I hear from a lot of parents that their kids are super messy, never let go of anything, and leave stuff all over the place.
How do we help kids turn from Clutter Monsters into Champion Declutterers and start to love an orderly space?
Make organizing and decluttering like a game, and reward for success!
Even the youngest children can sort things. Try it with your clean laundry basket – have them sort their own clothes out from everyone else’s, using baskets or bins to throw the clothes into. Have them sort all the loose socks by color, then try and pair them up.
Figure out which toys give you grey hairs because they’re all over the house. A good example is Legos.
Set a timer (5-10 minutes) and have them go through the home and collect all the Legos that are in rooms other than the room they’re supposed to live in. At the end of the hunt, compare the piles to see who found the most pieces.
Try this with books, dolls, action figures, cars, anything little that seems to migrate all over the place. AND- at the end have them put the toys away where they are supposed to live!
Everything needs a home.
It’s not really fair to expect children to be able to keep their rooms tidy if there isn’t a place for everything to live that is clear and accessible. Use bins and boxes to contain the toys, and label everything.
For younger kids, you can tape a picture of the items on the outside of the bins along with the label. This also reinforces learning to read for the little ones.
Count them up.
Do you suffer from mountains of stuffed animals? Or matchbox cars? Or dolls?
Take all of them out together and place on a bed, or sheet/towel on the floor.
Usually the sight of all these toys together are overwhelming, and your point is made without a word! Then:
The kids pick out the ones they never liked or never played with (using the “there are kids with no toys at all who would love to have just one of these!” argument works well here).
Pick out the ones they can’t live without.
Ask them how many do they think they really need ? And actually play with? Really?
Find a great place for them to live, so the kids can access them easily and see what they have.
Reading about other kids who struggle with disorganization can help inspire yours! Here are some great books recommended by professional organizers:
Ophelia: Let's Get Organized by Vickie Dellaquila (Author), Kristine Sacco (Illustrator)
The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room by Stan and Jan Berenstain
A Clean House for Mole and Mouse by Harriet Ziefert
More by I.C. Springman
This is crucial! Everyone deserves a little reward for accomplishing a task they really don’t love doing.
Figure out what works for your kids, whether it’s a favorite treat, extra electronics time, or a special activity with Mom or Dad (throwing a ball around outside, baking cookies, drawing together, whatever they like).
NOTE - These methods also work for spouses who may need a gentle nudge (a blog for another day and a glass of wine!)…