Disorder in the home can get everybody down, even the people who cause it. Lorraine Brock is a professional organizer and mother of three sons who says that teaching your kids to do household chores now can make them better spouses in the long run. In this Q&A with MercatorNet she talks about the importance of order and the key role of mothers in fostering this virtue.
MercatorNet: Getting organized seems to be a top New Year resolution. Why are people so disorganized today?
Lorraine Brock: People have so many gizmos and gadgets they are over loaded with things, which turn into clutter. With the convenience of technology we try to pack more into a day, instead of taking time to think or regroup. Another huge reason for disorganization is that many people do not carry with them a planner containing their or their family's schedule. They try to rely on memory, which fails, and lists and sticky notes that get lost.
MercatorNet: Is it true that men are less organized, or at least less orderly, than women? How come they end up running most of the world?
Lorraine Brock: Yes, in general men tend to be stronger in areas other than organizing, but it really all depends on how they were raised. If they had a mother that was always prepared and organized, chances are they will have that quality. Even so, all men are more than capable of being organized. It's just that tasks like organizing a filing system are unimportant when there's a world to save. Someone has to be able to care of the details of family life, and women just have that natural ability of nurturing and caring for the families needs; more so than men.
MercatorNet: Tidiness would not be the first thing one looks for in a potential spouse, but how important is it is in married and family life?
Lorraine Brock: Why not? Tidiness is one of the first things I notice in a man. I notice how he looks and lives and that reveals a lot about his character and personality. Is he neat and clean or sloppy and messy? I wouldn't even consider a man that didn't take pride in his home or what he owns. Would you want to rent out your home to a tidy person or a slob?
The lack of concern that many husbands show for keeping the home tidy is frustrating to women, to say the least. We want our men to care about what we invest so much of our time in: our home.
MercatorNet: Is order a virtue that is generally underestimated?
Lorraine Brock: To many, order is not seen as providing an instant return on your time. But once you are there, you wonder where "order" was all your life. It just feels good to sit in a room that is organized; gazing at order.
MercatorNet: The New York Times recently ran an article about consultants who charge up to $100 an hour to teach teenagers, mainly boys, how to organize their school work. What is your answer to messy backpacks and undone homework?
Lorraine Brock: First, as a parent you have to do it with them, not for them, or they will never learn how to do it themselves. While they are young, start a routine of opening up their binder and backpack and have them take out old papers, review homework and see notes they have taken. To learn how to organize their school work, they need to be taught over time, not just in a once or twice consultation. Of course, by the time they enter middle school you see that training really paying off. But remember, they are still kids.
MercatorNet: Can boys really learn to clean the bathroom?
Lorraine Brock: Yes, boys can clean just as well as girls. Mine did. Many times the parents delegate these types of chores to the girls, while the boy feeds the dog or takes out the trash. When parents do this, they don't allow their sons to learn a task that his future wife would be grateful he knew how to do. Remember we're raising future husbands here.
MercatorNet: Is training the kids to do household chores about skills and self-discipline, or is it about something more — like taking responsibility for your home and workplace?
Lorraine Brock: It's definitely both. To do a household chore like making a bed well takes skill, which you learn by training over time. Some people can make a bed, and others can Make a Bed: corners tucked in and so tight that your feet point when you are under the covers; that's skill. Delegating responsibilities to children also gives parents an opportunity to teach that everyone has to share the load.
MercatorNet: You say that in most cases home and life management skills are learned from the mother, but if advice like yours is heeded wouldn't fathers become more influential? Do you think they should?
Lorraine Brock: I think that, naturally, they would influence their own children, just leading by example. But women still primarily have the responsibility of delegating household chores and teaching the others how they are completed.
I do think fathers should be more influential in their sons' or daughters' lives, both with home and life skills and as a strong leader in the home. When a husband or father pours himself in to his wife, kids and home, good things happen.
MercatorNet: What is your top tip for getting more order in the home?
Lorraine Brock: In order to get order, you have to have order. I find that making what I call a Master List for anything such as trip planning to meal planning helps me maintain order in my home. A master list can be created on your computer for unlimited possibilities. For example, my family enjoys going on camping trips, so when we are ready to start packing I print out my master list for camping. It has a column for clothes and personal hygiene items, another row for food and camping supplies.
By having a master list for camping all I have to do is click and print. I also don’t have to recreate the whole list each time I go camping, and it’s easy to add or take away from the list, saving me loads of time. Every item I could possibly need is on my list. I never have to deal with the frustration of forgetting things or re-buying items I have forgotten to bring.
Master lists can be created for almost anything, from groceries, birthdays, pet or babysitting notes to DVD’s that you have in your home. This will allow you to have order when planning events and activities. It will also save you time and money by helping you not to forget items that you need.
Lorraine Brock is married with three sons and lives in Dallas, Texas, where she runs a small business, Get Organised!