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Works for Me Wednesday: Getting Kids to Pick Up Their Stuff
One of the most frustrating things as a mother is getting kids to clean up after themselves! You're forever finding toys everywhere, clothes everywhere, crafts everywhere, and food and dishes everywhere. So what do you do?

If you're like most moms, you make them clean up every now and then. But on the whole you just get frustrated, and every now and then you blow a gasket.

There is a better way.

Here are a few strategies for getting them to learn to clean up.

1. Make it routine.

Scheduling and routine take the frustration out of most things. When kids now they're going to have to do something everyday, they stop complaining.

I homeschool, and we have three clean up times: in the morning; right before lunch; and right before dinner. I set the timer and make the kids do the rounds of specific places in those times, and put their schoolwork away, or in the marking pile. But it only works if we do it everyday so that it becomes routine. If you do it haphazardly, they start to complain, and try to get out of it. Make it regular and they'll do it.

If your kids are in regular school, I'd suggest changing the times a little. Do first thing in the morning; as soon as they get home (for putting their lunches away); and right before bed. But having multiple clean up times helps kids remember to put things away immediately. And it often doesn't take much more than five minutes.

To institute them, just tell kids that nothing else gets done until the place is clean. No computer, no TV, no iPod, no games. No food, either. And you CAN enforce this, even for older children. You are the boss. Those iPods are not rights and they can be taken away. You have power!

Recently I've had to ban my girls from the computer and game boy until 5 p.m. because their rooms weren't getting cleaned and piano wasn't getting practiced. I consider computers and game boys privileges, and so now we have things they have to get done first.

The main thing is just to pick one method and stick to it. Deny privileges and allowances if they don't come through and respect you. It's hard work, because being consistent is always hard work.

But it's worth it! Now here's another method:

2. Use a jubilee box.

In the Old Testament, every fifty years the Israelites had Jubilee year, where all seized property was returned and debts were cancelled. I think they actually only practiced it once, but it's a good idea.

So here's what I'd recommend: Keep a basket in your room where things they leave around the house get placed. Even if it's iPods, or jackets, or the remote for the Wii. And then every Sunday can be jubilee day when they get it back. But if they want to redeem it early, they have to pay you something, according to their age. It could be a quarter, or a dollar, or whatever.

And then you can use that money to save for a spa day for youself!

You'll find you don't need to use Jubilee methods very often. Once you start, they'll clue in. And if you do have regular tidying periods, it's not so bad.

The key to both is CONSISTENCY. If you stick to it one week, but give up the next, you'll ruin all the work you already put in. Make it a routine for you, too, and it will become routine for them.

And one final thing:

3. Make it easy to clean up.

Make sure your children have appropriate furniture with lots of drawers to hold their stuff. Sometimes kids don't clean because they honestly don't know where things go. You may need to take a week or two and help them organize their rooms and the playroom just so you get a sense that everything has a place. And if you find stuff without places, create places. Label the drawers if you need to. Then they know what's expected.

Hope that helps! Now go have a cleaning time!

Here are some other resources that may work for you:
FREE Household organization charts, including kids' chore charts
To Love, Honor and Vacuum: with a whole chapter on getting kids to clean
I talk on YouTube about kids cleaning
Audio download on To Love, Honor and Vacuum: with tips on understanding how chores helps kids learn about God!

Thanks for stopping by! Why not stay a bit? I have lots more posts on marriage, parenting, birthday parties, and more!

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At 8:55 AM , Blogger KarenW said…

I like your idea of a jubilee box. I'll have to try that one. Thanks!


At 10:31 AM , Blogger Jennifer said…

I love the tip about having somewhere to put it. After being sick of my 9 yr olds closet always being a mess I decided to clean it myself and realized then why it is always a mess. There wasn't room for everything. LIGHT BULB! I remedied that and she has kept up on it since.


At 10:36 AM , Blogger Single Income Dual Kids said…

Great tips! "Jubilee" sounds so much nicer than "You don't get it back for a week!"
I have to remember to clean up after *myself* as well--once after I told my 5 yr old he couldn't play outside until his room was clean he said, "Your room is messy so you can't call Grandma until it's clean." Ouch.


At 12:55 PM , Blogger Courtney said…

cute with jubilee day, my daughter probably wouldn't understand it quite yet but i will have to use that one day!


At 8:11 PM , Blogger LauraLee Shaw said…

GREAT ideas, Sheila. We have "toy jail," and the toys come out if the judge says it's okay. It was my hubby's idea, and it's worked, but yours sounds so much more positive. Now, to sell it to him! :D Thanks! I'm enjoying all your incredible twitter updates!


At 10:41 PM , Blogger Contemplative Mom said…

Great advice. We have pretty regular clean up times, but I was struck by #3. Although they have great storage, I think they have too much stuff and can't fit it all. Time to clear out! This should alleviate the recent frustration at clean up time.


At 7:34 AM , Blogger jasonandnicole said…

The jubilee box is a great great idea. Thanks for the tips.

I'm hosting a giveaway for Mother's Day cards at

I'd love for you and your readers to join me there.


At 1:58 PM , Blogger ~Sara said…

Great post. I love all your ideas.


At 9:27 AM , Blogger Overwhelmed Mom said…

I like the jubilee box ...I am going to try it!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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