Often, those subconsciously acquired skills involve things that pertain to running a household efficiently, how to avoid drama in the home, how parents handle discord, how they behave towards each other and their social circle, how they seemingly run the home without too much hesitation. And this is exactly where I feel that things are going increasingly wrong.
I’m often called in as a declutterer and end up becoming an organiser after a short time, simply because decluttering a home has only really touched the surface of what is necessary. And often what turns out to be the issue after all is not the clutter itself, but the simple fact that many people have never understood that a household does not run itself. It’s amazing how many people do not understand basic concepts like cleaning up the dishes or folding and putting away clothes after laundry.
Many people expect decluttering to be a one-off activity that does not require any follow-up. They are sadly mistaken, and that explains why declutterers are also organisers: decluttering is really all about bringing a household back to a working baseline, but from then on a continuous effort is required to keep things running at cruising speed. The simple matter of the fact is this: things naturally go disorderly, and it takes continued maintenance to keep this from happening.
And that is where we return to the subconscious learning process. In the best case scenario, parents (or grandparents) are reasonably proficient in doing those things on autopilot. Their children will tune into some, if not all, of those things on their own. If one of the people in the household does not follow suit, someone else will pick up the slack. With smaller family sizes and usually no grandparents around, the margin for interruption has grown exponentially, though. It’s enough to have one parent who does not know these things for kids to be out of the loop completely.
If you are unlucky enough to grow up in an environment where it is normal to let dishes go mouldy before washing them, where the rubbish bin overflows by default, where the laundry goes unfolded and ends up in a pile in the corner, where the mail is stacked unopened, etc., it is no wonder that kids never see how these things have to be done to avoid utter pandemonium.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m certainly not putting blame on the parents. They may simply not know any better either. And there is no need to burden kids with all kinds of household chores from a young age either. However, there is wisdom in teaching kids such basic skills as clearing up after playing, putting toys back where they belong, imbuing a sense that some stuff is only around for a while, and keeping up with the regular maintenance. And some of those skills will be assimilated by osmosis when the child sees their parent do them all the time.
Indeed, there is the teenager period where the young ones are generally not too keen on doing those things, but that does not mean they have not registered that their parents are doing them. Being a teenager is about rebellion, not being at home in your own body and generally being clueless. Yet that is not the same as being stupid or inattentive. Just disobedient.
These days, I often find myself slipping into the role of those parents, even with clients who have families of their own! Some of them have absolutely no grasp of the concept that things have to be maintained, and regularly, too. In some cases, I end up explaining such simple things as the why and how of folding laundry, creating a shopping plan for the week, managing finances easily, and how to clean properly and regularly … quite simply: how to run a household. It’s more of a teaching job than it is a decluttering job.
All these things are survival skills, really, and a lack of experience in these matters can easily lead to distraction, overwhelm, and giving up altogether. Therefore, teaching the next generation has to start early: get the kids involved early and teach them the skills to run a household. They will thank you one day, when they figure out that it has saved them a lot of heartache in the long run.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.