Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Kids, it's time to clean your rooms!

Do you know what I enjoy less than cleaning my room?

Cleaning my kids' rooms.

Fortunately, my kids are old enough to do a lot of the work themselves. Ah, but do they? Well, a little, yes. Over the years, I have asked the kids to take responsibility for their belongings and the messes they make with said belongings. This usually works about 0% of the time.

Guess what HAS worked: Bribery!

I'm not advocating senseless consumerism, mind you. When it comes to cleaning and organizing my kids' bedrooms, I offer them a change in landscape, a shift in setting, a new pad. The room of their dreams. We make lists of all of the changes they would like to make to their rooms, prioritizing the top 3-5 changes.

Then the shiz gets real: we talk about money.

My kids know that their parents are not billionaires and cannot install digital libraries and sound systems, cannot hire architects to build swimming pools and secret rooms within their rooms or under their beds, cannot buy vintage egg chairs (although that would be cool). The priority list must take into consideration how much items cost (including paint) and how time-intensive the change will be.

A wardrobe through which you can actually walk into Narnia? Yes, please!

So far, this bribery has worked.

Last summer, I painted my daughter's room navy blue. Yes, I know. Navy. It looks surprising good! We received a set of shelves from a neighbor, so the paint and the shelves happened first -- cheap, quick changes that made a huge impact. Next, we found a comforter that looked more grown-up than her pastel patchwork quilt. Lastly, we added an IKEA desk (no recalls on that baby . . . yet) and some curtains from Urban Outsiders. A year later, we haven't quite finished, because rugs are expensive and we need to find time for my husband to hammer and screw things into the walls. I'm not being sexist about the delineation of responsibilities (I purchase, he hammers). I know my limits and this lady cannot hold a hammer without destroying the plaster. Walls tremble at my approach.

I will say, however, that this lag in movement has led to some sloppy habits on my daughter's part. She hasn't taken pride in the finished product yet, so she leaves every string bag and duffle from weekend trips and overnights on the floor and the new desk is covered in clothes, art utensils, stuff.

To remedy this remaining clutter, we are offering to switch her bed to a bigger bed -- one we've had in storage. She's excited about this, about finally getting the rug, the pictures on the walls, the stuffed animals storage netting, and has asked me to help her go through her belongings.

Similarly, we bought my son a bunk bed from friends last year, but were not ready to install it. He needed to gain more independence sleeping in his own bed and not crawling into ours at 2:00 a.m. A year later, we're ready! I met with him last week in his room and took notes. We decided on a couple paint options, furniture moves, stuffed animal solutions, what he's keeping and we boxed up items to give away. He instigated! I'm thrilled to say his floor is clean and so is his closet and bedside table. We have minimal items to purchase or restore. We have a plan. And he's excited to get started.

So, I have some questions for you:

  1. How do you motivate your kids to clean their room?
  2. How do you motivate them to keep it clean?
  3. How do you decide whether to keep, store, donate, or recycle items?

Check out this simple graphic from MakeSpace when you find yourself holding items and breaking into a sweat. I used a similar system when I culled clothing from my closet, kitchen pantry, the kids' school work. And once you're done, it's like a butterfly of freedom has flown from your body!