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How Do I Get My Children To Tidy Up?

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

Ok - this is a biggie!!

How do I get my children to tidy up?

First of all it is important to understand :

I thought I was fighting a losing battle for years with my children. They kept on telling me that their rooms were tidy, but when I went in to check - all I could see was books and toys, make up and boxes everywhere!

This led to arguments and falling out, time after time.

But I was wrong.

I realise now that I had, first of all, not been clear in what I wanted them to do but also I didn’t understand that my ‘Style of Tidy’ is different to that of any of my children and however hard I try to make them have their rooms exactly as I like them IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN!

So how did I get my children to tidy up?

Full transparency - my children are all adults. I did not fully realise the implication of different styles of tidying until they had grown beyond telling off and sending to bed!

If only I had understood! It would have saved hours of shouting and years of stress!

There are three key strategies:

  1. Understand your child's Type of Tidy

  2. Be clear and simple in your instructions

  3. Move storage to the area where it is needed.

Type of Tidy.

Take a look at these pictures, do you have a preference?

They are both organised, uncluttered and tidy however many of us will find one picture more appealing than the other.

If I tell you about my daughter and I and how our tastes differ, hopefully it will help you understand that your children may not be deliberately keeping their room messy - they just see Tidy in a very different way than you do!

I prefer picture B. I don’t keep a lot of things out on display and I get irritated by lots of things left out on flat surfaces. ‘Visual noise’ is how all the items on display in the other picture feel to me and It doesn’t encourage me to be calm and relaxed.

My daughter however would prefer picture A. She likes to have the things she loves out, to be seen and treasured. To be in a ‘minimalist’ room would be like living in an empty box with no stimulation or comfort. (Picture B is not minimalist, however!)

And we are both right!

Both rooms work, both are clean and tidy but they don’t work for everyone and that is the first thing we need to learn when trying to figure out how to get our children to tidy up.

Don't expect them to put everything away, they may see some items as being too special to be put away and want to see them out on display. Come to a compromise - give a special home to the very special items, out of boxes and where your child can see them. At the same time follow the last step below so that it is only the most treasured items out on display!

Clear and Simple instructions.

I used to make the mistake, when we needed to tidy up, of saying:

‘ Go upstairs and tidy your room, bring down any washing and then get ready for bed’

This sounds perfectly reasonable but for many people it is just too much!!

‘Woah! What am I meant to be doing? Tidying, washing or sleeping?!’

And the result? They go into their room and start to tidy, get distracted and start to play. Meanwhile I can’t understand why I am waiting for them to bring down their washing and get cross!!

Oh Dear!

How could I have handled this better?

  1. Give them one task at a time in the order you want them completed.

  2. If it is a vague task - like tidy your room - break it down into clear steps.

  3. Don’t assume they will remember what you have asked!! Be prepared to repeat yourself and SHOW them what needs to be done.

Have the right storage in the right place.

Make tidying up as easy as possible.

Have the art and craft storage near where your children do arts and crafts. Make sure the box for toy cars is right next to where they usually play with the cars. By doing this you are removing a whole step from the process of tidying up. Make it as easy as you possibly can, labeling storage boxes with pictures or clear wording can create a much more relaxing tidy up time!

I hope these tips help you in your efforts to take back your home so you can enjoy spending time with your children!!

You can comment below ↓↓ or look at the end of the blog for all the ways you can contact me privately. I love hearing from you with all your ideas and photos of the areas you are working on!!

If you want to delve deeper into finding a ‘system’ which will work for you, you can contact me via my email or using the chat bubble on my website, I would love to help you!

I am also on Pinterest and Instagram if you need some inspiration!

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