Tired of picking up toys every day? It’s a constant battle to keep a small kids room clean. Here’s how to fix it.
Moms are tired.
Tired of cleaning the same mess every day. Tired of losing our tempers after having the same kids clean up the same mess for the 10th time in a row.
Tired of stepping on Legos on the way to the crib to get the crying baby.
In between yawns, we ask each other for the secret. How do we have kids clean up without screaming and losing our minds?
How Do You Keep A Small Kids Room Clean?
I was huge and miserable when I was pregnant with my fifth baby. Hubby was busy, working full time and earning a degree. Heck, we were all busy, all the time.
And our home was a giant mess.
So bad, in fact, that a couple of friends had mercy on me and came to help me dig out of the giant mess.
All I could do was sit and stare at the disarray and think “Once I’m back on my feet, never again will this house look like this.”
Now, I’m not going to say that I never yell at my kids about their messes. I still have nights when my head hits the pillow and I instantly wish I had handled my day better.
But the messes have dramatically improved over the past few years, as have the ways we handle “clean up time” in our home.
I’m going to lay out the steps we took to make that happen. Because I know you can make this happen for you, too.
Problem 1: It’s Overwhelming
I mean, if the mess is overwhelming for you, just imagine how much worse it is to a little one! Because the fact is that most of them just have too many toys.
One article claims that a child, on average, receives 70 new toys each year.
You might be thinking “No way. Not my kid!” But really think about it. Your kid likely gets toys for their birthdays, holidays, treats from friend’s birthday parties, fast food toys, at the dentist, etc, etc.
Is it reasonable to ask a 5 year old to clean up her stuff when she owns hundreds of things? Tell the truth…you’re overwhelmed just thinking about it yourself!
Aren’t these toy bins awesome?? You can totally build them yourself.
What To Do About It
Pare down. Get rid of it. Throw it away, share it with others, sell it on eBay.
It comes down to this. You need to take a day when the kids aren’t home and tear apart their room. Don’t forget any toys or the “stuff” they own in other rooms.
You might be thinking, “No way. My kid plays with every toy he owns and he’d know immediately if I got rid of anything.”
Stop and think about that. Does your child play with everything…or does he frantically move from one toy to another because his room is so overwhelming?
Does he play with everything…or is he really just moving things from one room to another looking for an open area to play in?
My kids almost never miss the toys I remove. What they do notice is that they have so much room for activities!
Here’s how to do it:
- Anything broken beyond repair is thrown out. It doesn’t matter if Grandma gave it to him for his first Christmas. Seeing it just makes you sad that he can’t play with it anymore. If it truly is that beloved, get him a new one for his birthday.
- If a child outgrows a toy, put it in the closet for the next child. With 6 kids, we almost always have a next child that will enjoy it. When the baby outgrows it, we save only the most precious few things. The rest is sold (I have found that Decluttr is the easiest way to do that), handed down, donated, or tossed.
- Not sure if a stuffed animal (or book or toy etc) is loved? Hide it. I keep a big tub of objects in the attic or basement or closet.
- The kids have no idea that this tub exists. That step is super important! If they lay eyes on it, you will never be able to get rid of it.
- The child has to remember the toy and specifically ask for it before I return it to them. They don’t know about this rule. Don’t give them reasons to sit around and remember every toy they have ever owned.
It’s OK to Do This One Alone
At the time of our purge, my kids were not old enough to make a reasonable decision about each toy. Yes, I love teachable moments… but a giant purge is not a teachable moment.
This job is taxing for an adult! Asking your child to make big decisions is too much.
To create an actual teachable moment, ask your kid to find one toy they no longer love or want. Then donate it to a less fortunate child. It can be tough for them to find one to part with. But with practice, it gets easier.
Solution #2: Help Them Clean With Less Overwhelm
I’ve started sending my kids to their rooms only to make their beds. Clean sheets, with only the things you love the most on the bed.
Later in the day, I tell them to fill a bag with trash. (Why oh why is there always so much garbage on the floor of their rooms??)
Then dishes. A basket of dirty laundry. Etc.
That breaks up the task so they don’t give up immediately and start playing.
Problem 2: There’s Not a Place for Everything…So How Can Everything Be In Its Place?
I remember feeling irritated when I asked my son why he couldn’t just clean up his mess. I watched him reach to pick up a toy…and then look around the room, confused as to where to put it.
That’s when I realized that I wasn’t sure where to put that toy, either. How could I be aggravated with him if I didn’t know where it went?
Find your own system of toy boxes, crates, and other containers to make it easy to clean up.
Set up a system so simple that a new babysitter can walk into the house and know where the toys belong. Then you’ll know that you’ve simplified enough for a child.
Problem 3: There’s No Routine
If you want kids to clean up regularly, something needs to signal: *Ding!* It’s clean up time!
I mean things like…lunch time doesn’t start until after toys are put away.
Or 2:00 means clean up time. Set a special alarm tone on your phone.
Decide what fits into your own schedule.
Problem 4: They Need Incentive
If your kids are Minecraft addicts, then create a rule that there is no screen time until they’ve cleaned up. That one is unbelievably effective!
For younger kids, maybe their reward for cleaning up is a snack, Netflix, or outside time.
You might be against the thought of rewarding your child for doing something they should do anyway. In our home, they aren’t getting extra snacks or extra screen time.
I make it clear that the room will get cleaned one way or the other. But if they comply without a fight, they can get that screen time they’ve been wanting.
Problem 5: Who’s In Charge?
Do your kids hear you when you ask them to do something nicely? Sometimes I get the impression that my kids think I’m just kidding unless I yell the words instead of speaking them.
Clearly that’s something I’ve accidentally taught them. The only way to change their thinking is to skip the yelling altogether.
Try to ask kids to clean up in a specific way. “Please hang up your coat on the rack.” “Please empty your lunchbox and put it in the pantry.”
This eliminates the “I’m confused by what you want” excuse.
If they don’t do it right away, take them by the hand and physically move them through the motions. Don’t hurt them, just move them through the motions to get the job done.
Another solution is an immediate consequence. “Again, please hang up your coat. And for extra practice, you can hang all these other coats, too.”
With these problems solved, it should be easier to keep a small kids room nice and clean!
These methods take some time to put into place. But if you dedicate yourself to getting them done, you’ll find clean up time goes so smoothly you’ll forget about the yelling!
Don’t miss my easy method for packing lunches.
How do you keep your small kids room clean without losing your mind?