Do any of your children seem to mess up their rooms in twenty seconds flat, then take two hours (or two days) to clean it up again?
One of my children keeps his room tidy without much trouble; however, another one of my children is extremely challenged in this area. (There is one more child, but she is still a baby, so she isn’t cleaning bedrooms yet!)
The battle of the bedroom has been an ongoing one, something we have had to constantly work on. After scouring the internet and asking friends, here is what I have discovered about keeping kids’ bedrooms tidy and clean:
1. Limit the Amount of Stuff in There
This is the first and foremost rule. Kids truly don’t need a lot of stuff. When they have too much stuff, they have a hard time playing with anything at all. It squelches creativity and leaves little room for imagination.
If you have ever tried to tidy a room that is chock full of toys, furniture, and clothing, you must know how difficult it can be. If it is difficult for you, then how difficult is it for your child?
Since kids seem to be toy magnets, it is important to purge regularly!
2. Make Things Easy to Put Away
If kids have to muscle a book onto an overstuffed bookshelf, how likely is it that the book will actually get put away?
If it’s necessary to stand on a step stool and lean 5 inches to the left, while holding a curtain out of the way, just to replace a toy, do you think it will happen? Probably not.
Try to eliminate as many obstacles as possible; make toy boxes accessible, declutter unused or unwanted items so things can fit comfortably.
3. Give Everything a Home
Make sure there is a place for everything the child owns. This can be as detailed or broad as you like. A tub for toys is super simple, but may not be very practical when it comes to finding every piece of the lego set. Find a system that works for you and your child, but remember to keep it simple.
Once everything has a home, make sure your child knows about it. It’s great if they can be involved in the process of deciding where each toy will live. It may even help them remember where to put things when it’s time to tidy up.
Give them a tour of the room and show each toy’s home. Put labels on tubs or drawers so it is easy for children to identify where an item should go; they can then clean up independently without having to constantly ask, “What do I do with this?”
For younger children, who are unable to read, take a picture of the item and tape it to the outside of the drawer or tub.
4. Use Tubs, Containers and Drawers
We’ve already touched on this above, but it is worth a little more attention. . .
Tubs and containers are easy for children to throw toys into. Small containers are wonderful for holding lots of tiny pieces. Both stack neatly for storage.
Clear containers help kids see what is available and where things should go. Add a label to the outside and you’re set.
Another option is to use clear, plastic drawers. The drawers can be pulled out completely and set on the floor. When it’s time to clean up, kids can easily put the toys inside, then slide the drawer back in place. This is a favorite of mine, and something we use a lot in our home.
5. Show Children How to Tidy Up
Don’t send young children to their room with the order to “tidy up” without first showing them how. If a room is completely out of control, it will be overwhelming for them.
As with all chores, kids need to be trained how to perform each task. Show them what to do first (and second and third). Show them how you put each item back in its designated place. Be sure to talk about how nice it is to have a clean room. Show them how much room there is to spin around when the floor is clear. Make it fun, or at least show them how much fun they can have when the task is done.
6. Post a Clean Bedroom Chart
For children who can read, a clean bedroom chart is very helpful. This can be a set of instructions for tidying the room or a checklist to look over once the room is completed (or thought to be completed). A chart enables a child do the work on their own. It is a very useful training tool. As they refer to it over and over, it will become second nature to do as it directs.
7. Make Bedroom Maintenance Part of the Daily Routine
Have a scheduled time for room cleaning. Plan to have your child work in their bedroom every day for a set amount of time. Make sure it is at a time when your child has some energy. If you wait until before bed, it is often too late.
Stay on top of it. Having five minute “room rescues” throughout the day will help keep the beast under control.
Set aside time for deep cleaning. This will make sure the dust bunnies and dirt don’t take over.
Kim Brenneman from Large Family Logistics shared some wonderful tips on children’s bedroom management. In her article she explains how each week is dedicated to cleaning a different part of the room. This cleaning happens around the same time each day in short intervals. Her article is one of my favorites in regard to this topic and one I highly recommend you read!
8. Lay Out Some Ground Rules
Decide if there will be a consequence for a bedroom that is not cleaned up by an agreed upon time. Communicate this clearly to your child and then stick to it. Many recommend requiring a clean room by dinner time, if this is not achieved then everything that is not put away goes into a bag in the garage for a week. Of course, this should not be asked of a child who has not been shown how to tidy their room yet.
9. Don't Expect Perfection
Although children can certainly learn to do an excellent job, we should not expect their room to remain spotless. It is important to expect and child to clean up their mess and to take pride in their work, but there is more to life than perfectly straight vacuum lines on the rug.
There are more tips and tricks I wanted to share, but this is already quite long. I’ll save the rest for another post. In that post I’ll share what we are doing to help our seriously messy, but very creative child.