What’s all this stuff under your bed? I asked my three-year-old daughter.
Socks, books, teacups, plastic tomatoes, crumpled T-shirts, and stuffed animals were all shoved under her little toddler bed. With sweet innocent eyes, she looked up at me and said, Malcolm and I cleaned my room like you told us to.
Trying to choke down an outright laugh and figure out who taught them to stuff their things under the bed; I thought, And so it begins. And so it did.
The “clean your room” struggle is one that wears a mom down. Sometimes, I thought, it just isn’t worth it. Let them bury themselves under all their stuff. When they turn eighteen, we’ll send them off to college. Then shovel it all out and do a final cleansing. Other times, I have swung to the other extreme, beds made every morning, toys picked up nightly, clothes hung up and neatly organized. That strategy resulted in constant nagging, and grumpy children. Not to mention an irritated mom, which is when I decided I didn’t like playing the role of a drill sergeant.
I don’t want to raise children who are unable to pick up after themselves, would run through my mind. With their future roommates and spouses in mind, I persisted to figure out a system that worked.
I can tell you with, my children who are now nine and twelve, I feel like I now some strategies to share.
Equip their rooms with the right organizational systems: All those toys, odds, and ends, and LEGOS need a place. Storage units with bins that easily slide out or the cube storage units we found to work the best. I don’t like the ones where you can see the stuff though. Best to be able to push in the bins, then it looks neat and tidy. We got rid of the toy box that matched my daughter’s bedroom set. Things piled on top of it making it difficult to use. Out went the toybox and we replaced it with a cube storage unit. This worked so much better. A net that hangs in the corner of the room for stuffed animals was a game changer when it comes to keeping the bed clear.
Declutter: We keep a donation box in the basement. As we come across items that are no longer needed, the items get thrown in the box. About every two months, we drop this box off at a thrift store and start a new one. When birthdays and Christmas roll around, a certain amount of their toys need to be donated if they expect any new toys. The number of items that need to be donated is just based on the current level of clutter. The amount of stuffed animals in our house has reached an epic proportion, therefore the current ratio is 5:1. Five stuffed animals must move on to other homes for a new one to enter.
Bribery: I am not above paying off my children to clean their rooms. In our house, we call it allowance. By Friday their room MUST be clean for them to get their allowance. They do NOT get their allowance unless their room is cleaned and vacuumed. This actually works. Once a week is a good compromise from every night pickups. They are older now, the weeknights are so busy there is little time to pick up or mess up their rooms. If your kids are smaller and home all the time, nightly pickups might be necessary. After three years of giving a weekly allowance based on cleaning their rooms, finally, this it’s happening without reminders!!! I am seriously pumped about it.
Work Together when the MESS reaches an epic proportion: For the most part, kids should be expected to clean their rooms by themselves. But, has your house ever reached a stage where the amount of clean up is overwhelming? Like paralyzingly so. This would happen to me quite frequently when my kids were small. When my house felt like it had descended into chaos with no return to normal, that’s when I ask for HELP! Either, my mom, husband, sister, or a friend came to my rescue. There are times when your kids’ rooms will just be too much for them to clean. Especially after friends or cousin’s visit. Break your usual rules and pitch in! We all need a little demonstration of grace every now and again.
All and all there is no magic fairy wand to sweep magically over a room to tidy it up, (I’m still waiting for that to be invented) but I hope some of these ideas help you win the Great CLEAN YOUR ROOM battle!