Simple Space and Time Family Organization Projects
Family relationships often suffer when the household is disorganized, robbing families of enjoyment and functionality. In this blog I’m sharing some simple family organization projects you can do to begin to establish order for the family unit.
FAMILY ORGANIZING – RECLAIMING SPACE
An obvious place to start organizing your family is by taking back the home itself!
If there are non-functional rooms, these will require your first focus.
- A dirty kitchen with layered counters, overflowing fridge, and expired food would be a top priority.
- Bedrooms where you can’t navigate the floor or sleep in the covered bed are another example of immediate triage.
- Living spaces that are littered with paper and homeless “stuff,” making sitting in the chairs impossible also require keen attention.
Rooms that are truly this cluttered may even border on hoarding. In my opinion, hoarding is a spiritual and emotional issue as well as a physical issue and requires multi-dimensional help.
But most of us aren’t in acute household disorganization, but our families are not enjoying as functional and as inviting a home as we would like.
If you’re not in an emergency state, I have some suggestions for upleveling your space to serve your family. Start by creating intentional gathering spaces that encourage family togetherness.
Start reclaiming your family by creating intentional gathering spaces that encourage family togetherness.
Set out to create fun, inviting, and relational spaces. Here are three great projects to tackle.
Clear off the Mealtime Table
Ok, it may seem obvious, but clearing the mealtime table is a basic first step to reclaiming your family.
Gathering your family at least once a day around the dinner table. And studies show that families who gather for daily meals are healthier, perform better academically, have less depression, practice far less risky behaviors, and less stressed. (American College of Pediatrics).
Yet, most homes our professional organizers visit feature a mountain of stuff piled on the family table, making gathered mealtimes a rarity. Instead, family members stand and eat, or eat in front of a screen or independently from one another.
A messy or inaccessible table divides the family. A clear and inviting mealtime table (and surrounding area) is a first step to reclaiming family.
So, do what it takes to clear off your family table.
A messy or inaccessible table divides the family. A clear and inviting mealtime table (and surrounding area) is a first step to reclaiming family.
Create Space for Meals and More
Route nomadic items that have landed there (like your tax paperwork and briefcase and latest craft project) elsewhere to dedicated, sensible “homes.”
Wipe down and reclaim the table with flowers or a centerpiece (I like using our Family Fun Caddy, featured in this blog. Claiming all that expansive surface “real estate” is a helpful defensive organizing tactic! Feel free to re-set the table each time you’re done with a meal to prevent creep-age.
Pay attention to adjacent sideboards and counter space; freeing up those surfaces for serving and clearing spaces.
A clear and usable family table gives you a beautiful canvas for investing in meaningful family relationships. My Reclaim the Family Table blog also provides great ideas for maximizing your gathered table time.
Reclaiming the family table will offer daily connection and conversation with your loved ones. It’s a great first step towards family organization.
This next project will offer a space to which you can retire after mealtimes…a cozy gathering space.
Create a Cozy Gathering Room
This picture is of our “gathering room;” it’s a multi-purpose space that serves as a “parlor” meeting room – a space for gathering friends, family, and coaching clients, and our family event space. Christmas, birthdays, disco dances, and all manner of parties are hosted here. This room can be easily re-arranged to match the needs: a racetrack for R.C. cars, an intimate conversation, a family meeting, or snuggling up with blankets to watch the Lego Movie.
The intention of creating a gathering room is to make space for togetherness, conversation, and fun. Some people do this in the room marked “family room” or “living room” in their floorplan. It doesn’t really matter which room you use for gathering; the important thing is to dedicate space for this purpose.
One thing I love to do is to eliminate the “boundary” between the commonly conjoined, lengthy living/dining space that many floorplans offer. This way, you can absorb a formal dining space (which many people rarely use) into a larger, comfortable gathering space.
This next family organization idea expands the fun even further!
Set up a Rec Room
One thing we don’t see as often anymore – that older homes are more likely to offer – is an old-fashioned “rec room.”
Recreation rooms are often converted basements or attic space that are dedicated to PLAY.
Evaluate your home to see if you need and could create a rec room. If you’ve got young children, with lots of years to enjoy the investment, building out a space for family playtime will pay dividends for years to come. Having a cool rec room will make your home the “hub” for friends and family alike. It will make wintertime more bearable, and give your parties more “elbowroom.”
