edubya

What do you do about a messy kid's room?

Emily H
3 years ago

Navy Blue Boy Bedroom with Shed Dormer · More Info

My room was always an unadulterated disaster when I was growing up. My mother chalked it up to "creative kids are messy," though she did always want me to clean up. Do you have strict rules about messy bedrooms? What do you do if the sanitation level starts to leave a little or a lot to be desired? What solutions did you have for keeping even these parts of the house tidy?

Share your tips!

Comments (58)

  • Margo
    3 years ago

    I found shutting the door worked pretty well.

    Best Answer
  • erinsean
    3 years ago

    I was like Sarah...told the boys I was going to vacuum. That meant everything off the floor and our rule was nothing on or under the bed. When they outgrew their toys we gave them away to a younger child who liked them. A dirty clothes basket was in their closet and they did pretty good with using it.


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  • PRO
    The Frugal Parisian
    3 years ago

    Shutting the door is spot on. However, when my kids were small I had lots of big beautiful wicker baskets and if I was in a tidy mood it only took a minute to throw everything in them. The three best things I bought were large baskets, coop cars and an A shaped drawing board with large pads of inexpensive paper as well as a fixed tray for crayons.

  • PRO
    JudyG Designs
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Different expectations for different ages, so, as they grew, responsibilities grew as well. My goal was not so much a clean room as was their learning the importance and value of what they had. Simply, just to take a couple of minutes to hang up the dress, fold the sweater, etc.

    Growing up I had three pairs of shoes. (We were far from poor). One pair for dress up; one pair for school; one pair for play. I had a good coat and a play coat; a dressy dress, a few school outfits and my trusty dungarees and Keds.

    It would never have occurred to me to throw stuff on the floor. I knew that if I ruined the party dress, there would not be another one for a long time.

    Do you agree that a lot of children just have way too much? It is hard to learn to appreciate and care for things when you know that those things are easily replaced.

  • purrmichigan
    3 years ago

    For little ones labeled containers. I know from teaching pre and kindergarten that with enough brightly colored and labeled containers it's easy for even two year olds to learn to put their toys away.

    Consequences teach. I had a bathing suit I loved - the color, the fabric was perfect for me. I left it in a damp place touching something metal and it was permanently stained. It wouldn't have occurred to me to ask for a replacement and I was really sad it was ruined.

    Parents can find things to praise even in really messy rooms. And it's so much more instructive to say 'this is how or why you do something' as opposed to saying 'don't do' something.

  • decoenthusiaste
    3 years ago

    As long as my teen's room got cleaned up twice a year, and I didn't have to do it, I didn't concern myself. Once the carpet got too dirty to clean, we pulled it up and painted the floor with porch paint. Happy to say that a dirty room didn't hurt either one of us and now, out on his own, he keeps a clean place, does lots of DIY improvements. As for little ones, limiting what they have to make messes with is key.

  • maryamartinez
    3 years ago
    My son's room was always a sty. Just nasty. Then suddenly he became almost a neat freak about it. My daughters were always pretty good about keeping their rooms neat, but not exactly clean. Dusty. I kind of let them have their space to control and didn't get too worked up about it.
  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    To a point I'm for shutting the door......as long as the mucking out eventually will happen. But over the decades there has been a disturbing trend. Kids, once at the center of the home universe, carted everywhere, their activities revered..... grow up and out to be homeowners, and they end up living in total chaos. You can CAP that word. They become the mommies and daddies with the paper piles, the unpleasant kitchen, the master bedroom in sty mode ......despite every convenience in that home. They can not manage a dishwasher, or laundry, and you may as well be asking either one of them to scale Everest. TWICE! They are most often the product of homes where every single thing they did or had to do, was far more important than their contribution to daily maintenance of living conditions..........and mommy did it for them, or let the door remain closed for far too long. Ask any cleaning lady, they'll tell you : )

  • Heather Macdonald
    3 years ago
    We had a rule, whoever cooks doesn't have to do dishes ....they are all good cooks. I should have had some creative rule about cleaning...I just kept their doors closed....my son is fairly neat my 2 daughters have messy houses.
  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting
    3 years ago

    The rule in our house was if the door is shut when I walk by it is your space if it is open it is part of my house and you start cleaning. I always worked so Wed. was one of my days off I cleaned house, did laundry and tried to prepare some meals for the week. If your clothes were in the laundry they got washed if not this is the washer have at er.

