When I was a child, I frequently would rearrange my bedroom
furniture, go through my desk and drawers and sort and
purge-although I certainly didn't call it that at the time-and
generally kept my room very organized; silver bracelets in one
jewelry box, gold S-link chains in another; Jim Croce and John
Denver cassettes in one shoebox and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young,
James Taylor and Joni Mitchell in another. You get the picture.
My mother kept a very orderly house, and I suppose I just
followed suit. Nurture or nature?
When I had my first child, I initially was completely
overwhelmed at the amount of "stuff" that took over our home. How
many brightly colored plastic objects did one child need,
especially since the box it came in seemed to be far more
interesting than the toy itself? How many days did I sit in the
middle of the floor, surrounded by rattles, blocks and cloth books,
loving my little baby yet desperate for some semblance of order in
Four years later, we had our second child. By then I was at
peace with the "stuff."
As the kids grew, clean-up naturally became part of the play.
After all, it was just as fun to put the blocks in the box as it
was to take them out. I assumed that as they got older, putting
away their toys, making sure the puzzles had all their pieces, and
relishing, like me, the sight of a neat and tidy playroom would be
a part of the natural order of things.
I know you're all laughing at me right now.
When it was time for preschool, we enrolled them at a local
Montessori school. Among the many wonderful things presented to
children was the idea of putting their work away when they were
done so that it was ready for the next person to use. I was saved!
Surely this process of putting things away would translate to our
And it did. For a while.
I adopted what I could from the Montessori model: I placed
materials at eye level, rotated the toys so our children weren't
overwhelmed by the choices, put picture labels (before they could
read) on the containers so that putting things away was easy. It
seemed to be working very nicely.
Soon, though, clean-up no longer was fun. My husband and I, with
a shortage of time and patience, did the work for them.
Our kids are now 13 and 17. We have one child who vacuums, does
laundry and does not like things on the floor, and one whose room
holds piles of rubber bands, old computer parts and gum
God's little joke on me. Nature or nurture-clearly a
We spend our lives acquiring and accumulating, then one day we
turn around and we feel suffocated by those very same things.
I believe it never is too early to teach children to respect and
take care of their things, not only to respect the toy, but also
the hard-earned dollars that purchased it. Understanding the value
of things is a lesson for life. I also believe that organization
can be learned, and it can be fun.
My motto has become, "don't let organizing scare you." They're
just things, meant to be enjoyed and appreciated and make our lives
easier and perhaps more efficient. But at the end of the day, we
need to be able to catch our breath, find our car keys and feel at
peace in our own homes.
I love it that when my children have downtime at home, they are
able to relax and let it all go, at least for a little while. The
chaos of the outside world is left outside when they close the door
and our home is a comfortable, light filled and peaceful
place-unless, of course, they're wrestling. But that's another
Sandy Spatz has been a personal organizer for seven years and lives in Andersonville with her family and mostly everything in its place.
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