How To: Teach Your Child To Clean Her Room

by Steve Calechman

The bedroom is a place for privacy and self-expression. If you wish your child didn’t expressMessy Bedroom himself with a floor covered with miniature racecars, baseball cards and underwear every night, don’t resort to nagging or cleaning the room yourself. Institute early habits so that he learns to tend to his personal empire. Elizabeth Goodsell, owner of That’s Neat Organizing in the Boston area, provides the keys:

• Stay simple. Young children – ages 3 to 5 – don’t fully understand the meaning of “Clean your room.” Stick to two-step requests. “We need to pick up your toys and put them into that box.” After that, make the work fun. Put on a favorite song and race until the end, or tell him that his toy box is a hungry alligator that needs to be fed quickly. Keep any task under 10 minutes and you should hold his attention.

• Make storage containers accessible and without lids. This makes it easer to drop her items in and later locate them, minimizing excessive pulling out and strewing. Label every storage space with a word or picture. It lets her know clearly where to put – and later find – her socks.

• Elementary school-age kids can handle more complex tasks, such as folding clothes and making the bed. Remember, too, that they often have collections and are protective of them. Make sure his collections are allowed ample display space, and use his interests as motivation. Tell him that if he wants to set up his construction site, he’ll need to put his books away first.

• Look to purge. Purging is a good regular habit for anyone, but it’s especially needed around age 11. She’s growing out of her younger style, requiring some redecorating. Look at old items and ask if she’s played with them recently, then put nonessentials into a holding box and store in the basement or attic. She probably won’t think of them again, meaning you can eventually get rid of them. Maintain the same number of storage containers in her room, so that the amount of stuff she has remains consistent. With the influx of new items, she’ll be excited and feel a sense of ownership over her room.

• For a teen, the bedroom is a bigger extension of his personality. Allow for his independence and work with his behavior. He might prefer hanging clothes but not want to use the closet, so buy hooks or a coat rack. Realize that bedroom clutter might be the result of feeling overwhelmed. Try breaking room-cleaning tasks down into doable chunks to re-establish the habits. Maintain a workable, collaborative list of expectations. If you’re still not happy with the state of his room, keeping the door closed is an acceptable option.