This can seem like an impossible task sometimes, and it’s not for the faint-hearted either. Let’s be honest, keeping a child’s room tidy and organised is going to require consistency and effort on your part. That can feel exhausting sometimes, but as I often remind myself, it is setting a child up for the rest of their life. My son does not find this task easy, and he needs lots of reminders to keep on top of things, but I thought I’d share with you some of the things that have hugely helped in our household. Full disclaimer: I appreciate that these ideas help with a 7-year-old, so they may need to be adapted slightly for older children. I have yet to face the perilous road of having a teenager. I can only sympathise!
1) Have a deep conversation.
Anything deep about conversations may seem a bit ominous, but what this really looks like is that you are asking questions and setting clear ideas, so that everyone involved is on the same page. Finding out what your child likes and dislikes about their room, what is easy to use and what is not and how they like to use it can be a great starting point. This can really help your child feel like their voice matters and gets you talking about things when things are calm rather than in the tense moments of trying to madly tidy things away. Something else that can be useful is to decide with your child what tidy actually means. Think about the things that will have the biggest impact overall like making their bed, dirty clothing in the laundry hamper and the floor clear of items. It may even be helpful to take a photo of your child’s room when it is tidy to help them, and you, remember what the ultimate goal is for everyone.
2) Let it go, let it go!
Before even getting started on deciding what’s going to go where and how, you are going to have to clear out the clutter, anything that’s broken, too small or not loved and used. It can help to decide with your child ahead of time where the items will go before making any decisions. Sometimes being invested in helping a good cause can help your child to let things go a bit more easily. This part can be tough for some children, so keep the mood light and let them be the decider. I find this quite hard sometimes, but I also like knowing that my restraint will help in the long run. Be mindful of the words you are using. Deep breaths may be required, too. Good questions to ask are: 1) Do you love it? 2) Do you use it? 3) Do you want to keep it? Don’t worry, this will get easier the more often that you do it.
This is also a great opportunity for a cull of the tiny, doesn’t-fit-anymore clothing, too. The less clothing, the easier it is to put things away, and that’s what we’re aiming for.
Try and aim to do this task every few months. We always set aside time over each school holiday to go through things and have a general reset. This keeps the overall process from becoming overwhelming, and it also establishes a routine for everyone.
3) Pair the dismal with a delight.
Set aside a day and time for doing the decluttering and let everyone know in advance. When anyone is faced with a task they don’t necessarily love or want to do, it can be really useful to pair the task with something that is more enjoyable, but NOT distracting. Listening to an audiobook, music or podcast can keep your child entertained while having to make touch choices. It eases the pain of the process.
4) Easy does it!
Once the clutter has been cleared, the room is ready to be organised in a way that will make it easy for your child to tidy up. It’s key to have a place for everything. Keep in mind where your child may look for something when they are trying to find it. Putting items into categories can be super helpful, but make sure that the categories make sense to your child. A box labelled cars may not cover all of the items that will be stored inside such as trains and boats, so think broader. Take time to consider the best storage options as well. There are a few things to consider beforehand. Can your child open the door/lid/drawer of the storage you are choosing? Can your child reach the shelves or hooks where things will go? Are things easily labelled to help your child remember where items go? I’ve discovered that open storage whenever possible is the easiest solution for a child that struggles to put things away. I also absolutely love an shoe box (decorated if you prefer) for all of the teeny, tiny toys that come from birthday party games.
5) Celebrate good times, come on!
Seriously, this step is probably the most important one, so remember to include it. Finding a way to celebrate with your child after what is often a difficult task gives everyone an incentive, but also shows an appreciation for completing something that is hard. This can also incredibly valuable whenever your child tidies their room (or attempts to tidy their room) because it reinforces the positive outcome that you are craving. This is the step that can sometimes be forgotten, but it essential to succeeding in your ultimate goal of having a tidy room.
6) Rinse and repeat.
The room has had a reset, and everything has a place where it belongs, now it’s time to maintain it. Setting a time every day for your child to tidy their room will help keep things under control, but also establishes a routine that will keep the momentum going forward. Just five minutes every day will have a big impact. Before bedtime can be a good time because then the tidy room helps to start the next day in a much calmer way.
And that’s it. Six steps to helping your child to keep their room tidy and organised, and keeping your sanity intact. It’s good to remember that maintaining an organised room is an ongoing process. Be patient, provide guidance and support along the way and celebrate when your child attempts to get it right, and you’ll be well on your way to success.