorities, of what is most important and what we must let go. We can only put our lives in order if our priorities are clear.
In this sense, orderliness is not so much an external habit as a quality of our mental life. It means that we seek to understand how things relate to each other–their similarities and differences, the cause and effect relationships that connect them, and how these relate to our own values and aspirations.
Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share
There are uncountable hours lost each year in the workplace because of disorganization. But people mix up cleaning with organizing. Being clean is a visual thing, but being organized is being able to find things when you need them.
–Julie Mahan
If you can organize your kitchen, you can organize your life.
–Louis Parrish
No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.
–Peter F. Drucker
We have, instead (of soot and dirt), disorganization. We have this proliferation of goods. It’s the disease of the time.
—Cheryl Mendelson
Electricity is really just organized lightning.
–George Carlin
Organize your life around your dreams – and watch them come true.
Bringing it home to your kids
1.  Establish tidying rituals.  Kids are able to put things back as soon as they are able to get them out, and cleaning up is actually easier when it’s an every-time habit.  You might notice that your child’s preschool has a “clean up song” that you can use at home as well.  My daughter is seventeen, and when I asked her recently about her preschool clean up song, she sang it.
2.  Differentiate private and public or shared spaces.  A private space can be as small as a drawer or as large as a bedroom.  Teach yourself to let go and let your kids control their private spaces and at the same time insist that they not leave clutter that affects other people.
3.  Do clean-up tasks together until they are well established.  Any task can be more fun if it includes conversation and good company.
4. Every so often, roll up your sleeves and help your children to organize their sports and hobby equipment or schoolwork.  Talk about what they use where, how they can remember where they put things, and what looks pleasing to them.  Help them come up with filing systems.   Learning how to sift and sort is an acquired skill.
5. If your kids are old enough, have an occasional family check-in about managing their “stuff.”  Remember, the purpose of being organized is so that we can be more efficient and effective in activities we care about.  The bottom line question is:  Is it working for you?  Is it working for other people?

Photo by: dangerismycat

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