21 answers

Clean Up - Morgantown,PA

I am at my wits end. I have a 5 year old DD. We have been trying so hard to get her to clean up her toys etc. I feel that I have tried everything. I am not a neat freak by any standards, but just tidy up daily and clean up completely when necessary. I also have an 8 year old DS. He is better but not great. Tomorrow we are having some family over for a meal and the house needs to be clean. We spent all day cleaning. I spent all week trying to cajole her into tidying up her room. It is a disaster. The only way I can get her to put anything away is if I stand over her and say. Put that shoe there, now get the other shoe and put it next to it. I don't do this often so it's not like that's the only way she knows, I have expectations that she can do some things on her own. Today I tried this with both kids, 10 minutes cleaning, 10 minutes fun. After 6 hours of this her room looked worse. All I was telling her to do was to put dirty clothes in the basket, shoes on the shelf, dolls in one area, and toys in another. 6 hours! We have a small house so we don't have a lot of room for a lot of stuff. Stuff in the LR just has to go into a big bin, it's not difficult. In addition we don't have a lot of money so they don't even have a lot of toys. It has gotten so bad with them taking care of their stuff that they only get one gift from Santa at Christmas and one gift from us and we go to a museum for their present. My son didn't get any gifts from us for his birthday and we went to DC for the day. I have tried bribing with tv time(they don't watch much), threatening, taking away toys(like 2 hours after the kids got their Easter Basket half was in the yard sale box just because they wouldn't get the few toys out of the middle of the LR floor so we could walk through). I feel like when I ask my daughter to pick up her stuff that she isn't getting what I'm asking her to do(I even say to her "what are you hearing me ask you to do?). I have read books and tried all different types of techniques and I feel like the worst parent out there because the house is always a disaster and I can't keep up with the mess and I'm always snarking at them to clean up. We literally can't have friends over because I can't keep the house clean long enough. I've even told her she could have friends over if she cleaned up her room and that did nothing. I have read her bedtime story while standing in the hallway because I couldn't get to her bed, we have talked about safety and fires and getting out of the house or into her if she gets sick and absolutely nothing is getting through to her. I am so frustrated and embarrassed. Sorry so long.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Guess I wasn't to clear. Stuff has gone into the yard sale box never to be seen again, no change. They don't have a lot of toys. In fact it's not many at all. No room no money so no toys. Todays clean up should have taken 30 minutes max. Put the toys away before you get something out has been the rule since birth, they hear put your dirty clothes in the basket at least 2 times a day. Running out of clean clothes has happened. They get two gifts for Christmas, one for their birthday. Easter Bunny isn't coming next year. I think I just suck at this parenting thing.

Featured Answers

You've got some good answers here. Some kids "take" to this easier than others. As some have posted, an ADHD child will be overwhelmed by cleaning a room. I know my ADHD kid (at 14) still needs more help than his sister who is 3 years younger.

Part of my problem is that my husband and I aren't on the same page. He says their rooms are theirs and so it doesn't matter if they clean them. He doesn't think it's important. I think it's training them for life later (+ we've paid the mortgage so as long as they live here - I will have a say). It's a constant struggle at my house. We've tried to pare down on "stuff" as well, but it just seems to grow!

One thing I do...is in the common areas. If they leave stuff out and they've gone to bed, I take it and put it in my "store". They must buy things back from my store and the store is only open 1 morning a week. If something is really important to them, they tend to put it away. If there are certain things I put in my store they decide they don't want, there's a "maid fee" (which is less than buying it back). They know the expectations and know what will happen when they don't clean up. It's not meant to be punative, but to teach them what's appropriate and so that I don't get resentful about living in a sloppy home.

1 mom found this helpful

start taking things away from them and not letting her go anywhere. My kids are 18, 9 and 6 and they have chores to do weekley or that dont go anywhere for the weekend and are grounded. I do have to say i do have good kids because i have always made them clean up after themsevles.
good luck it will be hard but keep trying.

