I can think of no parents that don’t regularly fuss at their kids to clean their room. I have had that “discussion” with my daughter more times than I want to count. Part of it is my daughter loves to be served. Part of it is the task really was overwhelming.
As we’ve been working on redoing her room, we’ve also been coming to terms with the mess. Here are a few things I’ve learned.
Six Tips for Busy Parents to Keep Kids’ Rooms Clean for Good
1. Plan for Hidden Storage
Kids have stuff. Lots of stuff. Pretty design websites don’t think children do. Or that their stuff is all magically color-coordinated with their room. Uh, yeah, my daughter’s room *totally* looks like this rather than multi-colored elf Legos and piles of mismatched books everywhere.
Our plan included under the bed drawers, a full closet organizer, and a dresser. She does have some open shelves, but those are used sparingly and treated like “displays”. Not sure how long this will last, but so far, it’s been great. She knows her plush Link and Zelda dolls go on one shelf, her queen dragon on another. It’s been working.
2. Box Like Things Together
I love plastic ware. Yeah, I admit it. But it really does work. I bought some plastic snap lid boxes, and these are now used to keep like things together. Lego pieces not on display? In a box. Disney clip dolls? In a box. Some beloved Little People? In a box. Now, when she plays with them, she can take the box down, and when she’s done, she knows where they all go.
3. Tame the Paper
My daughter loves to do art, and when she’s done, the pieces of it end up everywhere. In every box, bin and clothing drawer I’ve gone through so far. To tame this, I bought her two nice plastic folders in Hyrule blue. My husband is stenciling the royal symbol of Hyrule on the cover. This is where her art goes, and we’re not above pulling the Princess Zelda trump card out and asking her if Zelda would leave stuff all over her bedroom. No, we didn’t talk about the fact she probably has a legion of maids.
I purged anything broken. Anything that didn’t have all the pieces. Anything that looked like it could’ve come from a Happy Meal. I purged anything that came home in one of those party favor bags. I purged toys that were geared to children younger than her sister.
I filled the back of my vehicle with stuff that was still in great shape and could be donated, and I filled a garbage can with the rest. This taught me we really need to go through stuff at her birthday and Christmas and weed out toys she’s outgrown. It’s also taught me to be a better gatekeeper. Really, those “goody” bags from birthday parties never need to make it past the kitchen garbage.
5. To the Basement
After taking everything out of my daughter’s room, only things that she’d use, wear, or play with were allowed to return. Should be easy, right? It meant taking out her winter clothes, even the things she’d stuffed into the nooks and crannies of her closet and dresser, down to the basement to be stored for next year. I do this every season as our winters are regularly down to -20F and our summers are in the 90s.
Once this was done, I still found A LOT of stuff in her room. Stuff I hadn’t seen her play with in ages, some of it I’d never seen her play with. But she NEEDED all of it. *eye roll* So, we went through it and boxed a lot of it up for her to play with in our finished basement. We’ll see if she plays with it or not.
6. A Place for Everything
This gets me to the most important thing I’ve learned. Everything that remains has a place. She doesn’t have to figure out to do with it. She knows where it goes, and when she’s playing with it, there’s clearly a spot for it when she’s done.
This has been HUGE. Everything else we did really led up to this, and it’s made a huge difference. Perhaps not surprising as it’s hard enough to put something away, even harder when you don’t know where “away” is.
So far, it’s worked. Her room has stayed clean, and while she still wants help cleaning it (aka for a grown-up to do it for her), she is now capable of doing it herself.
How about you? Any tips or tricks you’ve discovered? I can always use more insight into trying to tame the mess!