Need Help Getting Daughters to Keep Room and House Decluttered

Updated on May 28, 2008
J.G. asks from Baltimore, MD
30 answers

This is my first request of the mamas but won't be my last! I am looking ahead toward summer vacation and don't want things to turn into a free-for-all around the house. Up to this point I have not been good about getting my daughters (5 and 8) to keep their rooms picked up and the toys from all areas of the house. When they were young I did it and now it is just easier for me to do it than to deal with their whining and refusal to do it when I ask. However, this is wearing me out and I've had enough of the maid service.

Unfortunately I'm not the neatest person in the world so I haven't been teaching my children good skills. We've just moved into a new house and I want to start fresh with some new rules and techniques. I'm looking for suggestions on how to motivate them or specific organization techniques THAT WORK FOR YOU. At these ages, how much should they be expected to do? I've tried sticker charts in the past which worked for awhile. Does anyone tie allowance into keeping the house picked up and if so how much do you give? Any suggestions will be great!

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Washington DC on

Try going to it is quit helpful and fun for the children and relieves you from the stress of always having to nag. Hope this helps.




answers from Washington DC on

hi J.
well i am not the worlds best house keeper either but my daughter tells her children to pick up and after 3 times she picks up and puts toys where they cant get them for a month the 2nd time she tells them and they dont do it she donates to charity then they soon learn to pick up and also doesnt replace the toys taken away



answers from Washington DC on

Hi J.! This is what works for me...I keep several baskets (small round laundry baskets work well) around the house. Throughout the day my kids (3 1/2 and 6) to put their things in them when they are done and we all put whatever's in the baskets away together at the end of the evening. We make a game (like basketball) out of throwing things in them and then when it's time to put things away I pull all the baskets together, sort each kids stuff into their own basket and off they go to their room to put it away. Anything that's left goes in the trash (harsh, but it only took once to get them to put it away!) Hope this helps! B.

More Answers



answers from Washington DC on

Hi J.,
You are so right about starting fresh in your new house. I would consider adding sheleves in the closets and then use open containers to sort the various toys by category. Don't use large containers because they will just become a dumping ground for everything, and everything will be lost in the bottom. The only way they will be able to find what they need in a large basket will be to dump everything out and of course leave it right there once they find what they are looking for. So pick a day to help each child go through all of their toys and purge no longer used toys and anything broken. This is a great time to discuss donating to those less fortunate. Then have your daughters sort all like items with like; polly pocket dolls and acessories, little pet shop animals and pet toys, etc. Once you see how much of each type of toy they have, THEN you can determine the size of the containers needed. I highly recommend that if you buy containers with lids that you leave the lids off unless you need to stack them due to limited space. Another great location besides the closet for storing things is under the bed. Use shallow plastic containers without the lids and then it makes it easy for them to see what they have and just toss back in when it is time to clean up, then it goes out of site. It is really important to have the girls actively involved in the whole process so that they will take ownership of the new system and want to use it.
If you have any questions or need some more advice about your specific space call me anytime at ###-###-####. Organizing is what I do!
Good luck and let us all know how it all worked out for you and the girls.
M. W



answers from Washington DC on

Before I undertake an organization project, I make sure I have tools to help me organize. Do you have storage bins that can be used for just dolls, stuffed animals, and puzzles, for example? Do you have a plan for what you will do with the socks, barrettes, ribbons, and underwear? Everything that goes into their rooms should have its own space, and it should be labeled, at this age. And the girls should be taught where those items go. Next step, look at the amount of items they have. By now, they might have outgrown some clothes, socks, and slips. Those need to be bagged and sent to Goodwill. Trashed if they're full of holes or soiled. The same with the toys. Broken toys, toys without all pieces or toys they have outgrown need to go into a separate area. You then need a day to determine if those toys can be salvaged by ordering parts from the company or if they can be recycled. Give away toys or have a yard sale. Buy a table at a flea market or call friends who have children your age. You'll probably still need to do this three times per year, as your girls have growth spurts. It helps cut out clutter. Only allow about a few toys and books in the room. If they cannot keep them in their spaces, they lose the right to keep them in their rooms. My hope is that my children are learning responsibility and cause and effect by keeping track of their items. They actually enjoy seeing their room organized and they keep it up so much better.



answers from Washington DC on

Hey J.!

