This is what my five year old’s room looked like last week.
Scary, isn’t it?
An influx of toys at Christmas, a busy mom who forgot to stay on top of room cleaning supervision, and a child who hates to get rid of anything contributed to the problem.
I know many of you can relate to clutterbug kids. But how do you solve the problem?
Know the Root Cause of the Clutter
Before you begin to declutter, you need to figure out the root cause of the clutter. As I mentioned above, we had three problems.
- Grace had way too much stuff for the size of her room.
- I was forgetting to make sure she tidied her room every day.
- Grace is opposed to getting rid of anything. Her primary love language is giving (and receiving) gifts, and everything is special to her.
Once you know the cause of the clutter, you need a solution that addresses every cause.
Step 1: Know Your Child
There are two thoughts to cleaning kids rooms.
- Include your child as part of the process.
- Clean the room while the child is away.
The approach you choose should be based on your child’s personality. My son never minded giving away unneeded items, so I always included him in deciding what to keep and what to donate.
Grace, however, gets so anxious at the thought of donating anything that I knew it would probably be easier for her to go away and come home to a clean and decluttered room.
I figured she’d probably miss a few things, but that she probably wouldn’t notice half the things that were missing.
I shipped her off to grandma’s for the day and got to work.
Step 2: Declutter Your Child’s Room
If there is too much stuff in a room, it will never stay clean. Never.
The easiest way to declutter is to get three boxes or bags. Label one “Throw Away,” the second “Give Away,” and the third one “Put Away.”
The first two are self-explanatory. The third bag is for things that don’t belong in the room.
If you’re anything like me, when you put things away the moment you find them, you get distracted by another mess that needs to be cleaned in another room. It’s much more efficient just to throw the misplaced items in a bag and put them all away at once.How to #Clean & #Organize Your Kid's Room (and Keep it That Way) - #springcleaning Click To Tweet
Get rid of anything your child doesn’t play with on a regular basis, anything that’s broken, or anything that has been outgrown. I found a few infant toys in Grace’s room.
Do the same with clothing. If it doesn’t fit, is stained or torn, or if your child just won’t wear it, get it out of the room.
If you’re unsure as to whether your child will miss some of the toys, box them up and put them in an out of the way place like the garage. If she doesn’t miss them after a few months, you can donate them.
I put three bags of toys in our shed, because I wasn’t sure if Grace would miss them too much.
The day I cleaned her room I ended up donating four bags of Grace’s toys, two bags of her clothes, and a table and stool set that just didn’t fit in her room.
I also threw away four bags of trash. Yikes.
Decluttering the room took care of the first root cause of my child’s messy room. Less stuff makes a room easier to clean.
Step 3: Organize Your Child’s Room
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Now that half (or more) of the stuff cluttering your child’s room is gone, it’s time to organize what’s left.
As you organize, try to think of ways you can make it easier for your child to keep her room clean.
In Grace’s room I like to use open bins with labels.
Open bins make it easy for her to put her things away, because she doesn’t have to remove lids or open drawers to clean up her toys.
The labels clearly tell her where things go. For a child who doesn’t read, you can take photos of the toys that belong in the bin and tape them to the front of the bin (I learned that little trick working in a preschool way back when).
Because Gracie likes to collect “treasures” (rocks, leaves, sticks, etc), I labeled a small box “My Treasure Box,” so she’d have a place to keep her treasures.
Make sure you have a place for everything in the room. Things that don’t have homes cause clutter.
Step 4: Set Up a Maintenance Routine
Even though your child’s room is clean, your job is not quite done. You need a system to maintain the cleanliness.
In my case, getting rid of stuff only addressed one of the root causes of the messy room.
I still needed to find a way to 1) remind myself to stay on top of supervising Gracie’s room cleaning routine and 2) figure out what to do with a kid who brings things home but doesn’t want to get rid of things.
To remind myself to check up on Gracie’s room cleaning routine, I made a kid-friendly checklist for her to check off every day. I laminated it, so she can check the boxes with a dry erase marker every day. Putting the checklist in a page protector sleeve would also work.
In the morning she is supposed to make her bed and make sure any dirty clothes are in the hamper.
After school she is to put away any clean, folded clothes I lay on her bed and do a weekly bedroom maintenance chore.
And in the evening she needs to put away her toys.
Before bed, I will go over the checklist with her. If her daily and weekly chores are getting done consistently, her room should stay pretty clean.
Institute an Everything Needs a Home Policy
To take care of my daughter’s hoarding tendencies, when she arrived home, I gave her a tour of her now clean room.
I pointed out that everything has a home and showed her the treasure box where her treasures belong.
I also explained that when the treasure box gets full, she will need to make some room in it by getting rid of stuff before adding more things.
The same goes for the toy bins. Currently she has one empty bin, so if she gets a new toy, there is room for it. But if she runs out of bin space, she will have to decide what toys go before adding new toys.
Gracie’s Reaction to Her Now Clean Room
I’m going to be honest. I was terrified that when Gracie came home from grandma’s house that she would throw a fit about all her stuff being gone.
And she did…sort of.
The only thing she really missed was a cardboard box she was using to hold a few toys. She found the box in the recycling bin and was happy when she put it back in her room.
Since that was the only thing she missed, I was happy to let her have her box back for a while. It will make it’s way back to recycling eventually.
She still hasn’t missed the seven bags of toys that I hauled out. And she hasn’t noticed her table is gone either.
But after a few days, she is happy with her clean room. She is excited about checking off her chores every day. She actually plays in her room now. And she can find the toys she wants to play with.
I think our new system will be a success!
Recommended Organization Supplies
Unfortunately the colorful bins I used for Gracie’s room are no longer available. But the following supplies should work just as well.