  • tfitz1006
    3 years ago

    I mostly ignored it except when it came to food in the room. I drew the line on that. I also taught them how to do their wash at age ten and they took it over. Luckily the worst room was on the third floor and I just didn't go up there!

  • PRO
    Julia & Elizabeth
    3 years ago

    Close the door.

  • decoenthusiaste
    3 years ago

    Pick your battles!

  • maryamartinez
    3 years ago
    Messy bedrooms are easy. What I want to know is, how and when do you start cutting them off financially?
  • Susan Davis
    3 years ago

    They stripped their bed each Wednesday and I did sheets and towels and remade the beds....my only rules were wash sheets and towels once a week, shower every night if you are under 16, and no toys or computers in the bedrooms. Also they put their dirty laundry in sorting bins in the laundry room each night; darks, lights, jeans.

    When they were under five I had a fitted sheet on bed and a washable quilt so we could easily make the bed together and tidy the room together.

    When they were 13 they got a laundry day and they learned how to do their wash on their day and when they began getting baby sitting jobs we stopped their allowance. We also had extra teen jobs they could do for money or priveleges. When they were 16 no more paying jobs at home nor were they required to help around the house. When they got a drivers license they got to wash the car each week too. They were expected to work part time in a job somewhere. We also expected that they would save enough money from thier jobs or get scholarships to cover their first year of college. We then paid half of schooling and they paid the other half......you gotta do it all with love and empathy too.....easy no, worth it, yes. Just find a plan you are comfortable with and go with it!

    The thing I remember most was the family meeting discussing where all the money comes from and where it all goes; eye opening for kids.

  • ninigret
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    no food was ever allowed in their rooms and by and large i didnt care about the rest. i did laundry and delivered it to their bedrooms because it was easier to do full loads than dealing with when they chose to do laundry or they'd leave a load in the washer or dryer and go to school which was annoying.

    my son's room was so chaotic though, he had a path from the door to the bed and the rest of the large room was an after photo from a natural disaster. so i said 'use it or lose it' either tidy up or get moved to the tiny (and i mean tiny) smallest bedroom that was used for guests. he didnt use it, so he lost it. i packed it all up in boxes and left them in the tiny room, and painted his old room a deep red and made it my tv den, with my own flat screen tv and lovely day bed and nice furniture from pier 1 and never allowed him in it. ha!

    oh, and now he has his own home and he is the felix to daughter in law's oscar.

  • 902 Juanita
    3 years ago

    Nothing affects "neatness" faster than a curious scent hound puppy. We got a Beagle when my son was 6, just at the time that he thought stowing his shoes in a closet, dirty clothes in a hamper was far too much effort. And I do have to say, we warned him...

    Favorite pair of shoes- destroyed. Hot Chilis (under clothing for cold weather activities like skiing) with a strategic hole chewed through. That was enough for him, as it wasn't as if I went out an replaced these things the moment they were destroyed. Learning lesson, learned well!

  • PRO
    Home Reborn
    3 years ago

    I find that sending the kids off to university really helps. I love both my daughters to death but the whole house looks amazing when they're gone!

  • youngstown
    3 years ago

    Yes. pick your battles! I use to say to my husband, "is this the hill you want to climb and die on?" (supposedly a Marine motto)

    As a teenager I was a slob but once I started working and paid for my own clothes, etc, I shaped up pretty fast as most people do.

  • cabotmama
    3 years ago

    We are currently in the battle with our four children, ages 11, 9, 7, and 5. We want to instill in them a respect for the effort and sacrifice it took to procure the things they enjoy. Beds must be made every morning before I will do anything for the child. Each night before bed, all clothes must be hung up, put away in drawers, or sorted in the laundry hamper. Biggest battle this week is enforcing the "no dirty socks stuffed under the bed" rule. Toys must be put away in their proper places, with open shelves & pretty boxes used to contain. (We occasionally make an exception for an awesome fort or train track that deserves another day of play.) A sign by the back door clearly states my shoe policy: "Life is full of choices - remove your shoes or scrub the floors." And shoe buckets are strategically located near by.

    The kids know the expectations and are usually compliant after a reminder or two. Recently, they built a huge fort in the foyer, and after play for an hour or so, they shocked me by completely dismantling and putting away all on their own with no prompting by me! However, toys are often put away but not where they belong. I seem to forever be saying, "if you put X with Y, then you won't be able to find X the next time you look for it!" The oldest two children are starting to catch on.