I have a 9-year old boy and a 7-year old girl. I got to the point with them that I would threaten to throw away whatever was left laying on the floor because obviously it wasn't that important to them if they aren't taking care of it. It's been working so far, because things that have been left, magically disappear and when i get asked about it, "Oh, well, i saw it left laying on the floor, so it's gone." Some things I don't literally throw away (like the Xbox) it just disappears for a long time.

Good luck!




answers from Washington DC on

We have a shelving system we got from Target- they are the DIY (i think that is what it is, the do it yourself things that are shelves that look like cubes)

I took a picture of it as their toys were put away on it and my 2 year old has to put her toys away like that. You cannot expect them to be able to clean anything unless there is a place to put stuff. A big toy box or bin is helpful too.
For my 8 year old step daughter, we told her anything not picked up gets confiscated for a month. No matter what- even favorite things. We set a timer for 10 minutes and everything gets put away. Whatever was not put away or was hidden (Under beds in closets, etc) got confiscated and after a few times of this, we didn't have anything to worry about.
another thing is to cycle the toys. that is what we do for the 2 year old. We have 2 LARGE bins worth of toys out for her to use. THe rest go into large bins in our shed. Every month or two, we put away all the toys she has been playing with and put out the "new" ones. Keeps her from getting bored!



answers from Washington DC on

During the summer last summer, I made a daily or weekly list of chores that have to be done before we could leave to go to the pool or out to do something fun. I also pay $1.00 for every extra household chore that they do as an extra incentive. like cleaning, vacuuming and washing the kitchen floor. Even my 5 year old will wipe down the bathroom counters and toilet for $1.00. It is not the best cleaning job, but he puts in alot of effort, so he gets the money. I also have a Salvation Army bag that I keep handy when the clutter gets to be too much. They don't want their stuff to be given away, so they usually heed my warnings to clean their rooms. I take stuff to Salvation Army all the time, so they know that I am serious. Good luck.



answers from Washington DC on

Hey J.! I was such a disaster myself & HAD to find a way to keep my house in order- it was driving me & my husband batty! We did the chore charts, as others have suggested (with pictures), but also de-cluttered. We realized that we simply had more toys than we had a "home" for- so we got rid of boxes of them. We can not keep more toys or clothes than we have a home for. And really, who needs that much stuff anyway? Getting rid of stuff- even the "oh, but that's so cute!" stuff is an absolutely NECESSARY thing. And you can feel good about getting rid of even nice stuff if you find a charity that you really believe in to give them to- we donate ours to ACTS in Dumfries- they run a homless shelter & a food bank, locally, so that's something I can feel good about helping with. Or you can Freecycle it to someone who really does want that stuff (and doesn't have in-laws who love to give their kids huge quanities of toys). ;) I had my children go through their stuff themselves, get rid of everything that was broken or missing pieces, then put all of the pieces of their toys together (e.g. blocks, etc.) and decide sometimes together (sometimes they just "dissapeared") what stays and what goes. It was amazing how much they were willing to get rid of. And boys it's so much better with fewer toys and less stuff.



answers from Washington DC on

Hi, J.;

Try making this a family project. Tell the girls that you have a nice new home and you want to keep it nice because it makes everyone feel good to live somewhere fresh and clean and warm. Tell them, too, that you want to do a better job of being neat yourself and that you need their help. Make it a family project and build in some incentives, maybe a treat -- something they can help you make or do or maybe some extra time with mom, reading, playng a game, etc. Once they feel you are in it together, rather than just being bossed around, you will probably get more cooperation. To make it work, though, you must become consistent yourself. The do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do model went out with the WWII generation. Good luck.



answers from Washington DC on

I suggest first of all going through their toys and clothes (with their assistance) and getting rid of some things. The less you have to clean up, the easier it is.

Then with all the things you are keeping, invest in some rubber maid tubs and rotate things in their play area. Don't keep all their toys out all of the time. Have some put away, then bring out the old "new" toys on a rainy day, and put some other "tired" toys away. Your girls will enjoy the toys they have missed, and put away some things they have stopped playing with. Everyone will have less to keep up with. Do the same with clothes, winter/summer. Again, the less you have out at any one time, the less their is to keep track of.

