Keeping their bedroom clean – ugh. It’s been a headache ever since they graduated from babydom. Are there solutions for helping kids learn to keep their rooms clean? I certainly am seeking them. You can call me a hypocrite because I know this was a huge struggle for my mom as she was raising me. Staying clean didn’t come naturally. I remember falling out of bed once onto the corner of my plastic Barbie container and having it really hurt bad. My floor was littered with toys and clothes everywhere. I was offended at a poster my mom gave me that said, “I’m not messy. I’m just creative.” I was offended because I wasn’t willing to look in the mirror and admit that it was the truth. Actually, it wasn’t quite the truth. I was both messy and creative. Even as an adult, I can’t say that my room is always spotless. My kids didn’t inherit a Type A gene. Does that mean there aren’t times to have a clean room? No. I do think it’s important to teach our kids to take care of their things and learn how to become organized and clean. My husband thinks I should let it go completely. Seriously, a lot of the time you can’t even walk on their floor. I can’t let that go completely. Weekly, we have a small group from church that meets at our house. The kids are upstairs in the kids’ zone (their two bedrooms and a small play area at the top of the stairs). There’s no way I would subject the teenagers and other kids to the disaster that is the upstairs. I have wanted to have my girls stay on top of it so that Thursday isn’t the mad, frustrating panic to get it all under control. It can be a very stressful time for me, and I don’t like entering into small group in that stressed mode. So, I continue working at having the kids learn to keep their room relatively manageable. I have a picture above of how their room often looks. I will help them pick it up. We’ll keep clean up fun and I’ll keep them motivated. However, the next day it’s trashed again. I tire of helping them if they are seriously going to destroy it the next day. So, I confine them to their room until it’s picked up. This gives me a lot of time for just me and the little guy, but I find the girls often just play and not clean. Sometimes it works and they pick up. However, other times it feels like they’ll be confined to their rooms the rest of their lives. I could let it all go until small group night, but then it’s just a bag of stress and my frustration manifests itself in ways I don’t like to see in myself. I literally found myself having my own temper tantrum recently…literally, jumping up and down in frustration while grumbling at them for how quickly they will pull out everything they own. A solution had to be found.
Here’s what we are doing. I’ve clearly stated that they obviously don’t know how to manage the things they have. These items cost money, and they aren’t being treated with respect. Things are getting broken, and it’s not fair for me to help them clean up when I know it will be a disaster the next day. I’ve explained to them that every evening, they will go up to their rooms for thirty minutes to clean up. They can use that entire time or waste that entire time. Maybe it will only take them five minutes, and they can get on with life. I’m not going to nag or hassle them. The choice is theirs, but they must be up in their room until things are clean. At the end of thirty minutes, anything left out or stuck in the wrong place becomes mine. I currently have 3 big garbage bags loaded with their stuff. Perhaps it means we have too much stuff too. I have explained to them that by not caring for their things, they have clearly communicated to me that they just have too much stuff to manage. We need to get what we have to a manageable level. Once they are demonstrating that they are at a controllable level by being able to consistently have things picked up by the end of that thirty minutes, then they can start to earn some things back. Things are earned back simply by demonstrating that what they have is being managed properly. I’ll give a few things back at a time and see if they can handle that amount. If not, things will be taken away again. We might find the good balance point and just say it’s time to purge. We’ve been doing this for a couple weeks, and it seems to be working well. I did accidently scoop up Kenzie’s glasses from a pile on the floor, and they were lost for a while. I need to start considering what we should just give away too. We obviously don’t have need for all this stuff – especially when so many in the world have so little. Other people can benefit from what we can choose to give away. It is hard for kids to manage clothes when the dresser is packed full. They want one shirt, and the rest are removed to find it. This abundance is unnecessary, and we have been surviving just fine minus the three big bags I’ve removed completely. They will get down to a good level that they find easy to navigate and get practice with a little. It reminds me of the Bible passage and parable of the talents where God says that if we are faithful with a little, he will entrust us with more. When my girls learn to be faithful with a little, I will trust them with more. It doesn’t need to remain perfectly clean at all times, but it does need to remain manageable.