Keeping your room picked up and tidy can be an ongoing battle. Making sure that your child keeps their room picked up and tidy can be even more of a battle! But have you ever stopped to consider that maybe it’s not the desire to keep your room picked up and looking tidy that’s stopping you, but not knowing how to approach picking up your room?
It’s true! Sometimes the biggest thing that stops you from beginning a project of any size is not knowing where to begin, not having a game plan.
Now, before we go too much further, please understand that there is a big difference between picking up (sometimes called cleaning) and organizing. Picking up, by definition, is picking up the physical things that have gotten scattered around a room and placing them in their designated spots. Many times this word is used interchangeably with cleaning. However, cleaning also includes things like dusting and vacuuming and removing the physical dirt out of a space or off of a surface. Organizing is going through the things in a room, item by item, and creating a home for each item.
While both are extremely important, today we’re going to focus on creating a game plan for you and your child to use as you pick up or clean your room.
As I started thinking about this concept of picking up your room, I realized that I wanted to create a game plan that anyone could use. A pattern that would work for you as an adult picking up your room and a pattern that you can share with and teach your child to give them a pattern that would work for them to pick up their room. So, I sat down and talked with my daughters to see what they would say, to find out the pattern that they use. We put our heads together and came up with 5 easy steps for you to pick up your room quickly. And the best part? Both my daughters and I use these steps, so you know that they will work for children and adults alike!
Are you ready? Let’s do this!
Before Your Start :: Grab Some Music
Who said that picking up has to be done in silence? It doesn’t! Pick your favorite upbeat tune and play it while you work. Allow the music to motivate you and give you energy as you go through this process.
One of my daughters loves listening to music, particularly as she does her chores around the house – picking up her room being one of them. At first, I didn’t notice any correlation between the music and her picking up. But then, as I watched her, I saw that having the music on – and, yes, singing along with the music! – helped her focus on her task so much better. Adding in that simple element of music made all the difference in the world for her. It kept her energized, allowed her to be more focused and made what was seen previously as a boring job fun.
Don’t underestimate the power of music over your mood, your motivation, and your energy level! For that matter, don’t underestimate the power of music over your child’s mood, your child’s motivation, and your child’s energy level! So choose your favorite music and crank it up as you work!
Step 1 :: Make Your Bed
Okay, I know, this one sounds cliche, right? But think about it with me for a minute. When it comes to your bedroom, the most prominent piece of furniture in it is your bed, right? Of course! It only makes sense! So, if you take a couple minutes right at the beginning of this process to make sure your bed is made, you can immediately bring a look of order and calm to the room.
When your bed, the most prominent thing in the room, is a mess, it lends a chaotic feeling to the room. And this is exactly the feeling that you are trying to banish from the room!
Plus, it has the benefit of tackling one of the biggest areas first. When you look back and see one of the biggest areas of your room is already clean, tidy, and picked up, it gives you great encouragement and motivation to keep going.
Step 2 :: One Small Section at a Time
It is so easy to fall into the trap of starting to pick up a room and picking up an item here and picking up an item there and putting something away here and putting something away there. Then, you stop and look around and you realize it doesn’t look like you’ve done a thing! That can be such a discouraging, debilitating, demotivating feeling, can’t it?
The reality of the situation is that you have actually done a lot, but the things that you’ve done are all spread out. So when you look back, you cannot see any real progress being made. Or, what you perceive to be real progress.
There is a very easy solution to this: Start with one small section at a time. Don’t start cleaning the whole room at once. Instead, pick a small section of the room to start with. Maybe it’’s a bookshelf or maybe it’s your desk or the top of your dresser or the floor or the closet. Whatever section it is, pick a small section of the room and start there. Focus all your picking up energies in that one section.
Now, depending on how big the section is and how much of a mess is in the section that you choose, this could take you anywhere from 3 minutes to 30 minutes. It all depends on the amount of picking up that needs to be done.
But here’s the incredible thing. When you’re done picking up that section, you choose the next section to work on. But you can always look back! You can always look over at that section, or sections, that you have completely picked up and draw encouragement to keep going from the work that you’ve already accomplished.
Step 3 :: Keep Stuff Where You Will Use It
Now, this step is kind of on that border between organizing and picking up. Remember, with picking up the big focus should be on taking things that are out of their spot and putting them back into their correct spot. But you will run across certain items that don’t have a spot yet in your room. So, what do you do with these items?
Put them where you will use them. Keeping books in the closet when you only use your closet to hold clothes doesn’t make much sense at all. On the other hand, if your child has made a reading nook on the floor of their closet, it makes perfect sense to keep books in the closet. The big idea is that there is not one right place for everyone to keep every kind of item. Instead, you want to determine where you use that item and keep it there.
Here’s an extra tip: When you come across things that do not have a place in your room, consider putting those items in a specific pile or in a basket as a ‘holding zone.’ This will allow you to identify the things that you need to find a new home for, but it also allows you to focus on picking up and not get distracted by the organizing process. Once you have your room picked up, you can go back and remove those items from your holding zone one by one and find a new home for them to live. But here’s the beauty in doing it this way: When you start finding a place for these items, you are finding them a place in a room that is already picked up. Doing it in this order makes the organizing process so much easier! So, you end up streamlining both the picking up and the organizing processes!