Then invest in baskets/buckets/tubs (whatever works for you, you can buy small baskets cheap at Wal-Mart and Dollar stores) and put all of one thing in a tub. Label it or take a picture of a sample and that way the girls know where things go. Have a few extra empty tubs.

If you have a reward/consequence system set up that works for your girls and you, you can get them to clean up. Make it a bit of a game (who can pick up more stuff in less time). Try not to let them have out too many things at a time. Pick up something before getting a new thing out. Pick up some things before snack/lunch/dinner time. Find what your girls like and choose a reward for a period of time of being cooperative. ( A special movie, time with you, a trip to the park/playground, a special treat at home, or out) For a short period of time, they earn a small reward (TV time, a preferred snack, a friend does a later bedtime by 10 min), a longer period of cooperation earns a bigger reward (a DVD movie, a trip to a park, a picnic, a more preferred treat, a toy from the dollar store). You need to have a visual system like you said a sticker chart, colored plastic golf balls in a jar, fake flowers in a vase, magnets, clothespins on a line...let them pick they will buy into it more. When they don't clean up they lose one, they can have a time out if they lose one, then the expectation is after time out they pick up the item...if not the item can be taken away (this is why you have some extra empty bins for toys/clothes/shoes that get a time out. Keep rewards and timeouts in view, but out of reach (or inaccessible by locking mechanism). Give lots of praise for helping out and as it becomes habit, extend the expected compliance time. They have to work harder to earn a reward. I have taken a whole category of toys (things with wheels) out of my son's playroom and left them out until they were a bit missed. He has to meet certain expectations to earn those toys back, some of those things get put away each night and he re-earns certain toys each day. It is work to teach them how to do it, but as you said, it is more tiring to be their maid.

Sorry this is so long.

Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

My idea is that if the kids cannot put their toys away and their room is toooo full of stuff then we will pick a few toys to donate to someone who dosn't have all of the things we do... Just a thought... I bet they will start and put things away and find a place for them! So... Keep it clean or time to wean!!!!
Hope it helps... T.



answers from Washington DC on

Perhaps my suggestion will be harsh, but I consider picking up your things to be an important lesson in life. It teaches one to respect your things and also the things of others.

My suggestion: Tell them one time that they must clean up and put away their toys/things. One time only. If they do not, then you put everything in a bag and put it up. They may not have any of the things back for at least a week or so. Just long enough for them to miss it. I would be clear that once they got their things back they must put them away after they are done using them. If you have to pick up their things again they will either 1. Have to "buy" the stuff back from you (don't know if they get allowance yet, but extra chores can be bartered), or 2. Lose it for good.

Perhaps a little harsh, but I think it sends a strong message that isn't soon forgotten.



answers from Washington DC on

Our approach is half expected, half reward. My son is 7. We expect him to do his homework, take his dishes to the sink (or at least the counter, close to the sink!), and put his dirty clothes in the hamper - not the bathroom floor. If they don't get to the hamper they don't get washed, and then he'll have no clean underoos!

The other piece is a reward system. One a week, he's expected to clean his room. He can't play any video games, watch tv, play with friends, etc. until his room is clean. Sometimes I give in an help him out, but I pick the smallest item I see and put it away. (that counts, right?).

Then his room is surveyed to make sure that it is clean before permission is given to turn on the games, tv, go with a friend.


answers from Allentown on

Hi J.,

One way to organize your time is to get an appointment book with 4 columns.

Write a name in each column heading.

Sit down with your children and put in the times for their daily routine as well as your own.

Do things together.

Good luck. Hope this helps. D.



answers from Richmond on

J., this is so ME! LOL! I'm N., a SAHM homeschooling 3 boys 12, 7 & 2yrs old. We have always been "cluttered" around here and I WAS the maid. Now we have decluttered and everyone, including the little man, has their own chores. Chores are a GOOD thing to teach our kids responsibility and how to work. One of my difficulties as an adult was not knowing how to work around my house. May sound crazy to some people but house cleaning/decluttering didn't come naturally for me. Thank God I'm married to a great man (for almost 15yrs now) who has put-up with me during all my learning yrs. LOL! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the book Managers of Their Homes by Steve and Teri Maxwell. I purchased this book from their web site,, for $25 and it was worth EVERY PENNY! It takes a little time and daily attention but the results are so worth it. They also have a book called Managers of Their Chores which may be helpful. As a homeschooling family with 8 children, I figured if they could do it then I could too! LOL
The biggest problem we learned we had was that no one knew what they were supposed to do and when. We made a list of all of the things we needed to get done each day. We wrote down our "have to's" (things we have to do daily) and what time we had to do them. Example, 5am wake-up for Mom & Dad and a 7a-8a wake up for the boys. Breakfast between 8:30am-9am, snack 11:15am, lunch 12:30pm, nap 1:30pm-3:30pm, snack 3:45pm, dinner we wait for Dad but try for 6pm, bedtime 9pm for everyone. Once you have these in place, then you fill in the rest of your things to do daily into the open slots of time. Be sure to schedule a time for everyone's chores throughout the day. We like to break ours up into morning chores, afternoon chores and nightly chores. Then we made a separate list for each child's chores. Example, Kincade (12) is one column title, with morning chores: make bed, get dressed, laundry (M,W,F), breakfast help, dishwasher unload etc...afternoon chores: mop kitchen floor weekly, dust bedroom weekly, vacuum bedroom weekly, clean bathroom upstairs etc... night chores: load dishwasher, shower, teeth, pick up dirty clothes from bathroom, lay out clothes for next day, pick up bedroom etc. Keegan(7) morning chores: make bed, get dressed, laundry (T,Th,Sa), bkfst clean up, put silverware away etc...afternoon chores: mop LR floor weekly, dust bedroom weekly, vacuum bedroom weekly, fix sofa pillows etc...night chores: clean up after dinner, shower, teeth, pick up dirty clothes from bathroom, lay out clothes for next day, pick up bedroom etc. Kruz (2) morning chores: help Mom make bed, get dressed, set table for brkfst etc... afternoon chores: set table for lunch, dust headboard of bed weekly, help Mom vacuum Mom & Dad's room, pick up toys in LR, help clean glass tables in LR etc...night chores: set table for dinner, bath, teeth, pick up dirty clothes from bathroom, help Mom layout clothes for next day, pick up toys from bedroom etc.
Each of us has a time scheduled to do our chores. Example, 10am is morning chore time for all of us.
The next problem we had was not knowing where everything goes. So we had to go through everything to make sure it had a "home." And be sure that everyone in the family knows where that home is so when asked to put it away they know where it goes. It is still work for us Moms to oversee the quality of our kids work. Do not let them get away with doing a chore poorly. Keep in mind that this is their training time. And we all know it's easier to do it right the first time. If they don't, just simply make them do it over until it's right. They will love you for it in the long run.
To declutter our home, it took us a few months but it is so worth it. And I haven't stressed out about it at all! Just work a little bit every day on one project and you will get it done. That's how I tackled the boy's bedrooms and our bedroom. Now, almost 2 months later, our upstairs is decluttered and easy to keep clean. And so is my downstairs too! I only have one room left to finish downstairs but it will have to wait until we can have our yard sale next month. You and your girls will love having your house easier to manage on a dialy basis. As for the rewards program, we tried all kinds of things but they just didn't work for us. Our boys have responded better to consequences should they not do their chores than rewards for doing them. I do a lot of praising and encouraging especially during the difficult days. None of us feel like working every single day so we can't expect them to either. But we still have to get the job done. These are the days I find something for us to do that's special and that they really like too.
Sorry to be sooo long winded.LOL It is my goal to help all Moms ENJOY being all we CAN be at home! Take Care and good luck to you and your ladies! N. =)



answers from Washington DC on

Hi J.!
To be honest, for me the money thing really worked. We started off with a few dollars for putting away dishes. Then it was $5 to take out trash & put cans out on trash day + the dishes. Face it kids like to have their own money. By age 15, my son wanted a cell phone, so it cost him more chores ('cause it cost me $30 month). He learned very quickly how to do laundry (the right way). Darks w/darks, sweats in cold only (we're all tall), Mom's good shirts gentle & cold (low heat in drier). He mopped floors, vacuumed or whatever I asked him to do. But also I'm a pushover, if he goes to a carnival or the movies, I give him money ($20). I figure it's a good lesson. He's now 20 still lives at home but going to trade school. He still does the dishes, some laundry, etc. My thought is that it helps me, plus his girlfriend or wife will love me because he knows how to do things around the house.
Hope this helps some.
Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

