Inside: Experts suggest that kids that clean their own room do better in school – and are more successful adults. Keep reading for a simple, 2-step system that kids can easily learn to do themselves!
It seems like kids these day have So. Much. Stuff.
Clothes, toys, school art projects, prizes, birthday cards, books…
A messy bedroom can become a battleground between frustrated parents and kids – and nobody wins.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Cleaning their own room can actually help kids perform better academically — AND there is a simple way to teach kids to do it themselves at an early age, avoiding future conflict.
Why Teaching Kids to Clean their Own Room is so Important
A 75-year Harvard study zeroed in on one thing that high-achievers had in common: learning to do chores as a child.
The Harvard researchers named work ethic as one of two critical factors for future success and happiness, and one of the best ways to instill work ethic in children is participating in household responsibilities.
School counselor Jessica Howard takes it a step further, making the connection between organization at home and organization at school.
“It definitely starts at home with their bedroom,” Howard said. “Make sure they make their bed and keep it clean.” Howard explains that daily chores at home sets up positive habits.
These strong organizational habits learned by cleaning their bedroom translate into better organizational skills in the classroom, a tidy backpack, less homework lost or forgotten, and in turn: better grades.
But where do you start when teaching kids to clean their own rooms if they haven’t yet? How young can you start teaching kids to clean their own room?
How to Teach Kids to Clean their Own Room in 2 Steps
Experts agree that it’s almost never too young to start teaching kids to clean their own room. Even toddlers can learn to put toys in a basket.
Start with simple, daily tasks (click here for a list of age appropriate chores) and add more to the list as they master them.
For example, every day our two older daughters make their beds and tidy their room. Sometimes before school, or if we’re rushed in the morning, first thing after school.
However, even with daily tidying, clutter inevitably builds up over time. This is where the real work comes into play!
When bedrooms are cluttered with toys, books, and clothes, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Now imagine how your kids feel, when they have less organizing experience, less patience, and big tasks seem even bigger.
That’s why I created a simple two-step method to cleaning and organizing that kids can easily learn and replicate on their own.
Create sorting options for all the items you’re organizing: trash, keep, yard sale/donate.
Decide where each item goes with two simple questions that makes sense even to young children.
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of our system:
For each item in question, there are three options:
- Trash. The item is broken and not fixable. Or it is legitimately trash. (It was crazy how much actually trash I would find in random places! Clothing price tags that fell behind the bed, used scrap paper, etc.)
- Keep. It is a clothing item that is in good condition, still fits, and is still worn on a regular basis. It is a toy that still gets frequent play time. It holds high sentimental value for your child (it’s ok to encourage your child to let some items go, but balance it by respecting their feelings on certain items that mean a lot to them).
- Yard Sale/Donate. My mother in law has a big yard sale each fall and spends months beforehand gathering and sorting items to include. Any clothing that our girls have outgrown, toys that weren’t a hit, and/or any baby gear that we’re done with goes in this pile. Might as well find these things a good home AND make a little extra cash at the same time! (Items that don’t sell are donated).
Determining if an item is trash is fairly easy. However, it sometimes a bit more difficult to decide what to do with the rest!
I made it as simple as possible for my girls with the following two-question system.
When evaluating whether to keep an item or put it in the yard sale, these are the two questions to ask:
- Have you used (worn, played with, etc.) this in the past year?
- Does seeing it make you want to use it right this moment?
If your child answers “no” to both of these questions, then the item goes straight in the yard sale bag.
By following this simple system, my daughters and I can organize their entire room in just a couple hours! (And with a Grandma that loves to shop we had a LOT of stuff to go through!)
Don’t Do it For Them!
It’s tempting to clean and organize a kids room yourself to get it done faster and without hassle. I used to be guilty of this because I was worried my girls would fight me on getting rid of toys.
Kids usually won’t initiate a clean-up or organize their own room without prompting. However, you might be surprised when they actually want to help and be a part of the decision-making process — if you just ask them.
Even if they don’t tell you so, many kids are comforted by order and cleanliness – it’s so nice when they can find their favorite toys and books right away.
Kids also enjoy any quality time spent with you learning how to organize. (And you probably will too!) Plus, the end result is SO worth it!
Yes, it will take longer for kids to clean their own room. And they might not do as good a job as you would. But that’s not the point.
The most important thing is that kids learn organizational skills that will benefit them in all areas of life, especially school.
Note: This post includes affiliate links to products we love and use; disclosure policy here.
The final result of our clean-up:
- 2 bags of trash (seriously, where did all of that come from??)
- 1 bag of yard sale clothes
- 2 bags of yard sale toys.
My daughter’s room wasn’t a total disaster before, so it was amazing to see just how much of the stuff wasn’t needed at all! Our simple kids room organization hack made the process easy, pain-free, and productive!
- Teach kids from an early age that cleaning can be fun with the playful, rhyming book Clean-Up Time (Toddler Tools) by Elizabeth Verdick
Ready to become your happiest self??
Kelly is a friend and colleague whose work has changed the lives of countless families. Her new e-book shares the recipe to:
- Stop feeling overwhelmed. Get a handle on the swirling chaos of to-do items and appointments and “should”s in your head.
- Set yourself up for a happy day, every day. Find out the ingredients you need in your day in order to become your happiest self.
- Catch yourself before you lose your cool. Learn what to do when you lose your patience with a temper-taming toolkit of proven tools to get you back on track.
- Heal after the storm. For the days when you do lose your cool, you’ll get the exact steps to flush the bad mojo from your body and repair the relationship with your child (or your partner).
More of our most popular parenting posts: