A clean house is a happy house. I can hear y’all now, already laughing. Okay, so my house is never completely clean, there are a few toys here and there, maybe some unmade beds, but for the most part, I try and go to bed with most of it put away. So does that make my house sad? Doubtful. While I’m no neat freak, by any means of the word, I still like to wake up to a somewhat uncluttered space. And I try to instill these values of respecting and taking care of things (including our house and toys) in my children.
Routine and organization is key. Like most routines for children (bedtime, meal time, etc.), once you start it, and do it for a few days, it doesn’t seem like such a daunting task anymore. My girls used to hate cleaning up their toys (especially the ones they didn’t even get out (i.e. L’s mess)), but now they know that if they want an incentive (i.e. a sweet treat, to watch a show before bed, or extra books at bedtime), they’ll clean it up. And if everything has its place, it’s so much easier for them to know exactly where to put each toy. I wouldn’t make it too complicated, maybe three or four different places. Mine are pretty simple. Books go in a certain place, then big toys, and then small toys. As my children get older, I’ll probably start labeling bins, so they know exactly where to put specific toys, but for now, at this age, this works for us.
Orders. While it may seem easy to go into your child’s room, and say “You cannot come out of here, until this mess is clean,” that’s a lot to understand, especially a young child. Based on my girls, I’d say that it’s very rare that it actually gets clean, when attempting that approach. I always give W and E specific instructions of what they need to clean. Instead of just saying, “clean up your room,” I’ll say “put the books back on the bookshelf” or “put the small toys in the drawer.” “Clean up your room” is a little too overwhelming for them, at their age. Sometimes I may offer incentives if they do a good job, but not always. Taking time to clean up a large mess also makes them realize that if they get something out to play with, that they should probably put it away after playing with it, so it won’t create a mess in the first place (well, to be honest, we’re still working on that one).
Lead by example. If the children see that we, as their parents, respect our things (clothes put away, dishes washed, bed made, etc.), they’ll learn to do the same thing. Instilling habits of cleanliness at an early age, will hopefully be engrained in their minds, as they become adults.