Organizing for the Single Parent

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Organizing for the Single Parent

One of the trickiest organizing situations is the cluttered, one parent family. Often, the story goes something like this: The house is cluttered. Perhaps not cluttered enough to qualify for a TV makeover show, but cluttered enough to cause friction among the family members. Mom tries to keep the home organized, but is overwhelmed. Toys are everywhere, and every surface is covered with stacks of paper, mail, dishes, and other assorted items. In short, the place looks like a typical “before” photo. Everybody is blaming everybody, the tension is rising, and nobody knows what to do. With nowhere else to turn, mom calls or emails me, requesting my help ASAP.
In these situations, common wisdom says that the decluttering process should start with (a) the most important or central room/area, or (b) the room/area that is causing the greatest stress. Whether it’s the family room, TV room, or kitchen, a high-traffic common area seems like the logical place to begin. And sometimes, the client & I do agree to begin there.
More recently, however, I have been trying a different approach, and it seems to be working well. In our scenario, mom is expected to maintain an organized home, but is getting no help from the rest of the family. She is surrounded by clutter, and the weight on her shoulders is getting heavier. She wakes to clutter, dresses to clutter, cooks amid clutter, goes to sleep to clutter, etc., and it is zapping her energy.
My suggestion is simple. Radical but simple. Let’s start the organizing process with mom. Let’s start by organizing mom’s bedroom. Is it the most important room in the house? Quite frankly, it might be. Mom is surrounded by clutter from sunup to sundown. Giving mom an organized bedroom achieves several things. First, it guarantees that she will no longer have to go to bed and awake to clutter. She can begin and end each day with a clear mind, in a peaceful environment. Second, everyone, including mom, deserves a place to call her/his own, free from everyone else’s stuff. Third, giving mom an organized bedroom builds her confidence. It shows her that positive change is possible. If she can learn how to organize and maintain her own space, then it just might be possible to apply those organizing principles to other areas of the home, and to transfer those skills to her children.

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