More Answers

You said you've tried everything. But I didn't see you mention doing it with her - which is not the same as standing in the room and telling her what to do. This is how I get my 4 year old to clean up. We have races. Whoever can get the most clothes into the laundry bin wins! Whoever puts the most toys away wins! Etc. It works, even though we don't actually 'win' anything tangible, just bragging rights :) If your child has a competitive streak, this might work for you.

Would it be nice if he'd do it entirely on his own when I ask? Sure. But I'd spend more time nagging him to do it on his own then I spend actually helping him do it. So the cleaning races are actually more time efficient for me.

2 moms found this helpful

I have already taught my 4 year old. Here is what you do; TAKE IT AWAY!!! I lock up ALL toys that she did not return to the toy bin. When she wants it, I say, "sorry, you didnt put it away properly...so, you will have to wait"....When she takes her shoes off, she will even say, "put your shoes where they belong!!!"
I am not an OCD person..but, like you, I am in a SMALL house. I just had to put my foot down!!!! That, and I had to announce that I am NOT the maid!!!

Good Luck!!!

2 moms found this helpful

Good Morning K. -

I have a different take on this - I think 5 is just too young to clean her room by herself. Which is why you do have to stand over her and give simple instructions like "put this shoe in the closet." The rational arguments of fire hazards etc. - they just don't have the thought process to understand that what they do today may have an affect in some hazy, unspecified future. 8, well, that is a little different.

But, start with both all over again - easier to "train" two at a time :)
Get your husband on board - you need a united front on this.

Go ahead and put everything in its place. Take a picture of their rooms once you clean them. Print it, and hang it up in their rooms - a visual reminder of how their room should look - do this for the living room also.

Then change the play rules. Let them take out one toy at a time, period, just one. When they want to play with another toy, they must put away the first toy before they can get another. If they do not, then they lose the play privilege for a certain length of time. Continue this over and over and over - because it will take awhile for it to sink in.

Stand in their room when they are changing clothing and direct them to put their clothes in the hamper - literally watch over them. Again, if they don't, they lose a privilege. Continue this over and over and over - because it will take awhile for it to sink in. Continue this over and over and over

When they do things correctly praise, praise, praise them. Continue this over and over and over.

Also, is your bedroom clean? I ask because my son went through a snit when he would not clean his room. I finally asked him why such a big deal and he said "But, Mommy, your laundry is not put away - it is all over your cedar chest and you don't always make up your bed". Ahhhh, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Yup, I keep a neater bedroom now - teaching by example. LOL

My first house was also very small, be to overzealous grandparents my son had an abundance of things - I had to learn to teach him to pick up after himself. Since I have never been Martha Stewart, it was a learning experience for me also.

It takes patience, and lots of repetition.

You do not suck at parenting !!!! Don't ever say that.

Like me, you just have to learn some tricks to make it easier. Heck, my boy is 14, and I am still learning how to be a parent. This is normal. We try one way, if it doesn't work, we find a better way.

PM me if you need to vent or talk.

Good Luck

God Bless

1 mom found this helpful

I agree with Laura U. that reducing the amount of stuff might help. Five is not too young to help clean a room, but I wouldn't expect her to do it herself. And a child (or even adult) will have trouble keeping a room clean unless there is a place to put everything.

In my opinion, clean and neat are two different things. Clean is more important than neat.

My mother just closed our bedroom doors when we had company. Problem solved :-)

1 mom found this helpful

I like the first comment, and she is right... You are gonna have to clean it up, but one day my husband got so tired of all the toys, he just bout a big bin with a lid, put ALL the toys in there and whatever was junk toys, like toys that are useless, or happy meal toys, and baby toys, we thee away, and put the bin in the garage, put the stuffed animalsnin a hanging net, and they had nothing to play with... And it was like that for a dag or so, then we got a smaller bin to jeep in the house, and they main toys stayed in their room, and they always throw their dirty clothes on the floor, and we are still working on that one... But just clean it, and tell her that since your cleaning, it all goes

1 mom found this helpful

You've got some good answers here. Some kids "take" to this easier than others. As some have posted, an ADHD child will be overwhelmed by cleaning a room. I know my ADHD kid (at 14) still needs more help than his sister who is 3 years younger.

