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How to Get Your Kids to Clean Their Rooms

Updated on August 22, 2009

It takes time, but it is worth it.

Life is hectic for most people. Trying to get everything done that needs to be done can be challenging, if not impossible sometimes. I am a stay-at-home mom and theoretically have all the time in the world to do everything that is necessary to take care of the home and family. Not so. Even stay-at-home moms get overwhelmed with the every day and need help occasionally. I don't claim to be super-organized and my house is never neat as a pin, but the one thing I have done that has helped tremendously is to raise my children to be responsible for themselves, their rooms and their laundry.

It all started when my oldest was 2 or so, and I had a newborn and my house was a mess. I borrowed a book from my sister-in-law that was about being totally organized. I figured I could use all the help I could get. The chapter that caught my eye was about teaching your children to keep their rooms clean and it really has changed how I do things. So, following are my tips for raising children that take care of themselves and their belongings.

1. Start young. If you wait until your son is 7 years old before you begin to walk into his room and say,"This place is a pig sty! Clean it up!" you will have difficulty forever getting a satisfactory result. It will always be a struggle between what you want (a clean room) and what he wants (to be able to find stuff). The way I figure it, my children are going to have spouses or roommates some day, and if they respect themselves and others, they will be easier to get along with. So, start when your child is around 2. Every day, go into his/her room with her and spend 10 minutes picking up. Give him/her books to put in the shelves, toys to put in bins. Have him help you pull the covers up on the bed. Then, you let him play while you finish cleaning up. When Dad (or Mom) gets home, you tell them that your child cleaned his/her room and did a fantastic job! Reward your child with a book, a walk, bikeride or whatever they like to do. I try to not reward with food, but whatever. The point is: do everything in your power to send the message, cleaning my room will get me praise and attention.

2. As your child grows, give him/her more and more responsibility. At the age of four or so, I would give them an entire job to do: pick up all the dirty clothes on the floor and put them in the hamper. There's one, there's one. Good job! Clean up the rest of the room and give them the credit for having done it all and reward.

3. Eventually, you will be sitting on the bed, supervising the job and pointing out things missed. If he stops and sighs and look discouraged, praise his efforts and get up and help. This means the attention span has just bottomed out. Try to not punish, criticize or make it last too long. Like I say, 10 minutes for a 2-year old, 20 minutes for a 4-year old, etc. My son is now 9 and can clean his room by himself, but he doesn't have the attention span or interest to deep clean. If I want furniture pulled out or the floor vacuumed and mopped, I have to help him. And, he has a bunkbed (I hate bunkbeds, but that's a different hub) which he can not change the bedding on himself.

4. By the time a child is 9 or 10, she can start doing her own laundry. Now,I am not a finicky micromanager and I don't give a hoot if socks are brilliantly white. Besides, with all the sports played and sandbox hours spent around here, they have holes in them in no time so I don't bother with seperating whites and colors. The kids just shove all their clothes in the washer, add detergent and turn it on. I do insist they check their own pockets (my rule is: any money I find in the washing machine is mine. A few dollars later, they check the pockets) and make sure they pant legs and socks aren't wadded up because they don't get clean otherwise. Again, at the supper table I tell Dad, "It's AMAZING! Our son did his own laundry today and he's ONLY NINE!"

5. My daughters are now 15 and 13 and they do a terrific job of cleaning their rooms. Do they always do a perfect job of keeping it clean? No, but then neither do I. Is one a little better than the other one at keeping it all picked up? Yes, but wild horses won't make me reveal which one.

6. What have the results of all the hours I've spent been? I have so much more time because I don't have to do it all. My children recognize when the dishes/vacuuming/dusting/bathroom need cleaning and do it, usually without being asked. They appreciate the work that I do and that I don't want to spend my life working as a slave for others so they can go have fun. My son will respect his wife and chip in. My daughters will not think they have to be anyone else's slave. We all get to cook together, go out together, enjoy life together. They are happy when their room is clean and neat and it puts them in a good mood. I'm in a good mood when my childrens' rooms are clean and I don't have to nag them. We all win.

I hope some of these tips help. I'm not supermom. I'm not always complimentary and patient. And I don't know how mothers work 40 hours and come home to do it all. I'd have a nervous breakdown. But, I have children I can brag about, and who wouldn't want that?

Check out my website: for my and others' ideas on reusing instead of throwing away and buying! Some of the projects I've done with my kids and I always welcome readers project submissions!


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