Teaching Kids to Clean Their Rooms

I really would like your opinion on this.

This mom says she kept telling her kids “clean your room” “clean your room” “clean your room,” like a broken record. When her kids would not clean their rooms, she took drastic actions.

Let me say here that my kids clean their rooms, and they have been doing it since they were 8 and 5. They also do other chores around the house, for which their dad pays them.

I am not opposed AT ALL to kids helping at home, not at all.

However, regarding this story, my feeling is that a crucial piece of information is missing from the mom’s account and from the expert panel advising her:

Did she ever teach her children how to clean their rooms? Did she do some retraining as the kids grew older and acquired different categories of items for their rooms?

If she didn’t, her “punishment” is completely out of line.

Watch the video below, then keep reading:

The only way to effectively keep a home tidy is to learn to make decisions about categories of items, not individual items. As children grow, new categories of items make way to their rooms. If they join band, there are instruments, cases and music sheets to keep track of. If they take on a sport there are uniforms, special shoes and gear that need to find a place, usually in their bedrooms. So even after you have taught children how to organize the rooms, any new activity they embark on will require re-training.

How About You? Were You Taught?

Were you taught how to clean your room? Most of my clients and students report that they were never taught how to do things around the house. They were threatened that something bad would happen to them if they did  not clean this or organize that, and then they had to figure out how to tidy up on their own.

In fact, most of them tell me that they do not tidy up often enough because tidying up brings bad memories, so they procrastinate as much as they can. The more they procrastinate, the worse things get, and the harder it becomes to confront their messes.

How I Taught My Kids to Clean Their Rooms

Since my kids were old enough to follow instructions, I have been teaching them how to keep their spaces tidy. I created a game for them to play as they picked up, and they often listened to funny audiobooks while doing it.

Today, as a preteen and a teen, they sometimes do need a little prodding, and we do have a rule that there will be no video games if their rooms are messy.

But they know what to do. By now they have memorized the process, and they are very good at it.

You Can Learn This Process Too

I recently shared the first part of this process during a radio interview for the program “Welcome in Wellness.”

Go to this page and scroll down to see the replays of past shows.

Welcome in Wellness

I was interviewed for shows 5 and 6. During show 5 we talked about Feng Shui in general. Show 6 was all about decluttering.

During show 6, I shared with listeners the exact process I taught my kids and which helps them tidy up their rooms.

This process is part of what I teach in the program Declutter for Good. You can learn this process for free if you listen to the show above: http://boldbravemedia.com/welcome-in-wellness/

You may need to scroll down the window with the replays of past shows to find it:

Keep in mind, though, that due to radio program time constraints, I spoke very fast. Still, you can use the recording as you work on decluttering and organizing your spaces, just pause the recording every time you need to go perform a task.

Share With Me

Share your thoughts with me:

What do you think about the mom in the video?

What strategies have you used to get your children to clean their rooms?

Use the “reply” feature under this article to comment. If this is your first time commenting on this blog, I will need to approve your comment before it is posted. If you have commented before, it will post right away.

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  1. I was never taught how to clean my room. I was able to watch how my parents kept things clean and organized, and by doing this knew how to do it myself. We were never given an allowance for chores. We were expected to help out, because we lived there. My room was always clean and organized. I liked it that way. If our parents told us to do something, we did it, or we would be physically punished. As a teenager, I would often take it upon myself to say clean the bathroom if it needed cleaning without being asked. I would also help my friends keep their rooms clean and organized. I realize this is probably unusual. I think the kids in this video are spoiled. There is absolutely no reason why kids or anyone needs to live like a slob. It is a choice. As an adult, many of the men I have been involved with have lived like slobs. It is not because they were incapable of cleaning and organizing. They just preferred to do other things with their time. The only objection I have to what the Mom in this video did is that I think she should have warned the kids of what she was planning to do first. That way they would have had a choice to clean up their stuff or face the consequences. I think it was unfair that she just sprung this on them and then expected them to come up with money to reclaim their possessions. I also think that if they were never taught how to organize and clean, and they weren’t able to figure it out themselves as I was, that she certainly should have set aside some time to show them how to do this. However I really think that most kids who don’t clean up their rooms are probably perfectly capable of doing it, and they just choose not to because they would rather be spending their time on something else.

    • I think most parents expect that their kids would pick it up just by watching, but many times even the parents don’t actually know how to clean things properly – they were never taught themselves. You would probably do well helping other people organize their homes, if you had the inclination. ????

    • I agree that warning them would have been a better path.

  2. I was expecting to be horrified by the video. It sounded extreme and not appropriate to child development, and the idea of publicly shaming them besides, by posting photographs, just seems like bad parenting. However, I was surprised by how reasonable the mom seemed, and how strong her family seemed to be. It gave me the impression that she may indeed have taught them how to clean and that this was really a last-straw kind of move after fair warnings. She did not throw away any of their things and she gave them a way to get them back. She also did it only for the teenagers, which takes their age into consideration. It is a grown-up version of putting toys in “time-out.” In conclusion, I would avoid something like this in general, particularly the public shaming, but the personalities and culture of the family need to be taken into consideration. I wholeheartedly agreed that most kids are not trained well in how to clean up after themselves, and that education is an essential ingredient

    • I thought $25 per bag was kind of steep. In a Facebook group I joined, some moms accused me of child abuse because I shared that my children do their own laundry!

  3. My impression was that this mother is a reasonable person. I didn’t get that her children don’t know how to clean up, but rather that they had chosen not to clean up and also to ignore their mother’s (repeated?) request(s). Yes, $25/bag seems steep, but we don’t know how many times she had asked. Sounds like her asking price woke them up! I was taught individual housekeeping tasks but I wasn’t taught how to put a house into order. I’ve done the best I could over the decades but my perfectionist tendencies really interfere with getting the job done.

    • My experience with my kids is that they need to be taught, and then taught again. Every time they pick up a new interest, they need help figure out where the new items are going to find a home within their rooms. In the Declutter for Good program I teach folks how to put their homes in order. In the interview I mentioned above I shared one of those processes. I usually do not tell the boys, “Go clean their room.” Instead I give them the first task in the process: “Please go to your room and pick up any trash you find on the floor.” From then on they keep going. ????

      I wasn’t taught and was actually discouraged from doing any housework by my mother, who thought I should study to become a professional and have 3 or 4 maids when I was an adult (her dream).

  4. Children doing their own laundry is child abuse? Hahaha! At the age of 10 I taught myself to use the washing machine because something I wanted to wear was dirty and I didn’t want to have to wait for my mother (a full time college student in those days) to have the time to wash it for me. I just read and followed the instructions (printed on the underside of the washing machine lid). My mother was delighted and encouraged me to continue. Meanwhile, my younger brother had a tendency to stockpile his dirty clothes and then present my mother with multiple large bags of stuff to be washed. My mother had finished her bachelor’s by this time and was working full time and going to grad school. She offered him two choices — submit his dirty clothes at reasonable intervals or learn how to do his own laundry. He opted for the latter.

    • You wouldn’t believe how mean some of those moms are in those groups! One woman told me I was evil for not letting my children have a childhood. Your moms seems very sensible. ????

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