Part of my problem is that my husband and I aren't on the same page. He says their rooms are theirs and so it doesn't matter if they clean them. He doesn't think it's important. I think it's training them for life later (+ we've paid the mortgage so as long as they live here - I will have a say). It's a constant struggle at my house. We've tried to pare down on "stuff" as well, but it just seems to grow!

One thing I do...is in the common areas. If they leave stuff out and they've gone to bed, I take it and put it in my "store". They must buy things back from my store and the store is only open 1 morning a week. If something is really important to them, they tend to put it away. If there are certain things I put in my store they decide they don't want, there's a "maid fee" (which is less than buying it back). They know the expectations and know what will happen when they don't clean up. It's not meant to be punative, but to teach them what's appropriate and so that I don't get resentful about living in a sloppy home.

1 mom found this helpful

Wow,your daughter must have a LOT of stuff. It's probably overwhelming to her to have to clean so much. My son is the same way.....here's what we did.
First, we went through all his toys in his disaster of a room. If it was stuff that he didn't play with AT ALL it went into the garage sale box. If it was stuff that he liked, but rarely played with it went into another pile. If it was something that was always played with then it was put away. I don't know much about girls, but boys have a TON of cars, guys, and more cars. So, we went through cars and got rid of the ones that were broken or not played with anymore. The pile of stuff that was kind of played with went into a big bag and out into the garage. It will be opened at a later date. Once you have her room cleaned up (and you will have to help her, unfotunately) then you discuss what will happen when her room gets gross. If she can't pick up her room for 10 minutes before she goes to bed then you will come in with a garbage bag and anything that is left on the floor you will assume is trash. Then follow through and DO IT. Just start scooping her stuff up and putting it in the bag. She is PLENTY old enough to clean up after herself, my boy is 5 too, so I know she can do it. There may be tears, there may be a tantrum, but I bet her room will be cleaned up the next day! And, if it's not, then there wont be very many more toys for her to play with. :)
Then, stop buying her toys. Tell family to stop buying her things. My house is never pristing...EVER...and the messiest room in the house is my 5 year old's...so I completely understand where you are coming from. Try out my idea...it may work! Good luck
L.

1 mom found this helpful

When my kids won't clean I box up all the toys and put them in my closet. for every day their room is clean they get 1 toy or toy part back (like with polly pocket... only 1 doll or outfit) and then you have to organize it, so it isn't making a mess of your room.

We started this at 3 and and our 5 year old daughter now can fully organize and clean her room.

1 mom found this helpful

I agree that they might be a bit young, but it's not too young to retrain them! :)
I would personally start with deep cleaning those bedrooms into PERFECTION. The entire house in fact. Make hubby take the kids out for the day to get it done if you need to (or even just so they don't see you as the only cleaning person around, they don't need that idea either).
Then make sure their rooms are organized - labeled baskets (pictures work too, if they aren't reading yet. Pictures of socks, shoes, barbies, etc.), a specific place for everything. Organization helps a lot more than just throwing everything into a big box. Then, explain that the rooms need to keep clean like this, and make them put things away as they use them, every single day. For a while you may need to stand over them as they do this until they learn.

