When you think about getting organized, clearing clutter, and creating a smooth schedule for yourself, the word creativity doesn’t always pop into your mind. But I’ve come to learn that creativity and organization can go hand in hand, especially when your life needs stress relief and a fresh perspective. There are plenty of Professional Organizers out there that have great systems for you to follow and they work wonderfully. However, I’ve found the happiest clients of mine have benefitted from an individualized, creative approach to solving their pain problems. So, let’s talk about the benefits of adding creativity into your life to get your children better organized!
For the past month I’ve been doing quite a bit of research about a crisis we are facing in our schools and homes: the crisis of creativity. It’s a subject that’s dear to my heart because it’s one of those skills I’ve always felt I possessed throughout my life. I’ve been fortunate to have an amazing support system of my parents, husband, and kids. They have always encouraged me to be creative, be different, and not worry about where it’ll lead. But through this class I’ve discovered it’s not always the case for everyone… hardly anyone in fact.
The traditional idea about creativity is that if you are skilled in the fine arts, you are creative. It's really not about that anymore and, depending on who you talk to, it never was. You can express creativity in math class, at the office, in the kitchen, or anywhere else - not just in the art room. Creativity is about the way you learn, process information, evaluate solutions, and organize your thoughts. If you think of it in those terms, it's not too far fetched to realize we can be organized and creative. Conversely, you do not have to be messy to show your creativity and be a "real artist."
I started this research on creativity because I’m currently taking a class to renew my teaching certification. Taking a class on creativity sounded fun, it sounded relevant to my career in organizing, and I hoped to learn some new teaching techniques to help my clients, my family, and myself. Now that it’s ending, I’m suddenly aware of how much creativity is present in my life and business and also how much more I could develop it.
One of the biggest parts of my business is helping overwhelmed families gain back their homes, lives, and sanity. A huge portion of that is managing everything kids do: school, meals, sports, hobbies, homework, clothes, toys, and more. I make a lot of suggestions to parents about how to remedy problems or make these routines more productive. But after taking this class I have a few new ideas that add in a bit more creativity for a lot more fun. The extra benefit is that the new habits will be even easier for parents to teach to their kids because it's not just lecturing them. We all know how well that doesn't work.
So, let’s check out some new creative ideas for solving organizational problems at home that also translate to better habits in school:
This year, my 9 year old has a wonderful teacher that knows how to adapt to all of her student’s learning habits. How do I know this? Every 2 weeks my son has a spelling test and a list of words are sent home with his homework. The creative part is the 12 choices the teacher suggests about how to study for his test. Gone are the days of index cards and memorization as the only option. Now students can choose the studying style that best suits them. It’s also interesting as a parent to see what your child chooses because it might not be what you would have picked (at least not for me). Encourage your child to adapt this habit in other classes to promote their increased success in many subjects. You can also challenge them to try out techniques they are afraid to try and fail at, just to see what would happen if they tried something new.
How can you take this even further? Recreate the same template for chores at home to allow your children to choose what they want to do. Have them pick the chores, rotation, and even the rewards and demerits. You get to raise a responsible kid and a creative one to boot – that’s win-win.
Getting To School On Time
According to an article I read called CREATIVITY: A Cure for the Common Curriculum (Berrett, 2013) “The goal in developing students' creative skills, say these institutions, is to train them to look at familiar problems or sets of data from a fresh perspective.” I challenge you to use this approach with a familiar problem: getting out the door in the morning on time.
If, as a parent, you’ve tried multiple approaches and are ready to throw in the towel, let’s try something new.
Sit down, have a family meeting, and ask your child what they think is a good solution.
Don’t offer up suggestions, but rather take notes on what your child says and discuss the pros and cons of each system.
Have them try out each approach for a day to see what works best.
Encourage them to evaluate their experiment and see what they can improve.
Have them poll their friends to see what works for others.
Challenge them to draw a picture depicting what it looks like 5 minutes before it’s time to leave (but don’t cringe when you see their perspective of you).
Ask them how they solved a problem at school and how they could adapt that strategy with this problem at home.
Prepare to be amazed at what your child can dream up if you don’t limit them to your habits, learning styles, and standards.
Keeping A Clean Room
I’m a firm believer in the huge impact your environment has on your mood. Translate that into your child will have a tough day at school if they can’t find their favorite shirt, homework, or even their backpack because their room is disorganized. Many children push back on parents getting them to maintain a clean room because it’s based on the standards of the parents.
By incorporating a bit of creativity and leniency, parents can change the fight into an opportunity.
Ask your children to imagine their ideal room.
Task them with finding images online or in magazines of their dream spaces.
Have children create a presentation showing the benefits of new furniture, paint, or bookcases and why it would improve their grades, sleeping habits, or stress level.
Challenge them to create a timeline showing how they would overhaul and maintain their new space and what negative and positive reinforcements would be instituted if they strayed from their project timelines.
Dare your kids to create such a compelling argument that a parent couldn’t say no to their requests. See what their imagination can create and even possibly use the model for a future school project!
Here's some more food for thought from the book The Secrets of Happy Families (Feiler, 2013) "whenever I see friends with checklists —chores, schedules, allowance—I ask whether the adults or the kids are doing the checking off. Invariably it’s the adults. The science suggests there’s a better way. To achieve maximum benefits, have the children do the scoring. They’ll develop a much finer sense of self-awareness. Even if this approach doesn’t work on every occasion, it’s about teaching your kids an approach to problem solving they can carry with them the rest of their lives."
My takeaway from that statement is that we, as adults, have been doing too much work in school and at home, for the wrong reasons. We need to loosen up and let our kids add their own creative suggestions to how we run our homes and lives. By allowing our children the freedom to be more creative and flexible with family problems, they may solve them for us. And I know it sounds counterintuitive - let go of control to gain a more organized, happy, and easy environment - but it works. Give it a try and let me know what amazing solutions your kids come up with for you.
Berrett, D. (2013). CREATIVITY: A Cure for the Common Curriculum. Education Digest, 79(2), 13–20. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspxdirect=true&db=eue&AN=90473961&site=ehost-live
Feiler, Bruce (2013). The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0061778737/ref=as_at/?imprToken=yj3v0YDA1wLVl.H7KZ-ahw&slotNum=1&ie=UTF8&tag=farnamstreet-20&creative=9325&linkCode=w61&creativeASIN=0061778737&linkId=be6145f97abf1ab47c58e69698a58e44