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I am going to assume your children’s rooms are completely out of control. They can so easily get that way. There are food encrusted plates under the bed, old peanut butter sandwiches in the drawers, and all manner of toys, crayons, papers, socks etc., which have melded into a glacier of stuff. Telling your children to “clean your room” is a joke. YOU couldn’t clean it with two people to help you in less than a week, so expecting your children to do it is not reasonable. Yes, I know it’s their stuff, and they should be responsible for it, etc. But the truth is, they have too much stuff, and it’s overwhelming. Also, they don’t have a system established to keep up with it all. This can all change.

If your child’s room is really dreadful, here’s a great way to deal with it all. Put everything – stuff on the floor, stuff under the bed, stuff spilling out of the closet, etc. – into large plastic bins. Start over. Obviously, if you find half eaten food, just throw that in the trash, but don’t spend lots of time sorting and organizing. Just get it off the floor and into the bins. Do the same with the mound of stuff on top of their desk, chest of drawers, etc. Take your arm and sweep it into a plastic bin. Now, change the sheets and make the bed. Dust the surfaces of the furniture and vacuum the floor.  Instant clean! You may not have seen it this way for years! The sight of the room may be so motivating to your children, they may decide they really don’t want all that stuff. Then, bin by bin, go through all the stuff. Get rid of what is broken or no longer wanted, and put the other stuff away. If there is too much stuff to store in the room, you now know why the room was never clean. There was nowhere to put all that stuff! If that’s the case, you will have to make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. Children’s toys, etc. are not allowed to take over the house!! The adults need a living space, too. If you have a playroom, that’s great. But if you don’t, the toys are going to have to have a home that is not the middle of the floor. If your children don’t want to go through the stuff in the bins, that’s great! Just get rid of it. If they are worried about letting go of their things, patiently go through the items, bin by bin, and decide what to keep item by item. Decide ahead of time where to give all the excess – this sometimes helps children let go, when they know another child will enjoy the toys they are getting rid of.

In order to avoid letting it ever getting that bad again, consider the following:

  • Just before birthdays and Christmas, get rid of some stuff to make room for the new toys.
  • Let family members know that if they buy something huge and plastic that you don’t have room for, it will be donated. Set a limit on the amount of toys your child will receive.  Think about setting up an education fund or special savings account that family members can contribute to instead of overloading your child with too many toys.
  • Divide your children’s rooms into 6 “zones” – the bed, the desk, the chest of drawers, the nightstand, the bookshelf, and the closet. Instead of cleaning the whole room, have your children just clean one zone per day. Set the timer for about 5 minutes. Make sure there are places to put everything in the room. If the drawers are already stuffed, and difficult to use, your child won’t be able to put anything away.

Your children need your help to learn how to manage their environment and how to not get overwhelmed by clutter. Getting new stuff means letting go of old stuff. When your children’s rooms are calm and peaceful, you may find their behavior and even their health improves.