Chores are a big issue in my house as well. What has worked for us so far is a big chart of all of the chores in the house listed. Then we give each chore a day, i.e. Thursday, water the plants and dust the living room; Wednesday, clean hall bathroom and do 2 loads of laundry. Each person in the house is given a task for each day. If the chore is done you get a star sticker. At the end of the week, if you have at least 5 star stickers, you get an allowance. At our house, our 10 year old girls get $1 and our 8 year old son gets 75 Cents. My 8 year old can sort laundry, and can even move clean clothes to the dryer and start it.
You can start off their rooms by helping your kids get it organized, then it's up to them to maintain it each day. The chores can be age appropriate, empty the trash, dust the living room, set the dinner table, help load and unload the dishwasher, feed the dog, etc. And have a family meeting to agree on what chores need to be done, and which day they need to be done, and who wants to do each chore. That way they are a part of the process.
It isn't easy at first, and I agree, sometimes I just want to do it myself, it's faster and done right. BUT, they will learn and get better and it's fun doing it together. Sometimes we have a who can clean their room faster race. The prize is usually Popsicles, but everyone gets one.
I guess my basic advice, make it a family thing where everyone (even Dad) contributes and is responsible. That way it's about the family maintaining the house, not just Mom!
I'm still in the midst of this myself, and so far not having too much difficulty, but the summer may change things!
Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

Have you met the flylady?



answers from Charlottesville on


I have 5 children all but one are adults now,and I run a home based daycare.

For us keeping our toys, bookbags, etc cleaned up was a huge issue.

When my children were smaller I helped. When they hit about 5 years old there names went on the weekly chore chart. Each of my children had 3 household chores aday. ex:1. pick up any dirty socks,towels etc. 2. clean diningroom floor 3. dust. in addition they had to clean there room once a week, they were not allowed to use the phone, watch t.v. etc. until there chores were done everyday. When they got to be about 9 or so we added wash your laundry to the list of once a week chores.
This gave my kids a total of 17chores a week. Other than there bedroom and laundry it took about 5min. a day to do. On laundry day as long as the clothes were in the washer or dryer they could watch t.v., use the phone and even have a friend over.

I had a list of chores they could do to earn money it was not the same list as there daily chores. We told our children that in life there are things you are expected to do as adults that you do not get paid for that is life. A job is work you get paid for. My kids always earned enough money to christmas shop for our whole faimly about 25people. or to buy a toy or game they wanted on a reg. basis plus did there chores they did not get paid for. I wrote the lists on posterboard and put them up on my kitchen wall.

a little background on how come this seemed to work.
My son is bi-polar,adhd,ocd. my youngest daughter is adhd. we found for them if it was written down they could not argue or say we were being unfair. As they got older they made list of chores they thought needed to be done each day and we used thoose list to make the chore charts. I made chore charts the beginging of the school year and the beging of the summer.

My oldest is 20 years old and has a baby of her own. This chore chart still works for my 13year old and my 18year old bi-polar son.

I have been using this method for about 15years now it was hard at 1st for me to get used to.

my sons therapist had me type out the whole outline of this plan to share with parents of other children in his practice who had some of the same issues as my son because it worked.

Please remember if you teach your children early in life that they are going to be paid for everything they do they will not learn the joy of doing something for someone else because it will make the other person feel good. Money is a good thing but children need to learn to earn it and learn somethings in life just have to be done.

any questions about just how we set this up send me a msg. I am more than happy to answer questions from anyone.

good luck and good planning



answers from Washington DC on

What I did was created an chore chart, checklist or whatever you want to call it. I included pictures for those that weren't reading yet. Each day they would check when they completed that assignment/responsibilty. At the end of the week they got a trip to the dollar store for one item.

As they got older the wanted more so the responsibilies increase. Like do your room and the bathroom.

