It’s an age-old problem. How do I get my kids to clean their room? How can I get them to keep it clean? There are so many tips, tricks, and methods out there, it can be overwhelming. It’s often easier to just shut the door and forget about it. But for children, there is a simple solution. It starts with fewer possessions and simple organization tools.
For my youngest child, who is a very busy 5 year old, we have an system that enables him to easily maintain his space.
To start, we have always encouraged him to donate things he no longer plays with. We regularly go through the toys and books, and make frequent trips to Goodwill. It’s become part of our ‘normal’, and is not at all painful to give things away. Keeping the clutter to a minimum makes cleaning up so much easier!
When we set his room up, we made sure he was part of creating the system. We use the IKEA Trofast storage system, which is inexpensive and versatile. We showed him how to sort toys into bins, making sure the system made sense to him. Dinosaurs go with dinosaurs, little cars together, etc. Once that was complete, we labeled each bin with a picture of the contents. Now, even if he dumps every bin out, it’s still easy to put everything exactly where it belongs. He’s quickly learned not to do that, because we don’t ‘rescue’ him by taking over when the job looks overwhelming. We aren’t teaching him if we aren’t giving him the opportunity to learn from his mistakes.
He does have things that don’t belong in the bins, such as puzzles, books and hats. All of those items have a regular spot that he can reach, and that he set up. However, because most of his possessions are in the bins, everything else is very easy for him to put away.
Before bed each night, he picks up his toys and puts them back in the correct bin, or on the shelf or hat rack. He’s proud of being able to clean up by himself, and we have made it very easy for him to be successful. He isn’t rewarded with money or trinkets for finishing the job… the reward is a clean room, not more clutter!
The key is getting the child to create the system, and keeping it simple enough for him to maintain. Yes, I provided the tools (bins, shelving), but ultimately he organized the toys.
This translates to any age kid. The details might be different, but it ultimately comes down to constant de-cluttering and having simple, kid-created organization that is easily maintained.