Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Week-by-Week Plan to Managing Your Children's Bedrooms

Children hate overwhelming messes just as much as we do. And like us, they can pretend not to see it for a long time. When parents can’t stand the sight anymore it often turns into a big teary event with impatient words, threats, and a big box for the junk/treasures.

Let’s stop this nonsense cycle, because it is not glorifying to God. Children need to learn to clean and care for their belongings. We, as the parents, are responsible for teaching them biblical stewardship principles. Children aren’t born knowing organizational and management skills. Well, most of them aren’t. I did hear once of a little boy that was very careful about every little thing in his room down to lining up his shoes a certain way.

Out of nine children so far, I have some that have tendencies towards being more organized than others. None, however, knew how to pick up their toys, books, clothes, shoes, and all their other little things without somebody teaching them. Yes, they can get something out and they should be able to put it away but they were born with a sin nature which causes them to choose the lazy way of leaving something lie at the location that they were done with it.

Sounds like me. I fight it in myself everyday. Self-discipline, the skill that a child needs in order to return a toy, keep his room clean, and brush his teeth every morning, is something that we as parents need to teach them. It is a painful and long process--well, I think it is anyway. But the rewards are worth the work.

The children and I like to see a clean bedroom. We admire it, and pat each other on the back. We talk about working as unto the Lord and how much He wants us to be good stewards of His gifts. Instead of the painful pick-up of a pig-sty we are learning how to be better stewards.

Now, let’s not make any excuses and get started!

"Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling,
but a foolish man devours it." ~ Proverbs 21:20

There are two things that make bedroom cleaning easier to keep up with. One is to have a regular daily routine. When the children are used to doing the same thing at the same time day in and day out it becomes a habit. The longer they do that one thing, the more ingrained it becomes. Think of meal-time routines. Usually we eat at the same time--following the same patterns every day. That is why it is easier to build new habits or scheduled items around mealtimes. Routines are not a bad thing. I know that there is an impulsive anti-routine crowd out there, let me advise of you of one thing. Your children will be happier and more secure with a routine. This does not mean that you can’t occasionally break from it and do go on some exciting adventure, it simply means that an ordinary day will go more smoothly for everyone if a routine is followed. Give it a try for awhile and see if I’m not right.

The other thing that makes bedroom cleaning easier to keep up with is "know what to do and how to do it." When the little children change their clothes be there with them (or a big kid) and teach them to put their dirty clothes in the basket.

If they drop it on the floor, stop them and say, “Where do your dirty clothes go?” and say it with them, “The dirty clothes go in the basket.”

The bed need to be made every day of course. Doing this one thing makes the bedroom appear neat and clean simply because the beds are the largest objects in the room. Point this out to your children and when doing a room, clean-up make the beds first. It bolsters the spirits to see a neatly made bed at the start of recovering a disastrous room. To get your children to make their beds every day will require diligence on your part to check up on them, and of course it will add to their chore charts. Teach them how to do it properly but also do the next step of checking up on them.

"Know well the condition of your flocks,
and give attention to your herds…" - Proverbs 27:23

Self-discipline on your part will translate to self-discipline on theirs. I know it’s hard and there are a hundred other things that you would rather do, but do you really want to be raising slobs? Teach them when they’re young and it will be easier as they get older and they will in turn teach the younger children. When they are grown and have a neat and tidy house, they will thank you for teaching them these little basic skills.

While you are teaching them and checking on them, be joyful, sing, and talk to your children with a smile in your voice. A cheerful heart is good medicine but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Do not dry up the bones of your children. Train yourself to wake up with joy and spread that joy to your children as you help them and check on their bedroom chores every morning.

Morning bedroom chores should be done in 5 minutes or less and kept simple for example, make the bed and put clothes in proper place and shut doors and drawers. You should be doing the same in your bedroom. If you have lots of little children and no big kids to help train, then do each bedroom as a group teaching as you go.

