School holidays can make the routine go haywire, can’t they? Suddenly your child’s room turns into a bomb site and after wondering how it is possible to make so much mess in such a short time, you wonder how it can possibly look tidy again. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a vacuumed room where the clothes are in the wardrobe, the rubbish is in the bin (oh God, another brown apple core!), the books are neatly displayed for easy reading selection, and the toys are in the right containers? I promise it’s possible! This plan is intended for kindergarten and primary school-aged children, where clothes, books, and toys are often coming into your house (as your child progresses through stages fairly quickly), but not leaving again at the same rate.
Supplies and Intention
You are going to need:
- Rubbish bin
- Washing basket
- Space for sorting
- Garbage bags for donations
The object here is to teach your child to be accountable for their mess. You are raising a future adult, and children are often very interested in “helping”, and by all means encourage efforts in this direction, which will help them to take responsibility for their own belongings, and make a contribution to the family. Otherwise you have a child who loses or breaks things and doesn’t care because Mum or Dad will buy them a new one.
Declutter, organise, and habits for maintenance
The short term plan is to make the room liveable again. The long term plan is to reduce what’s in their bedroom and set up the space so that your child can join in and help to put their own things away. This means decluttering (less stuff = less mess to make), organising (having a home for everything, and making it obvious where things belong = labels), and having a pack up time routine (put things away as you go, or regular times for putting things away such as before lunch and/or before dinner).
The thing with children’s bedrooms is that normally the mess covers the floor and turns into an intrepid adventure of avoiding Lego pieces, hidden grapes and old sandwiches, arts and crafts, jumpers and books.
The Plan For The Mess
1. Assess the degree of difficulty. If you’re at risk of tripping over something, there are objects like Lego or marbles on the floor that will make you tip yourself over or you can’t see the floor, it’s better to bring the things on the floor out of the room instead of venturing in and hurting yourself. This is where you need some space to move the stuff out. Get a broom or a rake and sweep it out if you need to.
2. Clear the rubbish. Now you can see more clearly where the rubbish is, get rid of that into a handy rubbish bin. Beware of mould, and send used rubbish bags out to the council bin straight away.
3. Sorting time. Now sort the clothes, books, and toys into piles as a first pass. Collect any other clothes from around the house that belong in the room.
4. Prepare to sort the clothes. Now you can enter the room more safely, make the bed. This will be a great spot to sort the clothes.
5. Quick clothes declutter. If you haven’t reviewed the clothes for size and condition lately, this is a good opportunity to do this now. If you’ve done this recently, skip this step. Look for clothes your child doesn’t like (school uniform doesn’t count haha) and doesn’t wear to donate, clothes that are too small but are in great condition to keep for a younger child or hand-me-down, clothes that are too big to go into a container and labelled with the size. You might have a few items that belong to someone else, and if they are ready to go back to the owner, you can grab a tote bag for that and put that at the front door. Clothes that are stained, ripped, or have worn out can go in the rubbish.
6. Put the clothes away. Fold or hang up the clothes as appropriate. It will really help you if you have a wardrobe that your child can use, which means drawers that aren’t too heavy and hanging space they can reach. If your child is older than 4 years old, ask them if they’d like to hang or fold the clothes to give them some ownership and practice. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it’s just an opportunity to learn, and you can find out which parts your child might struggle with. In this instance, get them to just do 3 items unless they are keen to do more. For drawers, having a picture label can provide an immediate visual of where the clothes belong. There are plenty of free printable labels available online, or you can take photos and use them, or draw them yourself.
7. Prepare to sort the books. You’ll want books for bedtime reading, favourite books, and some books that help your child settle their feelings. Younger children appreciate books facing forward to see what they are. For older children, you can use book ends, magazine files, a magazine rack, or a magazine caddy for bunk beds. For the number of books, be guided by how easy your book storage is to keep tidy, and how easily your child is bored by the selection. It’s really helpful to have a book rotation system to keep the books feeling fresh. Essentially it’s storage for themed collections. Eg. Seasonal books like Christmas stories, non-fiction, fairytales, animals, books that have been passed down in the family etc. It depends what you have in your collection and what your child is interested in. Then you can swap the books over every couple of weeks or whenever your child seems to be ready for a change.
8. Prepare to sort the toys. This will mean gathering pieces that belong together and finding the boxes or containers they belong to, and then putting them in the right place. The bedroom is a good place for imaginary play costumes and accessories, and cuddly comfort toys. If you have other things in your house and your child is able to keep it all tidy, that’s great, and keep doing what you’re doing. But if tidying up is a constant struggle and it takes more than 10 mins to pack it up, then set limits on what your child has access to (ie take the toys out of their room) until they show they can handle the responsibility. No one wants to spend all day tidying.
9. Prepare to sort any arts and crafts. Is it for displaying or playing? Update whatever system you’re using to display it with the artwork you’ve found, and update a folio or artwork storage with whatever you’ve taken down.
10. Cleaning! Remember at the start when I mentioned vacuuming? Now the floor is clear, it’s ready for cleaning! Break out a cloth for dusting, and get vacuuming.
And now the room is clean, hooray! Time to celebrate, take a photo, and remember that it can be done! You could even use a photo as a "Spot the Difference" activity for your child :) See your room? See the photo. I can see 3 differences. Where are they?
Download and print out labels for sorting
As a bonus, here are some colour-coded labels I've created to help you sort the piles. Download the pdf from this link and you'll see 6 labels that you can print out and use.
Need more help?
If you’re struggling to go through the steps, or busy juggling children and household responsibilities, I can help you declutter and organise your child’s room. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or PM me on my Facebook page and we can arrange a time to talk about what’s going on at your place.