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How to Get Kids to Clean Their Rooms

Live by example: If you're messy, your kids will likely be messy, too. Keeping your home clean and ticking off the same steps in your own corner of the world will show kids just how much a clean home matters.
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Woman cleaning with girl looking on
Woman cleaning with girl looking on

As we head into the spring months, you may be noticing a few things around the house: wet towels on the floor, piles of clothes at the bottom of the closet, desks overflowing with papers and wrappers, open drawers, unmade beds and toys everywhere. As spring fever hits, your child may be feeling a bit more relaxed with his or her room cleaning responsibilities.

As an eco-cleaning cleaning professional, I spend a lot of time trying to help mom and dad keep their homes clean, organized and healthy and I know that one of the biggest parenting challenges lies within the endless struggle to get kids to clean their rooms. Fear not, there is hope.

Define your expectations. Before your child can meet your expectations, they must understand what you require of them and when they need to deliver. Set a schedule for room cleanings, maybe twice weekly. If you utilize a cleaning service, plan for kids to clean the day before your service day. Then clearly outline what a clean room means to you and write it down in a step-by-step process. Keep it simple, no more than 4 or 5 steps that cover pain points. Here's a sample:

1. Pick up laundry and put in hamper
2. Place all trash in garbage can or recycle bin
3. Make bed
4. Put all toys/gadgets/papers where they belong

Live by example. If you're messy, your kids will likely be messy, too. Keeping your home clean and ticking off the same steps in your own corner of the world will show kids just how much a clean home matters. And there's more than myth behind the theory that a messy room equates to a messy mind; the idea is actually deeply rooted in the principles of Zen and feng shui. In essence, experts believe physical clutter may prevent mental clarity -- something we all need. Promote yours and your kids' by practicing what you preach.

Give them tools. Oftentimes kids keep clutter around because it's not obvious where things belong. Colorful bins and boxes are inexpensive and provide receptacles for kids' stuff. Let them help select containers and decide what will go where--they'll be more apt to use them if they've participated in the plan. And while you're at it, provide two extra bins to collect charitable items and those things that should be tossed or recycled. Once a month, make a date to donate no-longer-used items together. Not only will your child's room stay cleaner, but you'll diminish the risk of storing things longer than they're useful and help those in need.

Pick your battles. Tips and tricks aside, sometimes parents just have to let things go. Kids need spaces of their own, apart from the rest of the house, where they feel safe, in control and can de-stress. Seek out a compromise to avoid endless power plays over clean rooms. While it may make you feel great to peek inside and see dusted surfaces and clean floors, it likely doesn't matter much to them. Work together, determine your must-haves and then let the rest go so you can focus on things that really matter, like time with each other.

Talk to us: This age-old battle has surely inspired many tricks of the trade for getting kids to keep their rooms clean. How do you find success with this on the home front?