Create a Space Unique to Your Family
Your rec room can be as unique as your own family. Ping pong, pool, or foosball tables will always be popular. If you’re looking for something unique, a skee ball alley, table shuffleboard, or vintage pinball machines will add frivolity. I grew up with a second-hand Pac Man arcade game and I’m pretty sure my cousin became the unknown world champion playing in our basement!
Comfy furniture surrounded by sturdy coffee tables, along with several tables – both large and small, serve a variety of party sizes. These various seating vignettes – both club style and barstool height – allow for intimate conversations, chess games, or small group conversation. Being mindful of the kinds of activities you want to host will direct your furniture choices in your rec room.
Some people like to prominently feature screens and media in their rec room (and even in their gathering rooms). My bias is to DISinclude media from these spaces due to the mass overusage of screens in everyday life. Remember, you are taking back your home in order to create family togetherness! You don’t want to just be sitting in the same room, but on separate screens!
Focus on Pass-times and Passions
The purpose of a recreation room is to RECREATE – to have fun, to laugh, and to CREATE. For this reason, think outside traditional party room activities and include in your rec room dedicated space for your hobbies.
Whether you like to scrapbook, collect coins, or work with rocks and gems, carving out intentional space in your rec room for these pastimes allows your family to join you in these hobbies. By including everyone’s pastimes in this conjoined rec room, you can enjoy WHAT you love most with WHO you love most! And you’ve got a much better chance of passing on your passions and skills to your kids if you involve them!
As you’re reclaiming family time, capture the memories along the way! This next family organization idea will capture the best in your family and give everyone a sense of belonging…
Create a Family Gallery
These days, everyone has their photos in their devices. But I think there’s something special about creating a family gallery WALL somewhere in your home.
This gallery is in our master bedroom and every single day I’m surrounded by my dream-come-true: my precious family. It’s made up of black and white framed pictures, a central canvas, plus architectural pieces for interest.
A dedicated space celebrating your family brings back fond memories and creates an artful feature.
There are many canvas, tile, metal, and even stick-on/peel-off photo display options now that you can use to create your own unique family gallery. Hallways and entryways are good for showcasing your gallery if you want visitors to enjoy it too!
This short project takes more time in planning than in execution. Selecting the right materials and images and extras is a worthwhile investment. Your finished gallery will give you years of enjoyment!
In addition to organizing your SPACE, you can organize your TIME to make room for quality family life.
FAMILY ORGANIZATION –RECLAIMING TIME
Organizing your home for family connection is the most native thing you can do to encourage togetherness. But don’t stop there!
Now it’s time to intentionally create family experiences. This next idea will provide a blueprint for family growth and fun all year long…
Create an Annual Family Calendar
Get out your calendar and bucket lists and destination ideas and sit down with your family and create an annual calendar.
Start by adding to your calendar recurrent, ongoing activities. I bet you’ll find that nearly all recurrent activities involve one person (guitar lessons, ballet practice, mom’s Bunco group.)
So, take the time to find some things that the whole family can enjoy together.
Our family has an ongoing book club. We read challenging, inspiring books to feed our spirit, bodies, and minds. Once a week we have a meeting and review what we are learning. This is an example of a recurrent family activity.
This is also the time to evaluate if the things you currently do individually or as a family are “filling your fuel tank,” whether they’re necessary and whether they add value to your life.
- This may be an instructive process, because you might sit down with a blank calendar and realize you’re not doing much of anything as a family. Not to say you don’t go out for pizza now and then, but you might find that you haven’t set forth PLANS, which gives everyone something to look forward to, something to save for, and something to dream about.
- This may also be an alarming process if you realize that the family’s world has orbited around one or a few people, not the whole unit. Some changes may need to take place to bring more integration to the family.
List Family Activities
The next step is to make a list of all your activity ideas, from educational events to travel. Your list may include field trips, campgrounds you want to try, concerts, and vacation destinations. You can make a paper or electronic list.
TIP: For this brainstorming stage, I love the idea of adding all your individual ideas onto sticky notes and putting them on a wall. This way you can organize your ideas by category: destinations, experiences, educational, etc. and even color-code or prioritize them from there.