It's entirely possible for them to go through their whole childhoods without learning these skills, if they aren't taught. My 19 year old sister came on vacation with us recently. We rented a beach house and while she didn't have to pay for anything, she was expected to help keep clean - a rented house doesn't come with a maid. Well, she did not live up to those reasonable expectations. She constantly had to be asked to do any little thing we needed help with (fixing meals, washing dishes, picking up her OWN things, bringing in groceries, etc. I'm pregnant with a toddler and I don't baby 19 year olds) and she got hostile at being asked! It was miserable. The last day there we had to clean up the house in order to get our deposit back. Everything was done, but my 19 year old sister slept in until the last 30 minutes before check out - when the rest of us had already been up for 4 hours. We tried to wake her up all morning and she ignored us, it was ridiculous. Finally, she got out of bed when we were packing the last things into the car, took a leisurely shower, and then tried to walk out of her bedroom without picking up a single thing or even making her bed. That is NOT acceptable for 19 years old, even if you happen to have a maid coming (we didn't). She claimed that she didn't know she HAD to clean up after herself, but common courtesy and manners dictate that when you are staying with friends/relatives, you keep clean and help around the house. I ended up having to stand in the room for 20 minutes and direct her second by second while she cleaned the room. "Make the bed. Put the sheet on before you put the comforter on. Throw the trash in the trash can. Refill the toilet paper. Fix the decor on the dresser. Close the window." You'd think at 19 years old that wouldn't be necessary, but all my mom ever did was yell at her to clean - she never actually taught her and she obviously didn't teach her about politeness (not saying that's you, that was just my moms laziness). Now, my sister is a spoiled self-indulgent selfish 19 year old who has to be directed in every little thing she does, in order to get a job done. It's insane.

Anyways, the point of that story is to say that it isn't odd to have to stand over your kids and tell them every little thing to do. All kids need that at some point, just like they need you to teach them how to wipe butts and blow noses and put on tshirts right-side-out. But, I do think your kids are still young enough to excuse the madness, and help them out. I'd start with cleaning the rooms the way I want them, and then giving them checklists and organization to help keep it clean. If they can't remember to put their shoes on the shelf, draw a picture explaining it. When my brothers were little I drew pictures showing them how to flush, close the toilet seat, and wash their hands. It helped ;)

start taking things away from them and not letting her go anywhere. My kids are 18, 9 and 6 and they have chores to do weekley or that dont go anywhere for the weekend and are grounded. I do have to say i do have good kids because i have always made them clean up after themsevles.
good luck it will be hard but keep trying.

I went through this with my oldest son. He has ADHD and any mess overwhelmed him. Organization of any sort is still hard for him as an adult. But honestly...He just hates cleaning period and doesn't mind a mess.

When he was little, I had to go in the bathroom after his bath and say, "You can't come out until it's tidy," then point to each thing and tell him where it went. He just never got it on his own. He didn't even want to do that though. Once I took a rake and big black trash sack into his room and started raking and emptying into the sack. He sure did get to cleaning then. hahahahha And we were laughing at the time too. It's one of our favorite stories.

I don't know what to tell you except that it might help to have a humor/fun/praise in the situation. Maybe you can find a way to get the cleaning done by making it fun instead of punative? A cleaning race? Beat the timer on putting dirty clothes in the hamper and you get a star towards a prize. Who can put away more stuff for a treat? For the 5-year-old, counting practice; how many things are on the floor, count as you help put them away, praising the skill. Singing, silly jokes, a short sock fight, making it playful, anything fun instead of the atmosphere of do this or you won't get toys or get to keep what is given. That's hurtful and not working, why not switch to something else, something fun?

You/she have too much stuff! Period....
You need to go through each item and truly say to yourself, does she use this or need it? If not donate or sell!
Once you get the stuff down to a small amount of things she loves, she will appreciate them more!
We just did a sweep of our house this weekend and I have a huge bag to donate and another we just threw out.
While we still have a good deal of stuff, it is all stuff they use! However when it is all over the floor like it is, we tell the kids that if it is not picked up, they loose it. And we mean for awhile....
Our oldest daughter hasn't had her lovies in a week... We tell her when she earns them back she will probably take better care of them, right?? She agrees.

I have a 4 year old daughter. We also live in a small space, and don't have a ton of toys around. When she needs to clean up, I ask her politely and also help her (lead by example), but I make sure I never do more than she does. If she picks up one, I'll pick up one. If she picks up three, I might only pick up one. If she refuses then I tell her that if she is not responsible to pick up the toy/thing, then we will get rid of it. This nice part is that if the thing isn't picked up - we get to give it away - then it will never litter the floor again! Every kid is different, and I hope you figure out what will work with your kids! Peace.

