Kids Cleaning Up

Does anyone else have problems getting their kids to clean up after themselves?  At what age can kids be expected to clean up a playroom of all their own stuff, spread around by themselves? My kids are 6 & 7 and I've been cleaning up alongside them now for YEARS, and now I'm trying to get them to do it by themselves.  It usually doesn't happen without fighting between them and lots of anger on my part!  I'm so frustrated and sick of having to clean up THEIR toys!  I keep threatening to throw everything away:  then it'd be real easy to clean up!!!  Any suggestions?  Advice?  Encouragement?  Does it ever become easier?  Anyone have ideas of what kind of chores a 7 year old boy can do?


A 7 year old can probably:

  1. Feed the cat. 
  2. Feed the dog. 
  3. Feed the fish. 
  4. Set the table. 
  5. Clear the table. 
  6. Help pick up (when my kids were this age they could not "see" what to pick up so I helped by having them only pick up Legos, then only pick up books, etc.) 
  7. Yard work - get them those cute kids work gloves and some small pruning shears. 
  8. Empty wastebaskets. 
  9. Water plants. 
  10. Help wash the car. 
  11. Clean the toilet?  (not sure about this one - NONE of my kids did this except Ben - he asks me if he can do that job! - weird kid) 

I think 7 year olds still like charts to put stickers on too.  I used those dishpans for all kinds of things like you are doing - I built shelves in a closet one time and had all the clothing in dishpans on the shelves - very easy to put clothing away - I still hate drawers - Ben uses those stacking bins now.
One thing that helps with the dirty clothing is to have a small square laundry basket in every bedroom, preferably right by the door.  I take my big basket and make the rounds each morning and dump each bedroom's dirty clothing and go start a load or two.  Easy!  Now the clean ones are the pain - I put those in another basket for each one and sometimes the older ones live out of the clean laundry basket instead of putting them away! 
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Our boys 7 & 8 can:
  • Clean mouse cages and feed and water them 
  • Clean up after themselves 
  • Make food for themselves if possible 
  • Clean toilet...inside only 
  • Put away clean and dirty clothes
  • Help fold sheets, etc. 
  • Set table 
  • Help prepare meals and bake 
  • Help wash car 
  • Rake leaves, shovel snow, etc. 
  • Vacuum 
  • Clean rooms and playroom 
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  1. Load and unload the dishwasher 
  2. Walk the dogs or ride bike and run the dogs 
  3. Take out the trash: 
    • take the trash to the curb on trash day 
    • bring the trash cans back after trash pick up 
  4. Vacuum 
  5. Start teaching them to do laundry 
  6. Pick up pine cones, sticks, etc. in the yard 
  7. Dust 
  8. Windex the mirrors, tv screen, computer screen (this one can get out of control though----one boy almost shorted out the TV by spraying on too much Windex.) 
  9. Help bring in groceries from the car 
  10. Help put groceries away 
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When I encounter a recurring problem like this I usually end up going back to square one.  I pick a calm time and ask my dd, "Why are we having this problem?"  I would say, "I think you should be picking up after yourself.  Do you think you should be cleaning up?"  If she says yes then we go on to discuss why she isn't...if it is no then we discuss why she thinks that.  Her logic always leads her to the right conclusion.
From there we go to discussing how the problem can be solved.  We bounce ideas back and forth and try to come up with a solution that we both like.  Two things happen here...1) She becomes part of the solution.  She isn't being told, "Do it, or else."...she "owns" the solution and puts the responsibility on herself.  2) She learns more about the thoughts which keep her from doing the right thing.  Maybe she is being selfish or maybe she really does think it's unreasonable.  Then she gets to think it through and realize that it isn't therefore, she should do the right thing.
Every time I have done this with my dd I no longer have to threaten her with punishment.  I remind her of the discussion and ask her if she is still having trouble understanding the problem.  If we need to, we discuss it again...but that is rare. BTW...all of the suggestions on organization are great!  That's another good thing to discuss with your child...see what ideas they may have.
