Parent Interview: Professional organizer Edith Dandenault
As parents, it’s hard to feel that we are ever organized enough.
Every morning as the school bus pulls up, we play “What winter clothes are missing today?” (which may result in a bonus round of Family Feud). Whatever is missing usually shows up later, among the un-dealt-with pile of bills and parking tickets mail, or somewhere in our leaning tower of laundry.
Children bring us joy and laughter, but also chaos and clutter. Assuming that no other parent out there has properly-functioning magic wand, we could all use a little professional help. Today, we talk to Edith Dandenault, a mother of two who has worked as a professional organizer for 16 years. She is otherwise known as the Haven Maven, and there’s a great video of her talking about why she loves her work, on her home page.
I asked Edith for some tips on how to get kids more interested in picking up after themselves, and how best to store (or pitch) the art work they bring home every week, as well as what she likes to do on weekends with the kids.
I Spy: Please introduce yourself.
Edith: My name is Edith Dandenault, I am a happily married mother of two boys, ages 7 and 8. Originally from the Eastern Townships, I have lived in Montreal for the last 18 months. I own and operate my own company: The Haven Maven: Professional Organizer. I have been working as a professional organizer for 16 years, have worked in 3 different countries, speak 5 languages and have moved 15 times in 17 years. As an organizer with experience working with families, couples, and small businesses, I have built my business on the premise that everyone needs a haven; a place where they feel calm. This haven doesn’t have to look the same for everyone but it should feel the same. I love working as an organizer and have found Montreal to be a place where people “get it” – they know the value of getting one’s physical space to jibe with the mental place you want to inhabit.
I Spy: As a professional organizer, do you have any tips or tricks (other than nagging) for getting kids involved in cleaning up and organizing their own stuff?
- Start early. And I don’t mean 6 a.m. roll call for the kids. As early as the age of 2, kids can distinguish shapes, colours and themes well enough to have them store away toys in broad category bins – really broad categories.
- Build habits. The nagging only ever has to start if the children were never expected to clean up as kids, and then are suddenly asked to “be responsible”. Remember that motivation gets you started, habits are what keep you going.
- Lose control. I mean it, stop controlling. Let the kids put things away and be happy with how it looks. With time, you can slowly train them to also make things look good, but at first, things need to be stored away.
I Spy: Kids bring home arts and crafts projects from day care and school on a weekly basis. Do you have any tips on how to decide which masterpieces to keep and which to (shhh!) get rid of? And how to keep them all organized?
Edith: Perspective here is the key. Kids are thrilled to give us their art, and then they forget and move on to other challenges. Parents have to do the same. The trick I have used most often is to immortalize the crafts by taking a good quality, well-centered photo of my kids with the artwork and then send this photo to grandma and granddad. For drawings, make it part of your children’s education to know that there are positive ways of making choices. I had a routine with the boys, where we went over all the drawings they had made in the week and they got to keep no more than 4. The top one got fridge time (we still do that) and the rest went into a binder with the accompanying comments, like “Mommy, this is you with your crazy morning hair”. Keep all the firsts (first animal, house, person), keep everything that fits into one binder for the year and focus on the fact that learning to sort, to appreciate, to be critical, and to let go are also fabulous life-skills you can teach your kids.
I Spy: Can you share a favourite weekend family destination or activity?
Edith: Our family is fond of discovering local parks. We’ve lived in Montreal for nearly 18 months and in that time have visited over 12 different municipal parks. We started with the ones in our neighborhood of Côtes-des-Neiges, and then spiraled outward to visit N.D.G., Outremont, and Westmount parks that seemed kid-friendly and adult-kind. We get there with frisbees, a soccer ball, a kite, a couple of mandatory swords two cups of coffee and a camera and usually that is enough for 2-3 or 4 hours of fun. In the winter we go to the same parks with skates and snowshoes and pairs of extra mitts. Building forts and creating snow slides can be very exciting…even in the bitter cold. These spontaneous free visits have turned into adventures for many a weekend morning.
I Spy: Great to meet you, Edith!