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How to Encourage Your Kids to be Tidy: Tips From a Mom of 8

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If your home is like mine, it can be a never-ending battle to get your kids to pick up after themselves at times. In my case, my older kids are even worse at it than the little ones. Perhaps it has something to do with that teen attitude, but I try to keep the younger ones on task even if the older kids refuse to cooperate sometimes. But no matter their ages, there are things you can do to encourage your kids to be tidy. Yes, you can have tidy kids!

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I find they need skills, training, and the correct tools to keep their rooms clean, but also for your kids to be able to keep their things cleaned up in YOUR spaces. Even as a mom of nine, my mission has been for our main living spaces to not look as though they have been taken over by kids. Of course kids live there, and some of their things will be in these spaces, but common living spaces like the kitchen and the living room don’t have to look like these are kid areas.

It really is a matter of knowing how to make it easy for them, and this is what I’ve mastered through the years.

teach your kids to clean their room

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I have learned that as long as kids are living in my house, it will never look the way I want it to, but tidy is one of my favorite words to use to describe what I am looking for. Again, far from perfect, but as long as it is presentable and livable, I have learned to be content. Someday when all my kids are grown and on their own, I can have a clean home again.

There are things that we can do as parents to make cleaning up easier for our kids, however. I have greater success with making it as SIMPLE and STRAIGHTFORWARD as possible for my kids. The following are the methods I find to helpful with kids of all ages.

Here are some things you can do to encourage your kids to keep their rooms, and their things clean.

1. Set a good example of keeping things picked up

Even if life is busy, you as a mom need to at least demonstrate what your expectations are and being consistent in how you care for your things and are tidy yourself.

Setting up some simple systems for yourself, making sure you have the right tools like storage baskets, bins, and shelves really help you. In one of our smaller homes we ended up removing a couch from the living room in order to make more room for storage shelves to keep their things in – and these shelves had doors!

As much as we needed the couch, we needed the storage space more. And this helped me set a good example of being tidy for my kids.

2. Teach your kids how to keep their room & things clean

You will need to show them more than once in order for them to learn what you expect and to master the art of doing it, especially if they are younger.

It starts with showing them exactly what your expectations are. This means doing their jobs basically for them in the beginning, but it won’t always be this way. Later, you can gradually shift to your kids demonstrating their understanding of your expectations by doing the job with you. Finally, you’ll be able to hand over the reigns of keeping their things tidy to them entirely.

I will also say, it is always helpful to get your kids started in any cleaning or tidying task. I find my kids take care of their task much better when I’ve cleaned or tidied with them for as little as five minutes to get them started. At other times, I will give them a specific job to do within a task and given them a time limit to get just that part done. I ask them to surprise me with how well it’s done when I get back. Usually, they are so excited to show me their work – and it all starts with just working alongside them to get them started for a head start in the beginning.

Use the pickup rule for keeping kids things picked up

From a young age, teach your child to pick up after themselves before getting the next thing out. This is the pickup rule.

It is amazing how simple this concept is, but it is so hard to implement since kids can create a tornado in the two minutes that you are using the bathroom.

But, it can be the basic rule in the house. This is something that you’ll have to enforce in the beginning, but in time this process can become a habit, which means a lot less enforcing on your part.

Maximize closet space in kids rooms so their room space can be less cluttered

Put a lower bar in their closet using a tension rod to put their hanging things within their reach. This will make cleaning up their clothes on their own so much easier. You can also install shelves or even incorporate a dresser in their closet.

The key is to look at the things you need to keep in their closet, determine the easiest way to store those things, and then make sure you’ve got the right tools for the job.

I was once able to store clothing, both in season and out of season, for four boys 12 and under in one typical sized bedroom closet. I was able to do this by maximizing the closet space with the right shelves, rods for hanging space, baskets, bins, and hanging storage. It took time, but it was SO worth it in the end!

Organize kids toys smart

Store kids toys in clear or opaque containers. That way, it will be easy for your kids to see how full each container is and to quickly sort the containers properly if they get out of hand. Even when kids know where things go, it can be hard for them to actually put their things there. To encourage your kids to clean their room and keep it that way, leave them with no excuse for not knowing where things go.

Clear containers and bins are a great way to keep everyone on the same page.

Label where kids toys go if you want kids to pick up their toys

Label their toy containers either with words or with pictures of what is in each bin. The pictures work great for small kids. Simply take a picture with your phone and get it printed at the drugstore on the corner. Quick, easy, painless, and cheap. Take it to the next step and laminate that picture. My laminator is one of my favorite things, and I use it for all kinds of different things.