Step 4 :: Make It Fun
Who said that picking up has to be boring? It doesn’t! Make a game out of picking up, particularly if you are helping your child to pick up their room! You could sing along with the music as you wok. You could make up silly songs of your own.
You can play a “beat the timer” game for trying to pick up one particular type of toy. For example, maybe the goal is to get all of the train tracks and trains and parts and pieces that go with the train set into a specific bin. Set a 2-minute timer and try to beat the timer by getting all the pieces of the train set into the bin before the timer goes off.
A game that my daughters have created to help them pick up goes something like this: Pick up an item that is out of place in your room. Ask yourself, “If I were this item, where would I go?” Then you put the item away where it belongs. For example, say you pick up a book off of the floor. You would ask yourself, “If I were this book, where would I go? On the bookshelf!” Then you would place the book on the bookshelf.
Remember, picking up does not have to be boring! Particularly when it comes to children, if they are able to associate fun with picking up, they will be much more likely to want to do it in the future – or at least not fight you tooth and nail on it! Without a doubt, whether it is fun or not, teaching your children to pick up their own room teaches responsibility. Picking up needs to happen with or without the fun, but making it fun sure helps everyone along the way!
Step 5 :: When You Get Something Out, Put It Away
“Whatever you get out, you gotta put away.” I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I heard that phrase over and over and over throughout my childhood! And now I find myself saying this phrase over and over and over to my own children! The phrase is simple. The concept is simple. The lesson and the responsibility that is taught through this concept is huge!
The big idea is simply this: After you get an item out, when you are done with it, you put it away where it belongs. This is picking up in its simplest definition. But yet, the lesson behind it goes much deeper. This simple phrase teaches that you are responsible for you, for your things, and for your actions. You need to take ownership of what is yours. In a child’s case, when they get a toy out and play with it, they are responsible to put that toy away when they are done playing with it. There will not be a maid coming along behind them to pick everything up. It is not anyone else’s responsibility to clean up after them. They are responsible for their own toys and to pick up after themself.
Now, you may thing that I’m over-exaggerating this concept a little bit. After all, they’re just kids, right? They’re just toys. It’s not that big of a deal!
Oh my Friend, if I could share a pearl of wisdom that has been passed down to me from wise women that I look up to: Begin teaching your children these big concepts (like taking responsibility for your own actions) when they are small with small things like picking up their own toys. This concept, though hard to teach and hard to embrace at any age, is much easier to teach when your children are young. And as they grow, this concept will begin to translate into many other areas of their life as well.
And if you’re feeling overwhelmed or discouraged thinking that your children are older and you’ve never intentionally taught this concept, don’t worry! It is never too late to start!
One of the biggest things that really makes this concept stick is when you model it for your children. When you take responsibility for your words and your actions. When you take responsibility by putting away the things that you get out. When you keep your room picked up even as you’re asking your child to keep their room picked up. Your child will see that you are modeling what you are asking them to do. That you are living by this same principle. And they will respond to it! You many not think they are watching, but they absolutely are!
This concept of putting things away as soon as you are done with them has immediate benefits to you and your children, too. If you or your child put something away as soon as you’re done using it, it does not even have the opportunity to get out of place and clutter up the room. This also means that you have to spend less time later on picking up the room because there are very few things out of place. It really turns into a win-win!
A Final Word
Picking up does not have to be hard. Picking up does not have to be complicated. Picking up does not have to take hours each and every day! In fact, if you begin to use the principle of ‘When you get something out, put it away’ in combination with these 5 easy steps every day, you will begin to see how simple it can be to maintain a tidy room.
On top of that, when you use these steps every day, you greatly reduce the amount of time that you spend picking up your room. And when you spend less time picking up your room, you have more time to spend in other areas.
You also have the benefit of a tidy room, which lends to a calmer and more settled feeling as opposed to the chaos of having things everywhere. And, when everything is picked up, you have visible floor space! This is beneficial for not stepping on things and especially for your children to have a clear space to sit and play.
The most important thing to remember? It’s not about perfection! Remember, the progress is found in the process.
Your space does not have to be picture prefect all the time. But you may be very surprised to see how a little picking up can go a long way.
Picking up is not the same as organizing, but they do go hand in hand. If you’re looking for a simple guide to organize your child’s toys, check out the post entitled Using Bins, Baskets, and Buckets to Contain the Toy Explosion. Or if the closet and figuring out what to do with all those clothes is what’s frustrating you, check out the post entitled How to Contain the Clothing Chaos. Both of these posts give practical advice in simple steps to help you create a system that is right for you and that fits your space!
- Using Bins, Baskets, and Buckets to Contain the Toy Explosion
- Containing the Clothing Chaos
- Why Organize? Progress not Perfection
- How to Conquer Your Laundry Pile
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.