For me, being organized is about as realistic as the Cubs winning a World Series. Theoretically, it could happen.

So for the millions of parents like me trying to stay afloat amid the constant laundry, dishes, homework, yard work and family member schedules, let’s walk through this step by step. Maybe through some intercession of the patron saints of housekeepers, St. Martha and St. Anne, we can glean some insight into how the “other side” does it.

Throughout young adulthood I moved around quite a bit. I found interesting places to store my life’s possessions at my parents’ house. Guatemalan masks from a Latin American premature mid-life crisis, an Australian didgeridoo for some future ceremonial gathering, a shoe box of love letters to boost my ego on a rainy day, old photos that appreciated not being taken during the era of Facebook, and the clutter list goes on.

There was a tipping point when my parents called in reinforcements to help sort through and organize all my life’s treasures. It was St. Organizatius, a distant relative to Mother Cleanliness and Mr. Clean. In actuality, it was a friend of my parents who loved to help people get organized.

Ever since being guided by this saving grace, I have had an admiration for how God wired some people to innately be organized.

They actually believe all things have a place. Huh, go figure.

How can we help our kids get organized?

     It’s not about just cleaning. The answer lies in the process. Cleaning is a temporary magic trick. You make items disappear before company comes over. Eventually the magic closet is packed; nothing more can be hidden. First note … DO NOT YELL! Lecturing and screaming about cleaning a room or threatening to throw stuff out – which I’ve been known to do – is not effective long term. Our job as parents is to teach a process that can been handed over to our kids so they can replicate it on their own.
     Start by setting aside some time, telling yourself the result will make this extremely valuable. Then treat the process like a respectful interview of a foreign visitor – which kids are. Show interest in the space and the objects within the space. Learn the story behind the objects that need to find a new home. Consider this bonding time. Kids will appreciate and remember that you care about their environment and their possessions. There is nothing wrong with a reward at the end. If you cleaned your closet you would probably justify a new shirt so why not let your child know their organizational efforts bring rewards on many levels?
     Enjoy coming clean! Please share any ideas on helping parents and their kids stay organized.

                              – Jeff Wenzler

I come from the evolutionary strain that is hard-wired to recall where a shirt is at the bottom of a pile or where a document is in a file-less drawer. I consider that a superpower in the same league as X-ray vision. Phyllis Diller shared that same logic: “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.”

A good friend of mine, Heidi Kramer, has a business specifically to organize people’s lives. Sort it All Out, so properly named, is one of a growing industry of specialty companies with gifted people who are passionate about helping people become and to stay organized just so they can reduce stress, have a calm atmosphere, and enjoy more quality time. Heidi is passionate about helping parents with children and parents who have home offices. I fit both those areas.

She has a top 10 list of the benefits to being organized:
1. Reduce stress.
2. More time for you and your loved ones.
3. Be more productive.
4. Feel good about your environment.
5. Become a good role model to your kids.
6. Improve health.
7. Breathe better. (I love that one! Stress of a lost item can constrict breathing.)
8. Better your professional image.
9. Save money. No more buying duplicates.
10. Achieve a goal.

I would add an 11th item: Cleanliness is close to godliness!

As Christians we just experienced the empty tomb of Easter. It represented a new beginning and hope. Isn’t there a very cool feeling about a clean, organized garage, basement, office or bedroom? It’s not just the organization behind that feeling, but the space.

There is space for opportunity. My wife would say a clean closet is a space for more shoes! A clean desk allows for the space to work more efficiently and to start new projects.

So how do you start? According to my Jedi Master of Organization, Heidi: assess the damage, start small and set achievable goals, and maintain that space before moving on.

Or … have a manic cycle like me and hope that my kids don’t end up on a couch someday talking through dad’s springtime battles with the garage and basement.  

As this Dad sees it, this evolutionary trait called “organization” that skipped my DNA helix, can be learned. Sure, it may take a jump-start from an organizational guru like Sort it All Out, but it can be done and the quality of your life will benefit from it.

(Jeff and Jennifer Wenzler are running a zone defense with their three wonderfully active children! Jeff is the founder and executive director of Pivotal Directions, a servant-leadership program for youth. Jennifer works for a biotech company that provides Multiple Sclerosis therapies. They are parishioners at Lumen Christi Parish, Mequon.)