How to Help Children Keep Their Room Clean
Seems impossible, right? When was the last time you told your kid to go pick up their room and they acted like it was the worst thing you could have asked them to do? Ten minutes ago, I bet.
It blows my mind how quickly a child can destroy a room. Five minutes flat and those kids can have every item in the house stuck in the toilet. They amaze me.
It doesn’t matter how organized we make their rooms, it seems like they just can’t manage to put the Legos back in the Lego box.
So, how do we help and teach them to keep their room clean?
We have to make cleaning easier for them. We’ve got to set up their room in a way that when they see the mess on the floor, they don’t get overwhelmed by it. How do we do that? I’ll tell you.
Step 1: Make Sure Their Room is Age Appropriate
What I mean by this is that if your child is ready for the next phase of childhood- i.e. big kid- excite them with the idea of a big kid room.
While you’re in the process of planning the new room out, include them in the details. Excite them! But remind them, constantly, that big kids keep their room clean. Make it known to them that if they expect a big kid room then they have to do big kid things.
This idea was how I got Ember out of my bed. I pumped her up for her new room and bed and she was so excited about the switch.
Recently, I turned Ember’s room from a “big kid” room to a “pre-teen” room. She’s got a beautiful vanity that she does her hair and makeup at (sigh), a lovely white bed with shelves that she can put her things on, a TV mounted to the wall, a twinkle light window curtain thing, and an Echo dot for an alarm clock and to listen to music. It’s so cute and she was totally excited about it.
The deal was she had to keep it clean. She made her bed for like a month straight and kept it tidy because she was so proud. She tried her hardest to keep it clean but in the long run, she still struggled.
2: Downsize Their Toy Haul
It seems cruel, I know. I have issues with letting things go and when it comes to kids’ toys… I struggle. My mom would always chastise me if I wanted to donate toys by saying, “well your grandma spent money on that” or something along those lines. Those statements really stuck with me and I kept everything out of guilt and fear of hurting someone’s feelings.
When I realized Ember’s room was impossible for her to manage, I knew something had to change. I was the one constantly having to go in there, armed with trash bags and a gas mask (kidding.. sort of), and pray a live animal wasn’t going to crawl out from under her bed and clean it all up. She just couldn’t manage it.
Are Their Toys Age Appropriate?
This is important. If their toys are too young for them, you can let them go. If your kiddo is 6 and she’s still got that toy phone from when she was a toddler, let that thing go. Baby toys aren’t meant for bigger kids.
You may have thought you got rid of all those baby toys but I can bet there are still a bunch left in their room.
Pay Attention to the Things They Actually Play With
Are they really playing with those toys or are they pulling them out of that mess of a toy box and tossing them on the floor to get to another toy?
That was what Ember was doing, anyway. She’d dump out all of those little mystery box figurines to get to one specific creature. Then she was moving on to the next task, leaving all the other ones on the floor.
Does your child play with all 16 baby dolls or do they only play with three? You may think, “oh but she loves playing with babies”, which is true, but she probably doesn’t play with all of them.
The same goes for Barbie dolls. When I pinpointed the ones Ember played with vs. the ones she never touched, I was able to cut her supply chain down by more than half.
Does your child genuinely play with everything they have? Try a toy rotation. Consider all of the toys they have and pick up all but what they can easily manage to pick up on their own.
Place the rest of the toys in a box(es) and put it away in storage. Every couple of weeks, rotate the selection out. This way the kids play with everything they own and can keep their room clean at the same time.
The bonus here is that you won’t hear “I’m so bored” a hundred times a day. The “new” toys you pull out will be exciting for them all over again.
Step 3: Organize Their Room Into Large Categories
This means that children need to see their things. They’ve got to know where everything is… which ultimately means they know where everything goes.
Big clear bins or wire baskets that they can see through are a must in their rooms for organizing their toys. Throw out the toy box. A toy box holds nothing but clutter.
Place the baskets on the floor if you have to so they can see exactly where the stuff goes when they’re done with it. They may not pick it up right away but when it’s time to, they won’t feel so overwhelmed by it. It will be easy for them.
Pegboards are also pretty awesome in their rooms. The pegboards are nice to hold lots of big or small items in little bins and make it easy for them to see what’s inside. Think about putting their colors and craft supplies there. They can grab what they need and it’s easy to put the stuff back.
Step 4: Clothes Organization
Kids are not going to take the time to hang up their clothes on the hanger unless you are standing over them and instructing them every step of the way. That’s just how it is.
Putting their clothes into wire or clear bins and containers is super helpful for them. Hooks on the wall are perfect for hanging up jackets and bags. They can hang their night clothes if they re-wear them, their towels, and anything that they will reuse.
The dresser is where we struggled. I would give Ember clothes, folded neatly, to pick up and she would either put them on top of the dresser or the floor. But never inside the drawer. When they did make it to the drawer they were thrown in and everything was just in shambles.
Then I read somewhere that said clothes don’t HAVE to be folded in drawers. Shorts, t-shirts, and pajamas are completely fine just tossed in. I don’t know why I had to have someone say this directly to realize it but it was so true.
I made some drawer dividers out of an amazon box, taped it with painters tape and divided up her dresser drawers. Doing this opened up enough space in her dresser that I was able to take her jeans and leggings out of her closet and also put them in the dresser.
Instead of folding the clothes, we can just toss them in the drawer and be done. This makes picking up the clothes easy and quick for her. Even if the clothes get a little wrinkled, it is better than them being put on the floor and having to be rewashed again and again.
The couple of things that need to be hung up aren’t overwhelming for her and she gets it done quickly most days.
Ever since the switch we haven’t had issues with clean clothes being tossed anywhere but inside the dresser and the dresser drawers stay closed without tons of clothes sticking out.
Step 5: Labels
Now that you have their toys in big categories and all together in bins or baskets, it is time for some labels. Kids need big clearly marked labels so they can understand what goes where.
For kids that can’t read yet, a label with a picture of the item is perfect. Make it colorful. You can even print them in black and white and let the kid color them. Just make it so that they understand what is inside.
Kids that can read you can print a label with the name or word written very large and clear on it. The point of labels is to know what is inside of the bin being labeled. In order for children to keep their room clean they have to know where things go.
This isn’t just for toy storage, either. Labels can go on the dresser, above hooks on the wall, under where clothes hang in the closet and even on the peg boards if you decide to use those. Label everything. Visual reminders work.
How to Help Children Keep Their Room Clean: The Take Away
Implementing these five steps into your kid’s room can make a huge difference on how easily they can keep their room clean.
Obviously, you’ll still have to encourage pick ups and will probably still have to fuss but at least when they accept defeat they will be able to do it correctly.
Making it easier on them to clean their room takes away some of the overwhelm they experience when looking at their mess. Knowing that they can get it done quickly eases that anxiety and, who knows, might even make the defiance a little less severe.
From experience, Ember is able to keep her room tidy on her own. She’s not overrun with stuff everywhere. Things she has in her room are the things she uses and needs. Nothing more. Just as I decluttered my home and feel more at ease and peace, so does she.
Children thrive in a calm home. A room full of things that they can’t manage on their own is the opposite of calm. We, as a society, are made to believe they have to have all the toys. However, you’ll realize that when the toys are at a minimum, your kids will be happier.