I love this labeler below for labeling. It’s totally worth the purchase.

Kids dress up clothes organization

Keep dress up clothes on a simple coat stand, rack, or set of hooks. This will avoid taking up precious closet or cupboard space while also adding some color and fun to a room. You can just designate a specific area in their closet if you can afford the space, but the coat rack idea can give you that space if you don’t have it in a closet.

Buying a freestanding wardrobe is also an option, and they are typically not that expensive.

Label where kids clothes go if you want kids to pick up their clothes

To help your kids keep their room clean, you’ll need to have strong systems and strategies for their clothes. Clothes all over the floor is one of the most common complaints I hear from exhausted moms. Like their toys, dresser drawers with words or a picture of what goes in each one in helpful. This is how to deal with kids who are not old enough to read yet. All kids can look at pictures and put things in the correct places.

Also keeping like things together helps. If a drawer is too big for one item, put some smaller organizing bins inside the drawer to help corral like things together and to keep clothing items from getting all mixed together.

Organize small clothing items & things in containers

Use smaller containers in their dresser drawers to keep things like socks, underwear, belts, and slippers together. This is such a simple thing to do, and it makes a world of difference in your kids being able to maintain some sense of order inside drawers. This is especially true if their drawers are large and things are small.

Hooks work great for kids clothes & things

Provide your kids with a few hooks in their room to hang hats, partially worn clothing, or even a sweater, sweatshirt, or coat. This can be a really cute way of adding a pop of color or decorative touch to the room while also creating more room in precious drawer space.

We have also installed hooks in my kids’ closets for things like hats, belts, necklaces, scarves, and other accessories.

Use a binder for kids special things and keepsakes

Create a binder with clear page protectors for them to keep their treasures in. Most kids like to hang on to things that have special meaning to them. This could be things like birthday cards, special pictures, or letters from friends or loved ones. This way these things not only have a place, but they are also forced to pick and choose between what to keep and what to toss. This keeps them from hanging onto too much clutter.

This is a great idea for adults, too, if hanging on to all the things is a problem.

Let kids choose where their toys belong to help them keep their room clean

Let your kids be involved in the decision as to where to put their things. If they are a part of this process, they are more likely to want to put things away. They are usually pretty intuitive in where to put things, and the more they do it the better they will get at it.

Store kids pajamas out of sight

Kids clothes all over their room? This often includes pajamas. In our house, we have a “3 sleeps rule” for pajamas, which means that each kid needs to wear their pajamas for 3 nights before getting a new set. Part of what makes this rule work is that they have a place to put their pajamas that is NOT the floor.

Have your kids keep the pajamas they may wear for more than one night under their pillow to avoid having to look for them at bedtime.

That way the pajamas are out of sight, yet they are easy to find when bedtime rolls around. I always say, whatever I can do to make bedtime go a bit smoother is a good thing.

Color code different kids towels

Have a different colored towel and washcloth for each child so they can be responsible for taking care of their own towel and washcloth after using them.

When the bathroom is a mess of towels or washcloths, you know just who to seek out based on the color. It makes it so much easier to hold your kids accountable. With eight kids, I could never keep it all straight otherwise.

I am always thankful for this system in our house when one of our kids gets sick – I at least know they’ve only been wiping their face and hands on their own towel and washcloth.

Choose kids toy packaging wisely (or get rid of it)

Get rid of excess packaging or packages that just don’t make sense or aren’t easy to use. And, they take up SO MUCH SPACE! In many cases, these packages also take a lot of time to put things back away inside. If it takes less time for a kid to clean something up, that’s almost always going to be the way they choose to clean it up.

Have you read about my game and puzzle storage? There is so much wasted space in the boxes – and it makes stray pieces so much harder to put away. If you have not read those posts for games and puzzles, they just might transform the clutter in your home…and your life!

Schedule a 10 minute tidy three or four times each day

Are you not sure what a 10-minute tidy is? Read about my 10 minute tidy here.

Looking to have tidy kids? Tired of cleaning up after your kids? Put these principles into practice and experience the peace and calm that kids who are tidy can bring to any home.

Looking for more on helping kids clean their rooms? Try these:

How to get your kids to clean their room without arguing

How to teach your kids to clean their room without yelling

Living with kids doesn’t have to mean living with clutter

The incredibly simple secret to controlling toy clutter in a small home


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