Character Notes - Orderliness

If ever there was a character trait where I have been challenged to practice what I teach it is orderliness! These thoughts are a part of my journey….Join me in the discovery of Order.

Orderliness: Arranging myself and my surroundings to
achieve the greatest efficiency.

Taken from Character First

Dad’s office desk before Jess got to itDad’s desk all organized thanks to Jess

Find your way around this page:

The Definition
The Goal
The Tools
Cleanliness is next to …
Put it into Practice
Train our Children
Our Family Connection
Orderliness Book List
Have your say

The Definition

I like this definition - Everything in its place.

When I say everything, I mean everything - my relationships, my priorities, my possessions, my time, my responsibilities - each and every aspect of my life can be used by God, for God’s purposes especially if I live my life in order. I know that God is bigger than the disarray that is sometimes in my life, and He can and will use me regardless of my failures but I also know that it is easier to answer the call when my life is in order.

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 choose one area that gives you 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 characterized by disruption, chaos and a lack of peace? Target that area.

A dictionary gives the following phrases to help us understand this character trait.

  • systematic arrangement
  • method or system
  • correct procedure
  • harmonious arrangement
I guess the opposite will paint pictures such as - chaos, unexpected, disarray, confusion - though I didn’t go to a dictionary for these words, I recognize them easily.

The Goal

Many people see an organized orderly person as structured, methodical, 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

I for one want that peace to reign in my life, in my home and in the lives of my children.

When we look at the Character First definition - to arrange myself and my surroundings to achieve the greatest efficiency I am faced with another goal; to reach efficiency. Efficiency and Effectiveness are related words and I like to take note of the difference:

    Efficient will get the job done
    doing things right

    Effective will have an impact on others because of the right timing
    Doing the right things, the right way, at the right time

Therefore my ultimate goal is to be effective in all that I do. I want to be an effective follower of Christ, an effective wife, mother and homemaker, an effective friend etc. I want to have an effect on the people around me; 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 keep the balance.

Right things
Right way
Right time

Cleanliness is next to ….

So often orderliness gets confused with cleanliness; there is a difference. Cleaning is pretty much surface stuff - we wipe down benches, sweep the floor and swipe the cobwebs. Getting things into Order though is a deeper, foundational process which makes the cleaning then more efficient.

Unfortunately, if we don’t look after our possessions, we end up spending a lot of time making order in our home and not getting around to the cleaning. This is inefficient.

One can’t clean clutter
– it just gets moved from place to place

-Marilyn Rockett

Homeschooling at the Speed of Life: Balancing Home, School, And Family in the Real World by Marilyn Rocket has some helpful tips for making order in the homeschool life.

Put it into Practice

All character traits become a part of our life when we put them into practice, but never more so than Orderliness. As you study this trait, ear mark an area of your home that needs attention and after discussing one aspect go and 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.

  • If you think of it – do it
  • 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. See this as blessing others rather than the usual response of “It’s not my mess!”.
  • 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

Train our Children

Not only do we need to train ourselves to be aware of the disarray in our own lives we need to train our children to take hold of these things in their lives while they are young. Some may say that you can’t train your children unless you have been there. I take the perspective that I am in mess at times, so I can share that aspect with my children. It is something I know well! They can join me in the journey to discover order and peace in all aspects of our lives. It is both a humbling thing as well as a motivating thing to know that your children see and recongise your weaknesses (and I believe they see our strengths too!) Don’t delay lessons to your children on the grounds that you are learning too - learn together.

There may well be areas of your children’s lives that are in disarray and you wonder how that can be. You may model it and yet they don’t seem to pick it up by osmosis! It is a shame but it is the way of it!!

I have had to teach my children

  • How to categorise toys, activities, papers so they can create a proper home for their things
  • To think through an activity before starting
  • How to file papers in a manilla folder
  • To include cleaning up time in their overall plans
  • That it takes only a few moments to do it properly
  • To take ownership of their routine
  • To take ownership of their commitments

Some of these 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.

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?” (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.

Our Family Connection

The Greek word Cosmos is significant to our family - it has been the name given to family farms for a couple of generations. Peter’s grandfather was involved in agricultural politics of his day and he felt a certain project he was involved in was in total disarray. His desire for his enterprise was for it to be in order - to reflect God’s order - so he named the place Cosmos. These days we may understand this word slightly differently but the original means “order” and it recognises that God’s world is created with order. The opposite Greek word being chaos.

Orderliness Book List

The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room (A First Time Book) by Stan Berenstain, Jan Berenstain is a good one for highlighting the importance of keeping things orderly and also provides examples of how to do it!

Aunt Minnie McGranahan 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

Tidy Titch A favourite childhood memory for my older children. They remembered it with such fondness that the younger two couldn’t wait to hear the story!

Do you talk about character issues
in your home?

I’d love to hear of the conversations you’ve had and the applications you’ve made in your home. Here is a quick and simple way to share your stories. You can share about this specific character trait or any general lesson.

And if you've made a poster to help your children remember things - add that as a graphic for all to be encouraged.

Live life with your kids!

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