This also worked well with get ready for school. I couldn't check each child as they left so the morning chart reminded them to brush teeth, hair, homework, backpack, etc when the walked out the door. If you email me I will send you a copy of mine as a template.



answers from Washington DC on

We clean the house as a family at least twice a month, and more if necessary. It seems to help if the kids see us doing it at the same time. Now, they are teens, but when they were younger, they were folding their own clothes right along with us.

Each kid has his or her own bookshelf, desk, dresser and toy bin (well, now it's not so much a toy bin, but you get the idea). Everything has a place.

Often, cleaning a whole room is overwhelming so break it down. Try setting a timer and say, "For 10 minutes, we will all pick up our stuff in the livingroom."

Over time, it becomes more habit. In our home, if the kids don't pick up they may lose items left laying around or they may not be able to go out until it's done. For kids your kids' ages, a reward chart might be a good idea. If they get five stickers, they can watch TV or whatever you want to choose as a reward.



answers from Washington DC on

My sister who rates as the most pathologically messy person on the planet, recently got the self-help book called Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. It took her about 1/2 hour to read, a $100 worth of organizing supplies to buy and she has been neat ever since. It has been two months and her house has NEVER been better. Rather than dealing with a system of rewards, the main point of the book is to organize your spaces like kindergarten classrooms, where everything has a home. EVERYTHING. You might check it out and see what you think!



answers from Washington DC on

I have an 11 yr old son and 5 yr old daughter. I have a difficult time of getting them to keep things half way neat too. With my son, though, the allowance thing has become a great incentive. He is told that if we have tot ell him to do a chore, he gets no allowance for the week. After a couple of weeks went by without the money ($10/week), he started getting better. My little one still likes to feel like she is helping. So for her, I tell her what her "job" is each day. Her reward is praise and maybe a trip to the dollar store. Find what motivates your girls and use it to your advantage. And remember, YOU are the parent. They have to do what you ask, or ELSE!!



answers from Danville on

My sister gave me this wonderful website or I think so anyway call I hope this will help you out.



answers from Norfolk on

Hi J.,
Starting fresh at a new house is always a good idea. My children are 5 and 6 and are expected to pick up their toys, make their beds, put away their laundry, clear the table, wash dishes, dust, vaccuum and anything else I ask them to do that they are capable of doing. Of course, the first few times you start a new chore you need to show them, then help them, then watch them, and then inspect when they are finished so they can learn to do it the way you expect it to be done. You have gotten some great tips about getting organized, We use cubbys with small bowls for little stuff in side. They have to know where things go in order to be able to put it away. I also, do the "if I have to pick it up its gone" I will ask one time and give them a set amount of time to complete the task and if they leave and don't finish picking up their toys then I pick them up and they don't get them back for a while. The other thing we just rescently did which has really helped, and your girls are old enough that it will probably work better for you. We all sit down together and made a list of thing we should do for each other like saying please and thank you and putting our stuff away so the the house stays neat for everyone, ect. And things we should not do like saying ugly words, begging, whinning, mama screaming, ect. Then we agreed on the consequences. If someone is caught doing something wrong they get 2 chances to correct their behavior and then they go to time out. If they fuss about going to time out they loose a toy. This includes the kids catching the parents breaking a rule, like using and ugly word or leaving our stuff lying around. Also, if someone gets caught doing something good they get a token, token can be exchanged for special privilages. Anyway, we typed it all up on pretty paper and eveyone signed it and it is pasted on our refrigerator. This has been the biggest help of anything we have ever tried because we all know the rules and the consequences and it has kept me consistent with enforcing them. Hope this helps and you have a peacful new home.



answers from Washington DC on

Check out and . Not everything suggested in the House Fairy site may work for you - particularly if you are Jewish, since the premise is that she is the sister of Santa Claus - but you can use parts and adapt as it works. Your girls may be a bit old for the house fairy, but the basic premise of making it fun and something to look forward to, works for all ages. Even grownups. :)



answers from Washington DC on

Good Luck ! When you figure it out let the rest of us clutterers in on it. The trick is implementing something you know YOU ( not them - they can learn any routine) can stick with.