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You could have them race the clock...sometimes that makes it more fun.  Perhaps offer to go to the park or library, watch a video, etc. if they beat the clock.
You could put it all in a big trash bag and put it away for a month.
Or if they have any spending money, you could put it all in a box and they have to buy each item back from you.
If that doesn't work, and it's causing that much frustration, maybe you should box it all up and take it to the Salvation Army.
I have found that my little ones get overwhelmed with a whole room to clean, so I will tell them one type of toy at a time to pick up.  Or you could start training them to put away one toy before getting out another.
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My kids are 4, 6, and almost 8.  Training them to clean up after themselves is really hard I think, especially if either you are not organized by nature, or they are not organized by nature:  For my kids, it's easier if we make sure they do clean up every day, and I have to be less concerned with "exact" cleaning.  If there are a few toys out of place, I don't worry about it.  Same with their rooms, which is mostly where my kids have all their toys.  If their clothes aren't hung "neatly" then I don't worry about it.  I try to focus on their effort rather than their results; then as they have gotten older, I will demand a little more.  One thing that helped get them used to doing their chores every day was to make up my own chore charts.  I put each chore on an index card (with a picture of the chore for the younger ones) and punched a hole in each one.  Then I hung 4 magnetic hooks on the fridge, one for each child, and one extra.  I had their regular chores, like taking care of their clothes, making their beds, etc.  These I made 3 cards of and they each had one on their hook each day.  Other chores I only had one of, and the kids would alternate doing them, like vacuuming the living room, or whatever.  When the chore was done, then they moved the card to the extra peg.  All their chores should be done by the end of the day.  Most chores can get done in the morning, but a few, like unloading the dishwasher and setting the dinner table, are later in the day.  This system worked great for us; they learned that they didn't do chores because they messed something up, but they did chores because that's what a family does.  They work together.  I am very glad I started this early with mine, it has made a huge difference.  We don't do the chore charts all the time now, but I will occasionally get them back out to refresh their memory.  The hardest part for me was being consistent; it's something that I have to work at.  Hope this helps, and yes, with a little time, it does get better!!!
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A couple of ideas.  One is to put half of their toys away so that they only have access to half of their toys.  Every few weeks, switch some of them.  This way, the toys will seem new to them.  At 5 and 6 too many choice can seem overwhelming.
Another idea is to have a pick-up basket.  Give them so much time (using a timer with a ringer is good) to pick up.  Everything they leave behind goes in the basket and they cannot have it for a certain length of time, or unless they earn it back.
Hope this helps.
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I used to threaten to throw their toys away and they never thought I would.  So one day I threaten and got a large trash bag and bagged all the toys that were on the floor.  I put them down in the basement for a couple days.  (They thought I trashed them).  When we got them back out we sorted through and got rid of the ones they really didn't miss.
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The old stand by around here is "Berenstain Bears and Messy Room".  First we read it and then we do a major cleaning.  Each night the kids (7 and almost 5) and us make sure the house is picked up.  Before any bedtime books are read, the kids have to have the toy room cleaned up.  Hubby and I take that time to make sure the living areas (living room, kitchen, back porch) are picked up.   After the play room is picked up, they each get to pick 2 books to read.  Now, if cleaning the play room was a hassle (meaning I need to keep reminding them to finish up) then they can only pick out one book each.  Even if they take forever and a day and either hubby or I have to help, then they get one book but I pick it.
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My 2 boys are the same ages as your kids.  I have a number of smaller containers: buckets, milk crates, that sort of thing.  They have one for each type of toy they have.  Little cars and trucks go in one, blocks go in another, train tracks go in another.  I have also assigned them each their own jobs in their room.  Christopher (6) does the blocks, bears, and books.  Alex (almost 8) does the train tracks, roads and cars.