When tackling a big disaster you really need to do it with the children as a team. While you work, talk conversationally--not lecture style about why we clean, how we clean, how we keep it clean, and so on. The littlest children need you to get down with them, on their level and pick up toys with them. Make it a fun game. Pick it up by type of item such as picking up the dolls first. If you can, try to keep toys out of the bedrooms except for one or two favorites.

Keeping all the toys in one area of the house makes the pick-up more efficient and when the children have no reason to play in their bedrooms the bedrooms stay neater. Look at the bedroom from the children’s perspective and talk to them about what is needed to make it more neat and organized.

Your children need to learn how to organize, how to work efficiently, and how to stick to a task. You will probably have to do this work with them for awhile until they have learned how. After you feel they have successfully learned how to do the work, you will then need to inspect it after they are done and hold them accountable. If they see you doing these same tasks in your bedroom while they are working, they will work more willingly. They hate to feel that they are missing out on anything fun that might be going on elsewhere in the house.

"Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy." ~ 1 Corinthians 4:2

To prevent big bedroom disasters from happening and to keep the bedrooms thoroughly clean, work through the weekly focus areas listed below. You can do the work whenever it suits your family; we do them during "Afternoon Chore Time." Work hard for 15 minutes. Take a break if it’s not done, then work for another 15 minutes.

Teach the children to complete the job and not leave it half-way. Some of these chores won’t take that long at all, and all of them-if consistently done-will be easy. It’s when dirt and debris is allowed to pile up that a job turns awful. Once again, if you have only little children then do each room as a team. If you have older children that are able to work independently then be sure to encourage and inspect their work while you work on your bedroom or help the little children.

Shared bedrooms should be done as a team by the occupants. You might want to further break down bedroom chores and assign them for children who share rooms.

Write down the following bedroom chores on a paper, slide it into a page protector, and hang it on a door or someplace in the room. Place a copy on the refrigerator or wherever you hang your other chore charts so that you can advise the children from “grand central station.”

Managing Bedrooms Week-By-Week

  • Week 1 - Have the children straighten and de-clutter the tops of their desks, dressers, tables, window sills or any other flat surfaces in their bedrooms. Assign one surface per day, or assign a time period per day, or assign a day of the week to spend some time on this area of their bedroom.
  • Week 2 - This week have the children clean under the beds. After shoveling it all out (the fun part) they might be overwhelmed. Give them a trash bag for the trash, and then put all books away. Next, all stuffed animals, and the rest of the toys to their proper place. Finally, put away whatever else is left. Hopefully, there are no rotten apple cores. Like everything else, if this is done on a regular basis, it never gets that bad. But left for 6 months, the under-bed clean out can be quite a trial.
  • Week 3 - This week is for the children to straighten their closets. Have them get in the corners, nooks, and crannies, and dig all the things out that they might have tossed in and forgotten about. After digging out, they must put things in their proper place. Put the clothes on the shelves or hang up. If they are old enough to sort out the torn, stained, too small, unworn clothes have them do so and put into the trash or a give-away box. Doing this regularly is essential for clothing and closet control.
  • Week 4 - This week, the children de-clutter, straighten, and thoroughly dust the shelves in their rooms.
  • Week 5 - This week have the children clean windows and curtains, as needed and if able to; walls-de-clutter and catch cobwebs; wipe grime from light switches; lights-dust and change bulbs if able to; door-dust top, wipe grime from door and door knob.

By teaching your children to do a 5-minute-bedroom-clean-up routine every morning and a focus area every week, you will help your children learn to be organized and self-disciplined. It’s not easy to teach your children these things but you are helping them learn biblical character traits.

While working with your children you are also building relationships with them and teaching your children how God wants us to work.
"Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys." ~ Proverbs 18:9

Kim Brenneman

Kim is the joyful wife of Matt and the blessed mother of nine children.

When not busy homeschooling and farmschooling, she enjoys writing, gardening, cooking, reading, sewing, and crafting.

Kim lives on a farm in Iowa where her family grows beef cattle, corn and beans, and operates a micro-dairy selling cheese at farmer’s markets. She loves to write and speak about her passion for home and family. She is the author of Large Family Logistics: The Art and Science of Managing the Large Family. She blogs about the same subject at:

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