    As for deep cleaning .... We keep a neat house, but could stand some improvement in the frequency of cleaning. The oldest two kids are now responsible for changing sheets once every two weeks or so. Vacuuming happens about once a week.. The shared bathroom is kept neat, but cleaned about once a month, with each child contributing.

    The biggest eye opener: their bachelor uncle. They've heard stories of his slovenly teenage ways, with the "just shut the door" philosophy. And they've seen his messy apartment and disgusting bathroom. We've been careful to not comment about his mess to the children, but the kids themselves once asked us, "why is his place so messy?!" They all agreed that they want to learn to care for their things so that their homes don't look like that when they're grown!

  • kkgaffney
    3 years ago

    Some kids need it simple: make bed, pick up clothes, throw away trash. It may not result in a picture perfect room, but it keeps things under control and they do gain a sense of responsibility.

  • greenandblue2
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Provide enough easily-accessed storage for all of their things and purge regularly. We have them put their stuff away each night before bed. They're used to it so it doesn't take long and then they get to wake up to a clean room. Things stay manageable that way. No food is allowed upstairs, no shoes worn in the house.

  • orangecamera
    3 years ago
    Remember that show "Clean Sweep"? We used that method once a year with mine (they shared a bedroom). Everything was taken out of their room except the furniture, and sorted into Keep, Trash, and Donate piles. After looking at the Keep pile, we reassessed the furniture needs and layout. Then items from the Keep pile were put away neatly. Sometimes a few more items made it to the Donate pile.
  • Mark
    3 years ago

    Great answer for any messy room in the house.:)

    Design can be fun · More Info

  • cwurch
    3 years ago

    I'm struggling with helping my kids display their tiny knick knacks and treasures such as special rocks, shells, decorative lip balms, small souvenirs, etc. They have them on their dressers and night stands making dusting impossible and giving a sense of chaos. I want to respect their treasures but also help them learn to appreciate the less is more idea. Any suggestions?

  • purrmichigan
    3 years ago

    Put them on trays that you can lift up and dust. They can do the dusting of each piece if they want to keep it displayed. You can suggest that they'll have less to dust if they put some away. They could have special boxes to store their favorite things. I'd do repurposed boxes or tins - thrift shop finds. Also, they can learn the value of organization by putting like items together in a decorative container.

  • orangecamera
    3 years ago
    @cwurch, shadow box frames laid flat are good for what you want.
  • greenandblue2
    3 years ago

    Agreed, put them in clear boxes, frames, or repurpose some canning jars to contain the small things. That makes cleaning easier and you can put lids on them to keep dust out.

  • Margo
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    cwurch- perhaps inspire your kids with a *time capsule* story. Let the digging commence;))

  • cabotmama
    3 years ago

    Ahh....those precious little knick knacks. As a kid, I never had a good place to display mine and they often had to go in a shoe box where no one ever saw them. For my kids, I repurposed Melissa & Doug wooden trays that puzzles and magnetic dolls come in. The ones with wooden dividers are the best. We mod podged fun scrapbook paper inside the different sections, then hung the boxes on the wall as open little shelves - just right for seashells, Lego minifigs, coins, etc.. Ticky-tack holds the little treasures in place and makes for easy changing out of the displays.

  • cwurch
    3 years ago

    Wow! Thanks for all the great tips! I'll definitely put them to use!

  • ibseyb
    3 years ago

    My mother had a two-pronged system. First, she said there always had to be a clear path so she wouldn't trip walking through.

    And periodically if it got bad, she would announce that on a particular upcoming day she would "help" me clean my room. This consisted of her sitting on my bed and pointing at something and saying "Pick up that thing. Now put it over there. Okay now pick up that thing. And put that in the [wherever it went]." Basically micromanaging the process to the n-th degree, which was annoying enough that when she would announce her next helping session, I would tidy by myself first to avoid it.

  • Kimberly Hase
    3 years ago

    We clean on Sunday, all the toys and books go where they belong or they get vacuumed/stepped on/taken away (I let awesome castles, hot wheels tracks, or lego cities stand). This way, it stays pretty clean all week, as school takes up the time he'd use to make an unholy mess. Still, it gets messy and I just leave it til the next Sunday. I've made peace with the "treasures" of a a five year old by allowing him to keep anything he deems "treasure" on his dresser. When the dresser top is full, he has to make choices about what stays and what goes. This way he gets to keep bottle caps and rocks and weird bits of plastic and birthday cards and I keep my sanity. We all put our own dishes in the sink, we all hang up our own coats and bags, we all put our own clothes in the hamper. The husband needs more reminders than the five year old.

