Organizing teens is like herding cats
On our best months, the family calendar perched on our refrigerator looks like the flight manifest for the air traffic controller on a busy day at HIA. Trust me, even he couldn’t figure out our schedule. The minivan smells like a fast food restaurant, and it looks like someone threw a grenade into the backseat.
Such is the challenge of coordinating the activities of three active teenage daughters. For my wife and me, the family calendar is our grail to keep us organized for who’s driving whom to dermatologist and orthodontist appointments, basketball practice, choir, scouts, karate, school projects, community service, etc. Each of the five of us has his/her own colored marker so we know exactly who has to be where and when.
Then we got the bright idea that, maybe, if we helped our daughters be more organized, it would have a positive impact on how she and I manage the family calendar (and our sanity).
Here’s what we did to stay on top of things:
I’m a notorious list-maker, so I was delighted when our daughters’ high school handed out daily planners on the first day of school. I enthusiastically showed my girls how to plot their days, their weeks and their months. A space for long-term projects provides an area to slot term papers, mid-term exams and the infamous science project. The newest technology gadgets like smartphones and tablet computers are equipped with calendar apps with bells and whistles to remind your teens of meetings, project deadlines, sporting activities and birthday parties.
The day planner for school works well and all three girls have adopted this as a way of life for them. If they lose their planner, they are frazzled.
Moving to the bathroom was a monumental challenge. How do you organize the hair care products, scrubs, creams, lotions, makeup, deodorant, toothpaste and feminine hygiene products for three teenage girls?
I wanted to cry ‘uncle’ before I even started. Or just cry.
Under the sink is a basket for each girl, in her favorite color, and each is allowed to cram as much stuff into her basket without it spilling into another.
In the vanity I installed over the toilet are three shelves. Again, each is allowed to keep as much stuff as she can without it sliding into and clogging the toilet that Lowe’s promised me would never back up.
We had installed in the shower a three-shelf unit, and a separate shower caddy hangs from the shower nozzle. Even on a good day though, the shower looks like a colony of mice got loose in the Johnson & Johnson factory. No system is foolproof. The bathroom solutions also work pretty well, even though when you have three teenage girls in one bathroom, harmony is never 100 percent.
Each daughter has dedicated space in a dresser. Each daughter has dedicated closet space, ceiling to floor. Each has her own bookshelf to store novels and recreational reading as well as photographs and dust collectors. The smartest things that my wife invested in were plastic bins with wheels that are thin enough to fit underneath a bed. They take pressure off of bulging closets and they are great to stow away seasonal items or sports gear that you don’t want clogging the hallway. Each also has her own clothes hamper so I don’t get the sports bras mixed up when I do the laundry.
The bedrooms can be a challenge. The older two share a bedroom, so I'd say they are a little bit more organized, but my youngest has her own room, and on most days it looks like an explosion in a clothing store. She throws towels and clothing every which way during the week, and prefers to clean it up on the weekends. During the week, my wife and I try not to enter her bedroom for fear of breaking an ankle or leg tripping over piles of stuff.
At the end of the week, we’re happy if we haven’t forgotten someone someplace, and haven’t lost anything important, like an iPod or a flat iron. Then I look forward to gassing up the minivan only to start again fresh on Monday.
David F. Salter is a freelance writer based in York, a father of three daughters and blogs at www.fathersagainstdaughtersdating.com