Clean Kid Rooms? Tips for Making Fantasy a Reality

1. Find a home for each possession and communicate it to the kids
Designate specific spots for clothes, books, toys, towels and toiletries. Repeat this many times over. Check for understanding by encouraging kids to tell you where something should go. Have young ones demonstrate where to place certain items. Labeling (with words or pictures for non-readers) is helpful for everyone, including those outside the family, like grandparents or babysitters who come to help out.

2. Make it easy to put things away
An already crammed drawer makes it virtually impossible for a youngster to put his clothes away. Most kids don’t need more than five outfits per week. Help your children choose their favorites and then store or give away the extras. Fewer items of clothing results in fewer things to pick up, wash and put away. Less work for you and easier work for the kids results in a win-win situation.

3. Do not hesitate to renovate closets, build shelves, or add hooks and pegs to increase the quantity or ease of storage
Mount them to walls and above doorways to provide storage for books, clothing, towels and CDs. Examine decorating or organization books for storage ideas. Some simple ones to consider:
• Lower the bar in the closet so little ones can reach it.
• Install a bank of shelves in the closet for shoes, book bags, sweaters, toys, books and folded clothes.
• Transform blank, unused wall space into storage by hanging cubbies and shelves.
• Use attractive baskets and boxes to create necessary storage that is also pleasing to the eye.
• Hooks and pegs make it easier for kids to hang up wet towels than towel bars.

4. Design an effective laundry system
One of the main ingredients of kid clutter is dirty clothes. Having an effective laundry system requires a receptacle for dirty clothes, a method for transporting it to the laundry room, and a regular practice of children putting their clean clothes away. Teaching kids to participate in this process is a life skill that they need to know.

5. Eliminate what’s not useful in the way of furniture and storage.
Consider the maxim: function over form. No matter how cute it is, if it doesn’t work or if it makes it difficult for kids to keep tidy, get rid of it. For example, many laundry hampers have removable lids. That setup requires one more step to get the dirty clothes where they belong. Ditch the lid and make it a lot easier for everyone.

6. Consider a happy place for toys outside the bedroom
This reduces clutter in the bedroom. If the space in your home dictates toys be stored in the bedroom, place them in small clear boxes with lids, according to type. Keep the boxes on shelves or slide them under the bed. Avoid large toy chests. The desired piece is always on the bottom necessitating one to empty the entire contents.

7. Be consistent in expecting, reminding, encouraging and rewarding
Learning a new skill takes time, even if the new skill is simply remembering to do one’s chores. Require them to do this job for their good and yours. Your patience and kindness will make this process easier for your kids. Compliment your children on jobs well done. Surprise them with a spontaneous ice cream run for a clean room. Admonish when needed, but try to catch them “being good.” Build on success and pretty soon, your kids will be a lean, mean cleaning machine.

Jessica Fisher is a freelance writer and mother of four boys in Olathe, KS.