It's usually a race between the 2 to see which one gets done first.  It takes them about 1/2 hour to clean up, if they really want to get it done.  If they keep stopping to play, it takes forever.  I've not gone in there to help them for almost a year now.  If I go in and do it, then they are not doing it.  It took about a week, before they finally realized that they weren't coming out (except for drinks and bathroom) till they were done.
Their room is actually better than the girls' room.  Anyone have ideas for organizing a girl who loves Barbies, dress-up clothes, and stuff like Polly pockets???  The books for Tania (11 1/2) are not a problem, just build more shelves.  But Nicole (10), has stuff stuffed everywhere!!!
Lauren in LA
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My 8 yob empties the dishwasher about 3 times/week, cleans his room, helps his 3 siblings set/clean off the table 6 nights a week, picks up toys in the living area, puts away his own clean clothes, helps carry in groceries, empties the small trash cans with dad & brother once or twice a week.
For extra money on occasion---he washes the car or van, (usually either inside or outside rarely both at once), scoops dog poop, cleans the bathroom (mirror, counter, toilet & floor), or vacuums.
My 6 yob has a hard time with cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming or washing cars without help and he does not elect to do the chores for extra money as often as his brother. He does most of the same chores as the 8 yo with the exception that he is a little short to put dishes away without help.
Our kids get allowance regardless of their performance in "regular" chores. The money is because they are part of the family and so are the chores. They cannot say "I don't want the money, so I don't have to do my chores. Plus this way they feel and are a necessary part of the family/running the household. The "extra" chores are things we feel are above and beyond for their age/ability so we are willing to pay them for those.
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I get a lot of "Why do I have to do it?" from my 8yos with regard to assorted chores.  I guess his thinking is that if he is not directly responsible for the clutter, he shouldn't have to pick it up.  I explain how we are a family, and we each do many things throughout the day for one another....I don't cook meals, do laundry, wash dishes for just myself, but do HIS laundry, HIS dishes, cook HIS food along with mine and everyone else's.  I think he is going through a time of stretching his independence, or something....
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You'll probably think I'm no help, but as long as you can close the door, I say "don't sweat the small stuff." I live with Bert and Ernie. bert is in his bedroom at this moment, cleaning it, I didn't ask him to do it but he's always had a neat streak and is a lot like me in that he likes organized things. Ernie, however, did dishes alone this week, because more than half of them came from her bedroom. She even carried out the trash because I sneaked up on her and she didn't realize I had her cleaning right away. She's fourteen. She tells me that I should not worry: when she goes to camp, her cabin space is always the neatest & most organized and her friends just throw their stuff around. I find this hard to believe because I have seen the bedroom, the dried apple cores, the stacks of laundry (what's clean?/what's dirty?) and more... I could nag (I tried), I could allow it to build a wall of resentment between us, but what I do is limit it to her bedroom. And occasionally, I brave the entry and say something. Lately I've been cutting out cartoons (LuAnn was a recent one and For Better or For Worse also featured a pigsty bedroom recently) and posting them on the freezer (which is in her bedroom). It gets the point across with a bit of humor.
When they were six and seven, I used to sit with them and SHOW them HOW to pick up and organize a room. The concept is still a little advanced for that age and I walked them through the steps. But by the time Arwen was ten and it didn't seem to have made any attachment to her brain, I had to seriously ask myself was this an important battle to be fighting?  Takes a lot of courage as a mother to walk away from it, but I did -- to a certain extent (Arwen will say I still nag).
I read a Dobson article once on the subject and he concurred with me: that you have to weigh the battle. And do consider their ages... they still need help learning the how-to steps.  (btw - my kids have done dishes since age ten and they do laundry,, take trash, sweep, dust, vacuum... and if they leave stuff laying around in the main living areas, I am not an accommodating mom: I go and call them and make them come back out and pick it up. More work that way, but eventually, they'll get tired of having to come back out and pick it up... if you take it to them, they never figure that part out...)
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