  • Jessica
    3 years ago
    My 9yo son is extremely artistic and has what I would consider hoarder tendencies. He says he wants to save things because he can make something really cool out of old objects. Unfortunately he rarely caries out his plans and we were left with piles of stuff in his room covering every surface. He wants to save every scrap of metal, cool rock, sticks, gum wrappers...everything. I gave him 2 good size baskets and told him he could keep those full of treasures but once they are full he has to get rid of some things if he wants to keep more. I showed him pictures of really messy hoarder homes and reiterated that we don't want to live like that, it doesn't feel good. He has done really well with this basket system. I also make the kids pick up their room about every other day.
  • Kathi Steele
    3 years ago

    Every Friday was house cleaning day. Before you went to any activities, your room plus another room plus a bathroom had to be cleaned. Other than that, have at it. It's your room, if you want to live in a sty, knock your self out!! One son is very neat. The other a slob!!

  • purrmichigan
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Clearly defined easy to reach baskets or bins are really good for pre-teens. Even a two year old can put away some of their own toys. Also talking up the positives of a clean room. My mother once told me spiders hung out in dirty rooms. That had an effect on my cleaning!

  • ohsuyque
    3 years ago

    I chuckle when I read these posts about just shutting the door. We are called parents for a reason. It is our responsibility to teach our children how to be responsible and part of that training is for them to know how to be neat and clean and organized, which will carry over into all areas of their life once they become adults. Of course if the parent themselves are messy and disorganized, there will be no standard set for the child to emulate.

    I was the oldest of nine children. We were all expected to have our beds made and our clothes and toys put away before coming down for breakfast. With that many children we had to stay organized, my poor mother had so much to do it would be impossible for her to keep up otherwise. We were never ashamed to have unexpected company as our home was always neat and tidy.

    What worked for me with my children was to tell them they could not have any social time until their room was clean, which included making their bed and putting their clothes and toys away. This meant no playing on the computer, watching television, or visiting with friends, and of course, no social activities.

    I had one daughter who refused to comply and I used to go in to her room once she left for school and I would box up anything left out and remove it and it was stored in the garage and she could not get it back until she started making her bed, etc. If she continued in her willful ways she kept losing more items to the storage box until she decided to shape up. And she soon got tired of watching her sister being able to have fun while she was stuck in her room with nothing to do. It is amazing how fast a child will shape up if it directly affects their ability to have fun.

    Now they are married and have children and they all keep very nice homes.

    I am retired from the Real Estate field and I can tell you first hand there are more people out there who keep cluttered, dirty homes than those who keep neat and tidy homes, especially in the younger age brackets. And it does not matter if they are wealthy or poor. I personally attribute this to the way they were raised.


  • ninigret
    3 years ago

    nope, i'm not buying that. its genetic, pure and simple. otherwise siblings would all be alike, and they arent.

  • Margo
    3 years ago

    LOL- looks like I failed in your eyes Ohsuyque.

    I am not messy or disorganized at all. My son at the age of 2 could make his room look perfect. It wasn't until he became a teenager that I had to shut the door. Not all kids emulate their parents. I am thankful I did not emulate the house I grew up in. We as people come into our own.


  • keat3
    3 years ago

    My daughter is the messy one. I installed dressers in her walkin closet so that all clothes are put away there. That way if they dont make it at least they are on the floor in her closet rather then her room.

    I also keep 3 large roll out tubberware containers under her bed for miscellaneous toys and stuffed animals which help to have a quick place to put things away!

  • Anne Duke
    3 years ago

    I had no problems until he hit middle school. Went to hell in a hand basket.

  • susanlwalter
    3 years ago

    Make sure there is a place for everything. A hamper for dirty clothes. Get rid of old clothes. Don't keep things that are just not used. Clean once a week do this by bargaining. If they want a friend over, watch something, use something anything they want badly, require they work for it. Some kids prefer neat spaces some don't. Kids are overwhelmed by too much stuff.

  • purrmichigan
    3 years ago

    We all are, susanlwalter. :)

  • Kathi Steele
    3 years ago

    obsuyque, we are parents, but we are not micromanagers. My 2 year old son sat at the dinner table for 3 hours because he did not want to drink his milk. You cannot fight that. You cannot break that. Nor do you want to. I gave him the option of calcium chews or milk. We never had a problem again.