I'm still playing catch up all the time or letting it go until I hit a lull at work. ( I work full time) My daughter will clean her room if a friend is coming over.



answers from Washington DC on

First off, I say that a family that lives together, works together period. If you want to give allowance, than give it, but it shouldn't be tied into chores. Secondly, your girls are old enough to help you out, not just keep there own stuff picked up. My 4 yr old and 6 yr old empty our dishwasher every morning and feed the family pets. They also carry in whatever groceries they can carry. Then there is wiping the baseboards and chair rails on family cleaning day (every 2 or 3 weeks). This is all on top of keeping their rooms picked up and cleaning up their things in the common areas before bed every night. We homeschool so we are home and really LIVE throughout our whole house so somedays this cleanup starts early, but if they want stories before bed, they move quickly.
The key is consistancy. You become the "mean mom" unfortunately, but they get over it fairly quickly. We also have baskets on both staircases so things can get tossed in there instead of run upstairs all the time and we empty them once a week. We also have a toy basket that slides onto the shelf of our entertainment center in our living room that I carry to the playroom when it is full and they empty (about once a week) We keep a huge round basket by the front door for shoes and we have a shelf in our garage for rainboots, snowboots and muddy shoes with hooks for umbrellas.
In their rooms we again utilize baskets and bins to store toys and books and it is easy for them to just sweep things into them. Then I can go in and organize their rooms when I have the time (once a season)
So that is my suggestion: Baskets and bins!
Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

Hi J., I can relate! I like reading what others suggest, too, because it seems we have struggled with neatness in our house forever (sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don't), and I have been willing to try about anything people have suggested. I have a lot to say, so hopefully this won't get too long.

First, we explained that we are a team. A family is a team working together for the good of each other. Working together was what we do, and it is not an option.

Second, I agree that it is good to be a good example. I had a difficult time myself, so a good friend of mine helped put ME on a cleaning schedule. I wrote out a calendar that included my cleaning times of the day. On a separate list, I wrote down WHAT I would do that day. 15 minutes at a time was dedicated to decluttering (it has to be doable). The remaining time of the day was allocated to the other stuff -- vacuuming, dusting, bathrooms, etc. Even kitchen clean up was on the list. Whatever didn't get done in the allotted time was just left until next time, so I wasn't always playing catch up. She was insistant that I discipline myself that way, and I tell you what, it really worked. Even if I missed vacuuming time, I was on schedule for everything else, and usually found the time to squeeze the vacuuming in before the next week's time anyway, so my house was always as sanitary as possible.

The second thing was that we seriously, SERIOUSLY decluttered. If I have too much stuff, I end up making piles. If the kids have too much stuff, they are deer in the headlights and do nothing but melt down. For our girls, especially, after we tried everything else and they still couldn't clean up their own room, we weeded through all their stuff and allowed them to decide what to keep. When it came to dolls, for example, they picked 3 a piece. That was it. I think it was 3 dolls and 3 barbies, or something (we have a small place), a limited number of animals, etc. It was tough, but once we got through it and they mourned their losses, they were HAPPIER. They were so happy they could manage their own stuff. I think the freedom it gave them surprised them.

Another thing we do is keep some things with small parts inaccessible to them. They have to ask for it, and they put the pieces away before I get anything else like that down. Even if they can reach it themselves, it is known that they are not allowed without permission.

Other things we do that help: Every child has a chore list that is posted in their room and in the kitchen. It has a checklist for the morning, a checklist for the evening. I list every little thing, like 1) Brush Teeth, 2) Make Bed, 3) Put dirty clothes in hamper, 4) Put clean clothes in the drawers, and so on. For the pre-readers, I used pictures. I did attach allowance to those for a long time (they're older now and earn money in other ways, so that doesn't motivate them. Now they know it is just expected, and the list is a guideline). I would do "checks" by a certain time in the morning. If they had everything done (good enough, depending on the age of the child), then I would mark that they get their allowance for the day. I paid them at the end of each day at first so they would see that it really was going to pay off. Later, it was weekly. I didn't pay much so I wouldn't go broke, but they thought it was fun to collect the money (it was change, and they put it in a jar).

We also play games with clean-up sometimes. I'll say, "Everybody stop. Look around the living room. I want you to find and put away 10 things (sometimes more)." I do it myself, too, and I try to make it sound fun. For whatever reason, they're less resistant when we do it that way. Maybe because they have a goal they know they can reach, not an overwhelming task that might never get done in time for them to get to play something they wanted to play.

