Many people see an organized, orderly person as structured, methodical, and with nothing out of place. This need not be your definition of orderliness. Before you walk away from this character trait thinking that it just isn’t you – remember that we are made in the image of God and God is a God of order.
God is not a God of disorder, but of peace
1 Cor 14:3
[Tweet “I for one, want peace to reign in my life, in my home and in the lives of my children.”]
I am not a naturally orderly person – I like to say that my artistic inclination gives me an excuse – but really, I not only can learn to be orderly, my life, and the life of those around me benefit when things are in order.
It’s more than organising my stuff:
I like to define orderliness as: everything in its place. And yet, orderliness is more than organising our stuff. Every area of our life can be in order: our relationships, our priorities, our possessions, time, and responsibilities.
Understanding why something is important is a helpful thought process as it strengthens our determination to learn new habits. The reason why orderliness is a good thing to pursue is that it helps me be effective.
It helps me be effective in my priorities, my relationships, my purposes.
To be effective is to do the right things, the right way at the right time. This will have an impact on the things that I set out to do. I want to be an effective follower of Christ, an effective wife, mother and homemaker, an effective friend etc. I need to do the right things, the right way, at the right time. Seeing this as my goal, rather than just having everything spick and span helps me to keep the balance.
Orderliness: Doing right things
the right way
at the right time
Train our children
Whenever we start talking about training our children in character qualities like orderliness it is easy to baulk because we know we ourselves haven’t mastered it. I have been challenged with this conflict many times when it comes to teaching orderliness. I have come to the conclusion that I can’t really hide my flaws from my kids – they live with me, day in and day out. It is a better example to be honest and say – I haven’t mastered this, I’m still learning – let’s learn together.
Conversely, you may be an orderly person and may find it frustrating that your children’ don’t pick orderliness up by osmosis! Some of things may come naturally to you and you may have to stop and think how to teach a child when it hasn’t come naturally. I know I have.
There are plenty of family life situations to teach our children orderliness:
- How to categorise toys, activities, papers so they can create a proper home for their things.
- To think through an activity before starting so they have what they need
- How to file papers in a manilla folder
- To include cleaning up time in their overall plans
- That it only takes a few moments to do it properly
- To take ownership of their routine
- To take ownership of their commitments
I remember my dad teaching us about punctuality – whenever we were going somewhere as a family us kids would always ask, “When do we leave Dad?” (We wanted to know so we could organize ourselves to be ready in time). He would always say:
What time do we need to be there? We would answer him
How long does it take? We would answer him
What time will we leave? We would answer him!
Though this became a family joke there is a great lesson here. We can teach our children to think through their responsibilities for themselves, and take ownership of their character.
Resources to teach Orderliness:
When my kids were young we enjoyed a few books that helped us talk about growing in orderliness:
The Bernstein Bears and the Messy Room (A First Time Book) by Stan Berenstein and Jan Berenstein. This book highlited theimportance of keeping things orderly and also gave some good examples for the kids to see how to do it.
Aunt Minnie McGranahan by Mary Skillings Prigger. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed this story. And I quote from the inside jacket: Minnie McGranahan was small and tidy, and she lived alone in a neat little house. She had a neat little garden and a neat little barn and she had a system for everything. The neighbours always said it was lucky she didn’t have any children – they might interfere with her system. What a surprise it was for everyone when Minnie suddenly inherited nine orphaned nephews and nieces! Whatever would she do with all those children?
We saw so many character traits in Minnie McGranahan but we focused on Orderliness. It was a good opportunity to talk about systems but not forgetting that relationships always come first.
A good system will always allow for an emergency!
~Joshua Letchford, age 14
Character First have many of their Primary School curriculum as free downloads on their website: Orderliness. These pdfs give you good lesson ideas, discussion points and examples for teaching character.
Put it into practice
We must remember that orderliness is a character trait – it is not a life’s purpose. Our life’s purpose is to be used by God; bringing our life out of chaos will make us more effective at whatever it is we need to be doing. Orderliness helps us achieve our purpose.
All character traits become a part of our life, not when we study it, but when we put them into practice – but never more so than orderliness. Other than the usual – put things away – here are a few other issues we addressed:
- If you think of it – do it, don’t put it off for another day
- Create appropriate times for your activities
- Set a timer to keep you on track
- Leave a room better than you found it – this means pick up after yourself and possibly others as well. See this as blessing others rather than the usual response of ‘It’s not my mess!’ This includes cleaning up after making a snack in the kitchen and replacing the toilet paper roll.
- Have a ‘home’ for all your stuff (piles are not homes!)
- Stop a task a few minutes earlier, giving you time to pack away before the next activity.
- Keep your computer organised – digital photos, files, and downloads quickly clutter up a digital space, much like paper clutters up a physical space.
- Don’t dump on the table when we walk in – put things away – and push in chairs when you get up from the table.
It is unrealistic to expect us to be able to work on all areas of our life at the same time and instantly bring order. So we need to choose one area that gives us the most concern and set about to bring that one area under control. The same with your children, is there one area of their life that is characterised by disruption, chaos and lack of peace? That is the area to target.
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