Keep 'Em Tidy
This week we have partnered with master 'de-clutterer' Nicola Manasseh as she passes on some tips and tricks to help you instill some keep tidy techniques onto your children.
As a declutterer and home organiser, I am often asked to declutter children’s bedrooms, especially children aged seven to twelve years. Typically I meet two problems. One is that the bedroom is a mess and secondly there are often too many toys.
It is not easy to know what to throw and what to keep when it comes to decluttering a child’s room. Many children have what I call ‘bits’ – little hand sized toys. It is these bits that can make the worst mess. Usually, I suggest just keeping one basket of bits and throwing the rest. Noel Jane Norton, the author of the book Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting, recommends getting rid of any toys that are broken, too babyish or that go against the parents’ values.
Most times children will not miss the bits that have been binned or passed on to charity, and therefore they can even be discarded without your child knowing. Generally, however, it is a good idea to de-clutter your child’s room with him or her present. Children respond well to the idea of giving to charity, and that by throwing out the old, new toys can come into their lives. If a child doesn’t want to let go of any of their stuff, you can hide a small selection of toys you think that they no longer want and wait and see if your child asks after those toys. When your child has a lot of toys (especially following a birthday) you can put some away and give them to your child at a later date. “By rotating toys, you satisfy a child’s natural craving for novelty,” writes Norton. Children don’t actually need too many toys to be happy and can be more creative with less stuff. For instance, they are happy to read the same book more than once if they love it or to recycle in their creative play.
Once you have decluttered your child’s room and put the toys in their place, it is best to put labels on drawers and boxes so that in the future your child knows where to put things. A child’s common resistance to tidying is being unsure as to where his or her toys should be kept. I advise parents to tidy their children’s rooms with them, but not to actually tidy more than their children. By being present when your child is tidying up, you also ensure that he or she doesn’t get distracted. If you get into the habit of tidying your child’s room or asking your cleaner to do that job, then children expect it and are less aware of what to do with their mess. Allocating a regular time once a week for bedroom tidying is ideal and as you watch your child put things away and ask where things go, it is vital to give them plenty of praise and encouragement (e.g. I notice you are very good at folding your clothes or I notice you are good at putting the games in the boxes.)
Tidiness is not an innate skill but rather something we all must learn how to do. When you verbally focus on how your child is succeeding in tidying, you give them the feeling that they are good at it and therefore they can begin to like the job too. It also works to show your child a photo of their bedroom tidy so that they know what they need to do in order to organise their room.
Some parents like to attach a reward to tidying and for sure, the promise of screen time will encourage any child to tidy. Another good incentive for your child is to reply to that common question, “Can I have…?” with “Yes after you have tidied your room.” To teach a child the importance of putting toys away when they have finished playing with them, you can simply not let them play with another toy until this task has been completed.
When a child starts arguing about tidying, and you find yourself explaining that you don’t want to live in a messy house where you can’t find things, it is important, especially with a child under ten years, to have them repeat back to you why it is that we must be tidy, to be sure that they understand you. As I chat with mothers about how to teach their offspring tidy habits, I always share my favourite method. Every day, after the evening meal, children must spend five minutes tidying away their dishes and helping their parent(s) to clean any mess in the kitchen. If they do the five minutes without fuss for seven days, then they should receive a small prize at the end of the week or pocket money. Obviously this only works for children who are at the age when they can stack the dishwasher, wipe down the table, put things back in the cupboards/fridge etc.
Any book on parenting will tell you that by teaching your child to do tidying tasks and to be more aware of their belongings and where they belong, you encourage your child to be independent and to become a more co-operative person.
For more information about decluttering your children’s rooms or any room in your house, contact Nicola Manasseh at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07340632689.