Work goes piece by piece

kids learn bit by bit


Somewhere along the last week or so, I decided that our house should be as organized as my classroom.

That noise you hear is the groaning of my children.

They don't see the benefit of a task until it is complete and everything is nice and neat. Getting from the current state to the ideal state is not always a pleasant thing.

It actually requires work. There are corners to be cleaned, toys to be sorted and decisions to be made. Should we keep this? Should we pack it away? Should we sell it? Should we toss it?

Each time we begin to tackle a new spot, their bodies seem to sag a bit, as if all this work is dragging them down.


I ignore their attitudes and plow ahead, as enthusiastic as ever. I'm trying not to look at the big picture, but at all the pixels contained therein.

Each time a new spot is organized, I smile and think about how much better that little area looks. The trick is maintaining what we've done while conquering other areas.

At least that's what the organizing experts tell us.

They also recommend only spending 15 minutes a day on new organizing tasks.

With all due respect, I'm not crediting these tips to only one expert or just a few because almost every organizing guru says the same thing.

I ought to know. I think I've read every book and checked out every Web site on this topic. My husband wonders when I'll organize the books I have on getting organized.

He's so funny, and yet he likes what we've done so far.

I'm also slowly winning my children to my side.

My daughter couldn't wait to show a friend how she and her brother organized their videos.

"Look what we did. These are ones that we still watch. There are no baby videos in here now," she said excitedly.

I smiled because that is exactly what I wanted to happen. I wanted her to have some pride in a job well done.

It was worth the arm twisting I had to do to get them to tackle these projects.

I could do all the work by myself and save a lot of time, but I want my children to take ownership of order.

If they work on an area and help decide what goes there, they will be more likely to help keep the area nice.

I didn't want to take too much away from their summer when I started our household purging, so I pulled out two baskets and labeled one "Fun" and one "Work." (The Fun basket is larger in size than the Work basket. I thought the psychological effect of that would make an impact.)

In each basket we've placed slips of paper. The slips in the Work basket have tasks written on them. The slips in the Fun basket have activities listed on them.

We've been real specific with each so we can have a sense of completion.

For example, the Work basket might have a slip of paper that states, "Sort through puzzles on second shelf of brown cabinet."

That's certainly doable in 15 minutes.

The Fun basket might have slips with, "Play board game with Mommy," or, "Throw football with Daddy."

Their rewards for hard work are opportunities to do the things they like with the people they love.

We have just a few rules.

1. Anyone in the family can add slips to either basket.

2. If a task becomes more involved and takes more than the time scheduled, it can be finished the next day.

3. Likewise, if Mommy and Daddy's work schedules that day don't allow time for the Fun activity drawn, we'll reschedule within a few days, writing on the calendar.

After all, everyone likes to be rewarded for a job well done.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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