Ask any parent the cause of their home clutter. Their near-universal answer: the children. Children have a unique gift for leaving a path of disaster in their wake. And just as universal is a child’s hatred of cleaning up.
Too often pleas to clean up fall on deaf ears. Ask a child sitting right next to you to clean up his or her mess and you might very well be ignored. Whisper that you’re thinking about taking the family out for ice cream and that same child will come running from six rooms and two floors away. Selectively permeable hearing.
Requests for children to spend time tidying up or decluttering can devolve into a shouting match with tears flowing and threats of punishment flying. And if the work gets done, chances are everyone leaves a little unhappier. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Whether it’s cleaning a room or cleaning out the house there are some strategies for getting kids to participate in the process. Here's a look at six strategies to make the process more palatable for both the parents and the children.
Build Habits Early: Start Them Young
There’s a general consensus that it takes about 21 days for an activity to become a habit. There’s no hard and fast rule on that, but when it comes to forming habits, repetition creates a comfort.
Habits also develop from very a young age. Teach a child to make his or her bed early on, and it’s the kind of thing that will likely get carried on into teenage and adult years.
If you want your children to clean their rooms, closets or playroom, get them started young.
Maybe you need to include a few rules — you can’t take a new toy until an old one is put away. If a toy hasn’t been touched within a certain time frame, then it’s gotta go. (Donating those old toys can help them associate cleaning with making someone else happy!)
Set A Specific Time Frame
One of the beauties (or frustrations) of human language is how so much meaning can be packed into so few words. We hear what we want to hear, so vague language can and will be interpreted in a way that benefits the hearer — your kids — in a way that means they don’t have to do the work or at least not right away.
Turn “Clean the playroom” into “Clean the playroom by tomorrow at 3 p.m.” Setting expectations are important.
Make Cleanup Fun
Let’s borrow a song from Mary Poppins: A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Turning the cleanup process into a game makes it a bit more palatable to a child’s mind. (Maybe your budding young Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant can see how many “shots” he can land in the rental dumpster!
Just Add Music
Music can serve as an enormous motivator. How many times have you seen someone at the gym with a pair of earphones jammed deep into their ear canals? No music, no motivation.
Things we don’t like to do become a little easier when we have music we enjoy while we’re doing them. Put some tunes on the stereo and let it blare throughout the house!
Take It One Step At A Time
It takes years to amass the clutter that overtakes many homes. Expecting it to disappear in one afternoon is unrealistic — and sets you up for disappointment.
Tackle one chunk of the clutter at a time…together! That might mean ordering a dumpster bin more than once, but it’s a far more manageable process and far less daunting a task than demanding the entire cleaning take place in a single day.
Show Your Appreciation
From the time they learn to talk, we remind our children they need to say the magic words, “please” and “thank you.” It’s important for parents to remember to use those words, too!
Sure, those simple words may not be enough to turn surly teens into happy household tidiers. Maybe it’s worth it to you to offer kids a little something extra (allowance, an extended curfew, a special experience)!
And once you’ve got your kids on board, get that bright green rental dumpster on your property to finish the job. To find your nearest franchise operator, visit Bin There Dump That’s website.
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Image credit: Jenny Lee Silver