A lot of THINKING goes into planning an annual family calendar because it’s a clearinghouse of ideas you COULD do as a family. What you’ll discover is that momentum builds as you dive deeper into your ideas and your priorities as a family will emerge. You’ll all get excited and inspired, and vie for your ideas to make it from the list into the calendar. You can’t do it all (at least this year!) so you’ll work together to create a manageable calendar of activities.
Having an annual family calendar will set you apart from the overwhelmed masses as you intentionally prioritize – and enjoy the benefits of – a close family. This exercise causes individual family members to become a UNIT, making plans together, and dreaming together. This annual calendar will provide a blueprint for each month, quarter, and year. You’ll see how fast time goes by and how important it is to make the most of it.
Here are a few success tips when planning your family organization calendar:
- Plan a half day for this exercise. It may take longer, it may take less time, but you can make a fun “retreat” out of the planning stage!
- You don’t have to plan the whole year at a time if it’s a slow process for you; perhaps aim for one quarter at a time or a bi-annual calendar.
- Do plan ahead for anything that you know will require reservations: prized campground spots; airline reservations, Nutcracker tickets, etc.
- Blend in educational, outdoor, and play activities as well as travel
- Incorporate everyone’s interests; aim for something for everyone within a year’s time
- Don’t overdo it. Once you get accustomed to the cadence of a family annual calendar, you can always add more. But if you start with every week packed full, you might burn out.
- If nothing else is on your calendar but one-on-one time with each member of the family, you will have succeeded….
Schedule One-on-One Dates
We believe in coffee dates. Every week when I’m on television, I bring one of my boys as my Media Assistant and then after the segment, we go out for coffee. This is a small investment each week of time and resources, but I’ve noticed that vying for my time has ceased. Each of them know they’re going to get a few dedicated hours with me each week to chat about whatever we want. Sometimes we add in fun errands to our special time together.
One-on-one time between parents and children opens communication and strengthens bonds.
Schedule special one-on-one dates and family dates into your family calendar. Being intentional ahead of time gives you time to think about what you want to discuss, or even set a theme for your time together.
The key is in not spending time, but in investing it. – Stephen R. Covey
To round out your reclamation of your TIME, I highly recommend a division of family chores to lighten everyone’s load and keep the household clean and welcoming.
Establish a Family Chore Chart
Organizing and assigning chores improves household livability and enjoyment for the family. You’re taking back wasted time searching for things by continuously “restoring order:” putting things away and cleaning the home.
Mobilize every member of the family in the caretaking the home to avoid one person being stuck as the family “maid” (can I get an “AMEN” from all the moms out there?!)
If you need to distribute chores, Pinterest has unending inspiration. Try a chart, and tweak it to your needs.
In our home, we have tried many solutions, including charts, but now everyone just has their unique chores and we all work together to keep things clear.
- Trevor does most all the cooking. I would starve without him.
- I do most all the cleaning. They would live in a cesspool without me.
- Nash does the dishwasher. Somehow our family of four uses at least 30 cups a day.
- Brock does the sweeping. You’d think we were an indoor farm with the size of our dust bunnies.
- Laundry is a moving target. I usually do at least a load a day. Refer to the 30 cups a day. It also applies to towels and jeans. Folding belongs to whoever I catch passing by when the dryer stops.
The point is: we keep things moving. We all have our jam and we all work together.
SIDE NOTE: Some people may ask how I motivate my kids to do chores. I just do. We don’t whistle-while-we-work or other corny things; I don’t try to “make it fun.” I do talk a lot about how thankful we are for clean, organic food while we’re putting away groceries. I do comment on how nice they look in the new jeans Nana bought them. I constantly bring them back to the work if it was not done completely or properly. (Raising responsible men is no small feat and my goal is for my future daughters-in-law to LOVE me!) I insist on a good attitude. I have never paid chore money or offered bribes for these basic chores. I just expect that they’re part of the family (and the mess) and they will help.
I hope these space and time family organization projects to reclaim your family have inspired you to prioritize both your household order and time investment.
My greatest joy as a professional organizer is to help people reclaim what matters most. And what matters most is PEOPLE. Organizing our homes and our time to put our family first will help us avoid regret. None of us want to look back on a chaotic household or haphazard schedule that marginalized those we love the most. Intentionality is the narrow path out of today’s jam-packed, screen-isolated, indiscriminate culture. Take the time to reclaim your family now, and you’ll set the bar for generations to come!
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