Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tackling the impossible

Maybe we are the only ones, but I doubt it. Helping children to learn to keep their rooms clean on their own is a nearly monumental task in our household. As babies and toddlers I maintained their clean rooms while they helped, as they moved into young childhood they gradually took more responsibility for the cleaning, and somewhere along the way, a serious lapse in cleaning occurred such that we have never permanently recovered from.

We have tried flip charts and check charts, reward stickers and money, punishments and restrictions, timers and schedules. The good news -- almost all of them worked! For a time . . .

Then, we decided that they simply had too much stuff for any child to keep clean. Our oldest, a boy, does fairly well maintaining responsibility for his belongings regardless of what plan we have in place at the time. Our girls, however, share a room and struggle unbelievably in keeping it orderly. So, we pulled out the boxes and bags and put away A LOT of stuff. That helped, for a little while. We removed almost all the toys from their room and kept them elsewhere. That also helped, for a while. What next?

Turning to Scripture (no, there's nothing about messy rooms specifically in the Bible), we read Luke 16: 10
, 11 which says, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?"

Principles derived:

- They must first show faithfulness with a little before we trust them with much
- This topic carries eternal weight since how we handle our worldly wealth will show our trustworthiness with true riches

Obviously, no one is losing their salvation over an unkempt room, but they must learn to grasp responsibility even in the smallest areas. So, we continue to search for a solution.

Here is what we have finally found that has kept this room looking like this for over a week (yes, seven whole consecutive days in a row! --totally redundant, I know, but I am so excited):

We moved out all of their clothes. Although other items added to the clutter, the clothing was the biggie for them. Can't decide what outfit to wear? Just pull out those shirts and stack them on dresser for now. Can't find your pajamas from last night? Don't bother looking behind the dresser or under the bed, just pull out more! Spilled sauce on your shirt? Quick, throw it on the floor and grab a new one.

All of their clothes got packed up in storage bins and moved to the master bedroom (just a convenient place, and also where we fold laundry). Then, they picked select clothes to keep in their room. They each chose 7 outfits including socks and undies (enough for the week) and 2 sets of PJ's. This is drastic, but it has worked so well, and has so many perks.

This has helped them keep track of their pajamas, because they don't have a drawer full to choose from every night. They think about their clothes when they take them off, because they don't have anything else to worry about in their room. Since the bins stay right where we fold the laundry, that goes much more quickly as well. The couple times they did need to change midday we would replenish with a new outfit from their bin. Mornings go so much more smoothly because rather than having their overflowing drawers to sift through, they have just a few outfits that they picked out and love.

Now they can have fun in their room and even have room to play with their little brother in there. Of course, whenever the camera is out they have to get in just one more shot. :-)

I'm sure others have some great ideas as well. This has worked for us so far and I wanted to share in case others are facing the same dilemma.


Kirsty said...

Can I kiss you?! I was thinking yeah but all my kids have in their rooms is clothes and still they are a disaster and then I read your awesome solution. I. Love. It and can hardly wait until tomorrow to implement. (Only problem will be finding where to store everything..hmmmm..our house is a matchbox).
I have done the take everything away before but never with clothes and never having them select their clothing for the week-brilliant. I love the scripture that goes with it too. Thank you!

Kris said...

I bet you're going to get tons of visitors with this WFMW tip! We have this same problem. I've threatened the kids (like you it's mostly the girls) with taking things away because they obviously have too much to keep up with, but I like add the scripture to it, along with the fact that, once they prove they can be responsible with a few things, they can get more.

Thanks for the tip!

Liz said...

Great idea - I can't believe it's been clean for seven whole days! Good work. Do the girls like having a clean room?

Monica said...

I really like this concept. I may have to implement this in our home.

{ L } said...

I could have said what you wrote about the clothes! Thank you for this idea. I need a solution for clean kids' rooms, lol...

5intow said...

So glad that many of you find this helpful! I actually wrote this post before I knew about wfmw (I used to live under a rock . . . ), so I can say that this has helped keep our rooms clean for almost a year now.

Most of them now keep about two weeks of clothes in their drawers, but still have a bin of extra clothes in their closet. And, still, their rooms are clean.

Kirsty, you could also store something else in their drawers to free up space (bedsheets, towels, etc. something they won't mess with). Best wishes tweaking the idea to work in your home, it just might look a little different.

Liz - they definitely enjoy having a clear floor to pull out a game on, and not having to spend so much time cleaning any more.

Have fun everyone!

Tracey said...

Great idea! I agree that it's such a struggle to keep my girls' room clean - everyday more seems to come in than goes out! This would be a very workable solution. Thanks!

Taylor at Household Management 101 said...

What a great suggestion. Having less clothes really does seem to help my son get ready more quickly in the morning. That way he does not have to choose between so many different clothes, when he always wears the same things anyway.

I just recently wrote a post on putting away your clean clothes, and talked about when you seem to not be putting clothes away (or your kids are not) one of the possibilities is that you have too many clothes. (I left the link as my URL for my name if you are interested).

I love your blog, btw. I found it through WFMW!

shopannies said...

great ideas and now that mine are grown I know that if you keep up with it will work

Hadley said...

That's a great idea! We have TOO MANY clothes! May be that would help us cut down on clutter too :)

Hoosier Homemade said...

Great ideas! Thanks for sharing! My boys are older, 18, 15 and 11. Wish I had this when they were younger.

Anonymous said...


5intow said...

Everjoyful . . . Thanks. :-) God definitely deserves the credit for anything remotely inspirational I come up with. I could never handle half of what motherhood throws at me on my own.

Just a messenger,