I agree that 5 is too young to be told to "go clean your room" -- at least if my 8 yo DS is any indication!
I have better luck if I say "All of those baseball cards need to be back in the box." or "Put all of those books back on the shelf", etc.
Even at 8, I think it's a bit of a daunting task to do "clean your room".
You could try pictures: books on a shelf, toys in the bin, etc.
OR everyday do 15 mins of pick up time. Then it won't get to be a total disaster.

Time to box up what "little" they have. Take everything and make her earn it back. I know it's drastic but it sounds like you need to take back the reins. You spent all week cajoling her? Therein lies your problem. No more coaxing, no more reading stories outside her room, no more saying one thing and doing another. Put everything up and make her earn it back. My daughter is 4, Iv'e had to do this once. Now she knows to take care of her things or they are gone. Your children are a part of the family, they have a responsibility to be a productive member of it. Good for you for wanting work this out now, think about how it will be 5-8 yrs from now if you don't.

My twins are 5 and it is a challenge, what helps them the best is if I am in there helping them out. They are getting better at doing it on their own, especially now that they have neighborhood friends and want a birthday party with their friends.

When a room gets that messy it can be completely overwhelming, especially to the little ones, and the overarching command to "clean this room" can seem impossible. I would stay with her and assign her one category at a time. As in let's put away all the stuffed animals. Once all the animals are away she gets a reward, my son loves to get a "clean room hug". Now assig another category, let's put away all the books. Remind her that she is only allowed to pick up the books. Hug. Next comes the dolls, etc. Last category is garbage then she can run the vacuum. Big reward at the end. My son loves it when I act as if I just walked into the room for the first time and pretend to be really mad, "Hey, wait a minute, who cleaned up this mess?!? Someone better tell me right now! Who cleaned up this mess!". Then he yells "I DID!". "who did?". "I DID!". I don't know why he loves that exchange, but he does :). I like this technique because it keeps everything positive and at the end we are all happy.

With both my daughter and my grandson, cleanup started early as part of the "fun" of having toys. We'd sing a funny cleanup song and all pitch in on the task when they were little.

My grandson has only recently, at age 5, begun to take the initiative of cleaning his room up simply for the pleasure of having everything in its place and clearing space for the next activity. If we hadn't made it a natural and inoffensive part of normal activity, I seriously doubt that he would have gotten it so soon. (my daughter didn't catch the clean-up bug until she was somewhere between 6-7). But up until a few months ago, he could quite happily walk across a room strewn wall-to-wall with toys, and not mind much if he tripped over something.

Standing and snarking is not going to make the job appealing for a child, especially one who hasn't yet learned to categorize or prioritize. Picking up and putting away is not a built-in skillset. They need us to show them how, to simply keep demonstrating how much "fun" cleanup is, even make a game of it – "I can throw more dirty clothes in the basket faster than you can!" "Can you get all the X picked up before I get all the Y picked up?"

If the house seems like a disaster to you, it's surely overwhelming and discouraging to a child to contemplate dealing with that themselves. It will be faster and more pleasant for all of you if you simply help get it done. Most children will gradually learn, though some are by nature more organized than others. Also, you might institute a rule (and you'll have to pay attention to see that it gets followed) that all of X gets put away before your daughter can bring out the next toy/game/project.

It's definitely not easy, because kids don't want to do it. It's right in the mix with any other thing you tell them to do and they refuse: discipline. My 3 and 5 year old get told to clean up the toy room and their room daily.

I turn on music and say "OK, time to clean up the toy room. When you're done, we'll eat lunch-(or whatever we're doing after so they know there is a deadline.) You have until 11:30." My oldest tells time and I usually give a half hour even though I can whip through and have everything in it's place 5 minutes.