Another thing I do that they think is fun is time them. I take a good look around the room to memorize as much of it as I can. Then I ask them to see how much they can do in 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, I come back and try to point out everything I notice that is different. That takes a lot of work for me, but they love it when I notice and point out what they've done and compliment it. It's a good way to praise them for their efforts.

Sometimes I just show them or tell them what I want done, and I tell them that I'll time them to see how quickly they can do it. Then I say, "On your mark, get set, go", and they are off. When they are done, I stop the time, and then I inspect and point out the good stuff. If there's more to do, we time that separately, but they usually go for that game. My youngest sister tells me to this day that she loved it when she was little and I would play that game with her (she had a hard time cleaning up, too).

So I guess to summarize that much, make sure they realize it isn't an option -- you are a team, break it down into bite-sized chunks, schedule it, make it as fun as possible, go ahead and reward (within a reasonable means), pare down the amount of stuff they can scatter everywhere, genuinely compliment what they do accomplish.

If this doesn't work with my kids, maybe because somebody is deciding to just be lazy or disobedient, we have to go into consequences. That's never fun. The most effective of these, though, is when we tell them that they can't eat their next meal or snack until it is done. I hold to it strictly. They have to sit in their rooms until we're done eating a meal, even, so we don't have to hear wailing, if somebody chooses to protest. I had my younger daughter skip 2 meals, which scared me, but she did the clean up, and she suffered no damage. That's when we decided to simply pare down the amount of stuff she had (I didn't want her to go THAT long without eating). After that, nobody has missed a meal again. If I say it must be done before 9am, at which time breakfast time is no longer offered in the kitchen and they will have to wait until lunch, by golly, it is done well before 9am.

Another effective consequence has been cancelling the fun plans for that child for the day. If he/she was suppose to go somewhere, oh well. He/she didn't follow through on his/her responsibilities, so no party, or no playdate, or whatever. It's hard to do without feeling horrible, but it is worth it to teach responsibility. It's a real life consequence, which is better now as a child than with something of more significance as an adult (when the world is less forgiving). It's a lesson that will serve the child well for a lifetime.

We tried a bunch of other stuff, too, like a box where I put stuff that they wouldn't pick up, and they had to buy it back, and if they didn't, I'd give it away. That works for some people. It didn't work all that well for my kids. My most stubborn one would leave her pillow and blankets on the floor so she wouldn't have to make her bed, for example. She'd stubbornly sleep without blankets. I'd get up in the morning, and she's have a coat on in bed. Okee dokee. I don't think I'm going to give the pillow and blankets and comforter away, and I think she knew she could beat me at that game, so instead of letting her know I was beat, I changed tactics on her. She was the one who also missed 2 meals and then we got rid of most of her stuff. (Hopefully your children are easier than her.) She's 9 now, and she is actually one of the neater children (she still makes huge messes, but she takes pride in picking them up now), so we were successful eventually. She still needs the checklist and reminders, but she requires few consequences.

As far as age-appropriate expectations, that depends. I'd start small and over time expect more. For my children, I started kind of young with picking up. Then by the time they were 4 or 5, they were emptying bathroom garbage cans into large paper bags and taking them to the garbage, for example. At about the age of 5 or 6, they'd start helping with dishes (starting with the plastic ones and the silverware). At 6, they can handle a broom okay. One can hold a broom, the other a dustpan, and they can help sweep the floor after meals. I taught them how to wipe off the table, sweep the floor, and wash the dishes pretty young. They're dusting by the time they're about 8 or 9. My oldest kids (ages 9 - 12) can scrub bathtubs and sinks. My 12 year old can clean a toilet. They're not always as thorough as I would like, but they're slowly getting better at that, too. We're to the place now where they do 50 percent of the house chores. I don't think that is unfair, since they make MORE than 50 percent of the mess. I deal with meal planning, meal preparation, shopping, bills, my own clutter and mess, my own bathroom, my own bedroom, most of the vacuuming (because I like doing it, and I like it done thoroughly), I share with them the cleaning of the hard wood floors, I wash the laundry (they fold it and put it away), and I oversee what they do. It's nice! The hard work paid off. And they'll know how to take care of themselves when they leave home.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions

Related Searches