Yes, we do have to go there.
We're parents and it's our job to teach our children how to clean their rooms.
Now, lest you think I have all the answers and my children's rooms were visions of organized bliss - I have news for you - I'm a failure.
My kid's rooms were decorated. They were creative spaces. They had plenty of storage. And they were almost always a mess. Not a mess that couldn't be cleaned up in 20 minutes but a mess that indicated that a child lived there.
Let me confess - I had to get used to that.
I had to get used to stepping over toys and craft supplies. Dolls and legos. Books and books. And did I mention books. We love books. I still have our library of children's books and my children are 20, 26, and 29. My excuse is that I'm a grandma and a preschool teacher and I need them.
So why, if I never got a handle on my kid's room am I telling you how to organize one? Because it's not about how perfect the room looks. It's about the regular process of purging "the stuff".
Children outgrow and wear out an amazing amount of "stuff". That "stuff" has a tendency to multiple in no time flat and then children get lost in that pile of stuff. Other things get lost in that pile of stuff too. Things like library books, birthday money, retainers, or the last pair of shoes that fit.
To keep the family semi-sane I'm recommending a purge-fest at least twice a year. We always liked to do it during the summer and right before or after Christmas (before Christmas is best but can be a crazy busy time for most families).
Since summer is approaching, why not say "hey kids, wanna have some fun and clean out your rooms?". They'll think you're the coolest parent on the block - not.
Since this is a skill that all children really need to learn, it's time to pull up our sleeves and get to work. If at all possible, DO NOT DO THIS WITHOUT YOUR CHILD. It's their "stuff"!
Here are the steps:
1. Gather your supplies - black trash bags (so you can't see what's in them) for trash, boxes labeled "donate", "belongs elsewhere", "save for sibling", "keepsake", and "to be fixed". I also like to have a piggy bank handy for found money.
2. Start at one side of the room and work your way around. Pick up all clothing you find. Remember, your child is helping you. Don't go through the clothes yet. Just gather into a pile that it out of the way. You'll probably find a few other pieces as you clean and I guarantee you'll find some socks and underwear.
3. Now, start at one side of the room again and pick up large toys. Sort the large toys into either a keep pile or one of the other boxes (see step 1).
4. Start again at one side of the room and gather all of your books. Stack them on the book shelf for now and you'll sort them later. You're just getting them out of the way right now.
5. By now you should be able to see the floor. Gather up toy bins (if you use them) or whatever container your child stores their toys in. Line them up against a wall and begin to pick up the toys on the floor, sorting them into the containers. Sorting is a very valuable skill and most children can do it by the time they are 2 years old. Be sure to check for broken pieces as you sort.
7. If your child is at a reasoning age, have them decide which toys they should keep. Are the toys too young for them? Are they played with regularly? Could someone else use them more?
8. After all of the items are picked up, go back to the books and sort through them, asking the same questions. Be sure to put any books that need repair into the
"to be fixed" container. (see step 1)
9. Check behind and under furniture for any stray items. Try not to be grossed out.
10. Put toy containers away and straighten books. Put larger toys back in their place.
11. Go through clothing, making sure to sort out all clothing that is not being worn or that needs to be repaired or laundered. Put clothing and shoes away. Throw away the trash, add the donate box to your car to drop off at the thrift store, and put the "need to fix" container where you'll be reminded to make repairs.
12. Help your child make their bed.
13. Take a look around the room and compliment your child on a purge well done.
Disclaimer: Your influence on your child will only last so long. Once they are independent enough to go away to college, they will have their own method of purging which usually involves dumping all of their laundry in your laundry room during holidays and leaving most of their belongings in the back seat of their car. Yup. Enjoy their childhood while it lasts.