Then I give each child their first specific "job" "So and So, your job is to put the stuffed animals in their bin, and So and So, your job is to put all your cars back in their bucket. I'll be back in five minutes to make sure it's done and give you your next job."

Then in like, 30 seconds I yell, "Are you done? Should I come check?!!!" and they scream "Not yet mom!!!" and I keep them going by yelling every minute or so (it's our game). Then, at the deadline I say, "OK, here I come" and they scatter to finish up and get their next task.

Yes, sometimes they get distracted and start playing and need some counting and prodding, but they know if they do not proceed they will get swatted for disobeying if I make it to "3" and they're not doing their task.

If that didn't work we would compound it with toy removal in addition and stuff, but it's never come to that. They haven't needed any consequences in a long time because they know we're serious and they have never succeeded in refusing to do it. For their room, same thing. There is only a couple of toys, and a bin and dress up drawer and the day's clothes on the floor, so they have to cram the dress up clothes back in the drawer, the toys in the bin, and put their clothes in the hamper every time, and I come check in 10 minutes.

You need to break it down into smaller jobs. My kids wouldn't just "clean the whole toy room" either. I have to give step by step instructions, but my 5 year old is kicking in now and proceeding un-prodded and giving her brother jobs sometimes.

You need firmer consequences for refusing. She shouldn't succeed in losing 6 hours and still not having a clean room. Is this the ONLY time she refuses to do what you say? If so, what makes her mind you other times? Use discipline that works. If she's often not doing what you say, get firmer and be consistent for all things, so no matter what you tell her, she gets in the habit of listening.

And de-cluttering is essential. I do it all the time. We have never bought a toy in our lives, but somehow, from gifts, the house is packed to the rafters. I get rid of boxes of stuff monthly. They don't play anyway unless things are orderly. My friend lives in a tiny Manhattan apartment and ALL her kid's possessions are under his loft bed. Arranged neatly. It's enough, because for his space he has activities and they can be put in their place.

Firm up! Talking safety won't get through to a 5 year old and neither will reading a book form outside the mess! Make her do it! If you're not a spanker, maybe remove all of her stuff from her room that is out of place and give it away etc, but it's better to train her to proceed with cleaning as it's happening than to punish after the fact.

I would say put everything in the bin. as for her bedroom door either close it or clean it yourself. Just let everyone know if she does not clean her room it is because she does not want to clean it. If some of the relatives make comments about it then may be it will incentive to clean it herself. If they want you to buy them something special or do something special then let them know they need to be responsible and clean if they want to do things. stick to your guns. good luck

Don't beat yourself up! Getting kids to do what you want is not always easy, and every child is different. My son has a hard time focusing and gets overwhelmed (he has issues - ADHD symptoms, etc.). He does need step-by-step instruction to do anything. Kids with ADHD or other issues need totally different techniques and expectations. I'm not saying that your daughter has problems, but it's definitely something wise to consider and keep in mind. Either way, it's better to find out her needs and motivators earlier, than to struggle with her for years (and you don't want to hinder the development of her self-confidence). I think the idea of using visual aids is a good one and may help her. I know others have mentioned pictures. But instead of just having a picture of the whole room cleaned up, I would suggest that you take a picture of each thing in it's place/bin/shelf, whole punch the corners of the photos and put them on a ring (or get her involved and have her make a little book with them which might be more motivating and inspiring). That way she has a step-by-step guide, one thing at a time, so it's not overwhelming. And all you have to prompt her to do is go to her photo book/ thing for reference when it's time to clean up. She may do a lot better with the visual help and reminders. Maybe even have her help you clean each thing up, then take a picture of it with her. So, she gets more joy and understanding out of it and takes more pride in cleaning her room. And, of course, your son may get some motivation out of a similar approach. Some positive reinforcement is always good too. Maybe a sticker or something for each thing done on the checklist/photo list that earns them something they value. I hope everything works out well for you. Don't pressure yourself too much, just try to enjoy them while they're young!

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