When I sent out a tweet last week about tidying children’s bedrooms the replies came in thick and fast – many with a hint of humour! But the fact is, for me at least, tidying my daughter’s bedrooms has been one of the down-sides of my parenting life.
In my case, it may be the fact that I’m
totally a bit disorganised. I’m also a bloke, a bit lazy when it comes to housework, and of all the things I could be doing, or would like to be doing, clearing up the mess left by my two daughters, comes bottom of every possible list I could make!
So. How do you tidy up? Richard offers us some of his wisdom…
It is that time of year again. The time every parent dreads, when every advert on the television seems designed to drive you to distraction. In short, every advert is aimed at your children, which means that they spend most waking minutes pestering you into buying them a disproportionately expensive piece of badly made plastic rubbish as their Christmas present.
Fortunately, there is an easy solution right above your head. If there is one thing guaranteed to persuade you that your kids have enough rubbish in their lives already, it is the Herculean task of tidying their bedroom.
Those of you with very young children should not underestimate how big a job this is. There is a limit to the level of bedroom destruction which can be caused by any child which still sleeps in a cot. Roughly speaking, it is equal to the destruction caused by them to the rest of the house. Once they are fully mobile, though, it becomes an entirely new kind of problem, because they start to regard the bedroom as ‘theirs’ (irrespective of who pays the rent or mortgage) and therefore open to a kind of devastation rarely seen outside of officially-declared disaster zones.
At this point, many of you will be thinking “Oh good, he’s about to tell us how to avoid that”. I am going to disappoint you. You can’t avoid it. Children are acquisitive, careless and messy, which is a combination perfectly designed to prey upon the parental psyche. However, there are steps you can take to minimise the havoc they can cause and then to deal with it.
The first thing you can do may seem fairly obvious, but it reflects one of the more subtle changes to the modern home. Put simply, don’t allow your children to keep too much stuff in their bedrooms.
In recent times, we’ve developed an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to children’s things in a way that almost harks back to the Victorians. We want them away where we – and visitors – cannot see them. But it stands to reason that the more things a child has in their bedroom, the more mess that they can make with them and the easier it is for you to let it get out of control.
There are two alternatives here. One is to set aside one room of the house as a playroom and keep all toys there, leaving the bedroom for clothes and, if necessary, books. Not everyone has that luxury, though. If not, then select a corner of a communal room to put everything into.
There’s an added advantage to that second option. If you have things where they can be seen, it is much easier to enforce ‘tidy up time’. If you tell a child to tidy their bedroom, they will do so reluctantly and slowly, secure in the knowledge that you can’t be stood in the doorway to chivvy them along because you have other things to do. Tidying a communal area, however, requires them to work under your nose.
The second way to mitigate the mess is to try to avoid having children sharing bedrooms. The door is the natural boundary to the bedroom, so the smaller the room, the smaller the space to create a mess in. There’s also some evidence – specifically, my mother’s – to suggest that two girls in a room together will make far more mess than two boys.
Despite such precautions, there’s still going to be mess. Making it clear from an early age that it is not your responsibility to clean it up and that if you have to do so there will be consequences is imperative. With younger children this can be turned into a game – ‘can you tidy your toys away etc before I get back upstairs with…’ – but the resistance is going to kick in at some point. For older children – again, especially girls – the threat of you even going in to their room and touching their stuff will be like a flame to a firework. Do not be put off by this. If there are things in their room they don’t think you should see then they need to tidy the room up. If they want their things left in a certain place and not in a black binliner at the bottom of the dustbin then they need to tidy their room up. If they think that just leaving the job means that you will do it anyway, make sure they know that your way involves a lot more effort for them in the long run.
Remember, don’t leave all of this to the end of the day. Not only will everyone be more tired and more likely to over-react, most children will simply use it as a way to delay bedtime. Make it a conditional activity, so that if everything is tidy to your satisfaction then there will be time to do something else either that day or before bedtime. You’ll be amazed at the amount of co-operation you will get.
Finally, do not despair. The tidiness message gets through eventually. One of my messy little sisters now lives in a house with white carpets.
…Thank you Richard – all helpful stuff 🙂 If you want to add your own “top-tips” they will be read with interest!