You guys, I’m going to brag for a second. I’m a really freakin’ good cleaner. And a really good organizer. And a really good keep-things-neat-er. My kid is, um, not. If I didn’t make him clean his room, I doubt he ever would. I wanted to write about how to get kids to clean their rooms and share all kinds of bribes and tactics and persuasions and deals you can make with them. But instead I did something crazy.
I asked my 5th grade son and six of his friends why they don’t want to clean their rooms. And what would encourage them to do it themselves without forty five minutes of argument. And you’re about to be really surprised what they said…
Why do you hate to clean your room?
“…because it takes forever to pick up everything.”
“…because I could be outside or playing video games.”
“…because it’s hard to clean by myself.”
“…because I could be drawing instead.”
“…because it’s boring and I could be playing games or drawing instead.”
“…because I could be doing something more fun.”
“…because it’s just going to get dirty again.”
What would make you more inclined to clean your room?
“..if I had specific places to keep stuff.”
“…if I got rewards after.”
“…if my mom showed me the best places to put my stuff so they stay clean.”
“…if my siblings helped me and we made it a game.”
“…if I had the right boxes and furniture to keep it separate.”
“…if I got less stuff out at one time.”
“…if there were different things to keep my toys for each category.”
Aside from the kiddos who responded with things like wanting more money than my monthly salary and the ability to shove it all under the bed, their answers were pretty eye-opening. It’s not that they don’t want to clean up because they hate the chore so very much, they honestly just don’t really know what to do. They don’t know where to put things and they don’t know how to store their stuff the right way.
Sure, you’ve got a bookshelf in their room. And a toy box and a nightstand and a rolling cart. But based on the answers I got from this little experiment, kids crave direction. They need a place for everything and they need that place to be clearly labeled. And they need to have a little fun in order to make the chore worth it.
So after reading through their answers and having a good long chat with my own son, here’s a few takeaways to change your kids’ cleaning habits and help them become more comfortable with tidying up after themselves.
- Have bins and organizers for everything in very specific categories
- Label EV-ER-Y-THING
- Ditch the “catch-all” furniture like toy boxes and opt for cube storage shelves.
- Downsize their “stuff” and only keep a curated collection of their favorite things in their room
- Use a timer and make cleaning their room a Race Against The Clock game
Being specific is the name of the game here. Instead of a big clear box labeled “Art Supplies” try a rolling cart with lots of small pencil cases and folders. One case for colored pencils, one for markers, one for crayons, one for tape and glue, one for paint brushes, etc. And one folder for notebook paper, one for construction paper, one for completed drawings.
First things first, it’s time to sit down and have a chat with your kid. Don’t just assume you know why they don’t want to clean or what kind of storage solutions they need. Everyone is different and just because a system works for you doesn’t mean it will work for them. Download this free worksheet of questions to ask during your conversation and solutions to build a system they can stick with. It will help you start your chat from a place of casual conversation instead of lectures and demands. You’ll get good honest responses and a better understanding of that awesomely unique personality of that sweet kiddo of yours.