This post seemed like a no-brainer follow-up to so many readers cleaning out their kids rooms these past few weeks in our declutter challenge. Now that you have a clean slate, it only makes sense to start good maintenance habits with your children now.
First things first, kids need a clear definition of what is a clean room.
Only makes sense, right?
In my book, a child’s room is clean when –
- all dirty clothes are in the hamper.
- clean clothes are put away.
- the bed is made.
- toys are put away
- the floor is vacuumed.
- furniture and window are dusted.
- all trash is removed.
1 – Keeping Dirty Clothes Off The Floor
Training them young: When my kids were young and I needed to help them get dressed, they were putting their own dirty clothes in the hamper as soon as they could walk them over. They were eager to delight us and loved the applause and positive affirmations from happy parents. Years later, my kids know their clothes go in the dirty clothes hamper. Does it always happen? Of course not, my kids are normal human children, but it happens regularly, and that works for me.
Training them old: Go into their room with them and make a point of showing them their hamper (even if this should be obvious). Be physically present in their space with them and explain how the whole laundry thing works. “So, you like to wear clean clothes. I want to make that easier for both of us, so I got this hamper for you. Whenever you change, will you please put your dirty clothes in here? Then, you (or I) will be able to quickly grab this basket and wash your clothes.” For days/weeks/months, go into the room while the child is in there at bedtime or some other time. Congratulate the child on any clothes that made it into the hamper and right then, have the child put their dirty clothes into the hamper. If it is going past weeks and into months, start incentives. “If you have all your dirty clothes put away at bedtime, you get 10 extra minutes of reading time (or whatever).” Keep up your patience. DO NOT let it become a power struggle. The only way to avoid this is to not let yourself show frustration at slow progress. Kids take a long time to form new habits, but the end result is worth your time. You are not just training kids to survive in your house, you are training them to thrive as adults in their own homes.
2 – Making Beds Daily
Why? Made beds make for happier people. It is a real thing. Google it. Made beds make people feel peaceful and it sets the tone for the whole room. It makes sense to keep the rest of it clean when the bed is made.
Show the example. Start making your bed to show your children that you think it is important.
Build the habit. If you add a new habit to an existing successful habit, you increase chances for the new habit to be successful. I’ve attached bed making to teeth-brushing. While I am brushing my teeth I start making my bed one-handed with the non tooth-brushing hand. After I finish brushing my teeth I come back and finish what I started. Other ideas are:
- Make your bed right before you put your shoes on, so that you can sit on the made bed to tie your shoes.
- Make your bed before/during/after you get dressed.
- Put a starting load of laundry in your washer in the morning and bring the dryer contents to your bed to fold. Make your bed before you fold.
- Set your keys/phone on your night stand. Make your bed before you grab your keys/phone from your night stand to leave the house.
- Start while you brush your teeth.
- [insert your own idea here]
Make it part of your child’s morning routine. Now that you’ve figured out how to add making your bed to your routine, apply the same strategies to your child’s morning routine. My favorite is to teach the child to make their bed after they stand up from morning prayers or to make the bed with the child when you wake them up. If they are old enough, give an incentive and be consistent, then patiently wait for it to stick.
3 – Clean-Cleaning The Room
Vacuuming and dusting should be part of a child’s weekly chores. Chore sticks are my favorite way to organize kids chores. I just went back and re-read my Cleaning Tools for Kids post from last year, and realized that long ago when I wrote that, I forgot to mention how I get my kids to dust. My kids have access to a hand-held duster. No sprays, just dry dust-collecting. They dust what they dust and over-all, it works out just fine. Please lower expectations. These are children, just embrace their effort. If you want your home to look like a magazine picture, send your kids to a boarding school.
Wash your kids sheets regularly. Your options are weekly or every other week. Pick one of those, pick a day of the week, right it in your calendar and make it happen.
4 – Keeping It Up
Kids should go to bed every night with a clean room. I can hear you screaming at the computer screen right now. It sounds awful, doesn’t it? Truth is, keeping a room clean daily is WAY EASIER than cleaning it weekly. You are cleaning messes before they escalate out of control. (repeat the following in a taunting elementary-aged girl’s voice) “TRYYYYYY IT, YOU MIGHT LIIIIKE IT!”
How to keep it up: My favorite strategy is that kids clean up messes before they move to the next activity. Kids can be pretty imaginative and sometimes their games involve pieces from different toy sets. By all means, let your kids be kids, so just do your best to help the children understand the spirit of the law, not always the letter of the law on this one. For instance, my kids will sometimes use the entire upstairs to make a play world. It gets messy, but I let the mess stay out while they play. But if they switch gears to go do art at the table, the upstairs gets cleaned up. Children will not naturally think to do this, so it will most often require your reminder. Put the responsibility of cleaning in your kids hands if they are old enough, and the responsibility of reminding in your hands. For younger children, you will need to remind and help. Eventually older kids will form better habits, but it will take a very long time. It is useful to understand what reasonable expectations are, so that you will not get too frustrated and in turn, frustrate the kids. If you need to go somewhere or do something, build in clean up time before hand and/or during the bedtime routine.
Well, this post might not have been what you expected. You might have been looking for cheesy tricks. Sorry, I’m all out of those. Most of the time, the best way to do something is the most basic way. This post is pretty much common sense written out. Enjoy.
From my home to yours,
Curtis - Carpet Cleaner says
Nice and effective tips here, Mary! I also think its great to begin teaching kids how to maintain a clean room, so they will grow up responsible.
Thanks! I agree! 🙂
This post inspired me to put my kids in charge of their rooms and their laundry. Every Friday, my girls start their laundry (including sheets), move it to the dryer and put their clothes away (after I help with folding). They dust, assist with vacuuming, and of course pick up any books or toys that didn’t find their way to a shelf. Dirty clothes on the floor is not an issue because we worked on that when they were little. They are so proud of their rooms now and enjoy the work too, especially dusting. Thank you for reminding me that they can do it, even if they are 6 and 4 🙂