    As long as their room was cleaned once a week, I did not care what it looked like in between. As they age and mature, they need to "find themselves". Not a miniature clone of me. That means, they have the tools to be a responsible adult. They have the choice of using what ever skills they choose. Forcing them to comply to your will teaches them nothing, IMHO.

  • Ana Stagnaro_Wendel
    3 years ago
    Los of good ideas here! We used to do better with the kids, but we somehow got off track. My young kids have been overwhelmed with all their stuff lately but have been resisting letting go. BUT, just today, we got all the boys to agree to clear out half their toys. Once I convinced them that keeping toys they don't really like creates more work, they were all over it. And planning a garage sale was also a good incentive to purge. We put everything on the play room floor and decided its fate one by one (as in every, single matchbox car). We only got half-way through today because it was a lot of work for them, but we'll resume. Then I talked to them about creating good habits and that orderliness is a virtue that is acquired with practice. So we're working on making sure they put away what they're using before moving on to the next thing. I told them that they will forget for the first week, it's OK, and I will remind them. But that they shouldn't be upset with me or themselves since it's all part of forming their good habit. Once they acquire the good habit of orderliness, they won't need my reminders as often. We're also going to have a little tracking system and a weekly reward. But I'm trying to make the goal about self-improvement rather than having a clean house. One will follow the other. Anyway, fingers crossed.
  • Lyn
    2 years ago

    I had another motto-----if it's on the floor its rubbish or not wanted so----rubbish is thrown out-------either you sort it out or I throw it out. No bartering entered into. It certainly worked after the first item was thrown out. Sorry, I was brought up with tough love and I'm still alive and well now in my 60's as are our 4 children, 3 in their own tidy homes, 1 still at home living a reasonably tidy life. Yippy yay and tee hee

  • tatts
    2 years ago

    Call an adoption service.

  • Kathi Steele
    2 years ago

    They are kids. They are not perfect. Close the door. In 20 years, who will care if the room was spotless or not?

    We cleaned our rooms every Friday of the world and we were allowed to keep our rooms as we saw fit on the other days. I too am in my 60's. I had way too many other things to worry about than the condition of THEIR rooms.

  • PRO
    Super Organizing Solutions
    2 years ago

    Show them how it's done - clean with them. Give them the tools to keep things tidy. Let them shop with you. Involve them in the process. Small cleaning chores depending on their age. Be specific about what you want. Don't just say: Clean your room. Applaud their efforts, if they actually made an effort. No rewards for cleaning - neatness should be its own reward. STop buying all that stuff - goes for grandparents too.

  • jmdrouin
    2 years ago

    With children you have to be specific telling them to clean their rooms is not clear enough. My mother would yell at my sisters and I to clean up the playroom when we were 6 & 7 but we didn't know what she meant or how to even start. If she had taken the time to show us step by step over several times we would have got it but instead she yelled regularly, leaving us traumatized and then in frustration cleaned the room herself. We would arrive from school awed at the transformation that had occurred. I think there are a lot of great ideas. I am not a fan of shutting the door but of explaining why we do something and why we don't do something else. Also, kids these days have way too much, too many books, too many board games with all their little pieces and too many stuffed animals, dolls and action figures. Keep the bedroom for dressing and sleeping, keep the toys out of the bedroom. A small bookcase or bin is sufficient to hold all their toys in the living room. Provide an additional lower clothing rod and have them hang up all their shirts, pants, skirts and dresses, then only sweaters, socks and underwear need to be folded. Require them to keep the dresser tops and floor clear of any objects for easier cleaning or limit amount of items on dresser top. Great suggestions about donating things.

  • Lyn
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    My motto was 'if anything is on the floor it goes in the bin, if it is laying around for a length of time - its rubbish and goes it the bin. It works a charm--throw away a few things then kids find a way to be tidy tee hee hee---from a mean mom

    It pays off in the long run--my oldest son's children were taught the same way, their Mother is very happy--lives in Dubai

    Our second son still lives in Africa. Not sure what he is like now????

    Third son--still at home in Brisbane, he learnt long ago to clean up after himself, cook for himself and does his own washing---he is an absolute pleasure to have at home still ---he is 28 years old. We have an on hands mechanic, electrician and an all round fixer upper. yippy

    My daughter is in Brisbane and lives in her own apartment-- it's always tidy when we are invited over to visit them hmmmm