I went backwards a bit today. All in a good cause, and I'll pay for it later, but the fact is, I brought some stuff home, rather than pitched some out.
See, I've been helping the administrator at our church clean out old files this week (irony, anyone?), and there were a bunch of empty hanging files left over when we finished the first box. So I brought them home.
I also brought home three boxes of wool, so that Ally can make my Christmas present, when she remembers to come and pick up the crochet book I got from the library. So you see, I have to get rid of at least four boxes of crap in order to make room for the new stuff. Goal is to have whatever-it-is out of the house by Sunday evening. Okay?
Anyhow, on one of the message boards I signed up for, a mother was bemoaning the fact that her 8-y-o daughter's bedroom is a big mess, even though she cleaned it out completely just this past May. Now I may not know how to clean my own house, but I do know how to teach my kids, and this is what I've discovered over the course of my parenting journey:
1) Yelling doesn't work. Hitting doesn't work. In fact, both of those things will make the problem worse, and when you get to the teen years, you'll be in for a big rebellion phase. Trust me on this. You do not have to yell, and you do not have to hit. You can get what you want without doing either of those things.
2) Kids aren't born knowing the difference between "clean" and "dirty." And the only way it's possible to teach them the difference, is if they have examples of both to compare. If the whole house is a mess, asking a kid to clean her bedroom won't do any good at all, because she won't know what you're asking for.
3) A kid will feel even more overwhelmed by mess than an adult, given that they know what's being asked. They know where point A is, and they know where point B should be, but they have no ability to plan the route between A and B. You need to teach them.
4) A lot of my friends over at the AW Water Cooler have suggested that I team up with a buddy. Things go faster with a buddy. It's the same with kids. Having a parent in the room, especially one who is calm and can gently guide the child to the next step will not only ensure the room gets clean, but it will strengthen the parent-child bond as well. I don't know if Ally remembers me sitting on her bed, telling her what to pick up next, but I remember a number of those sessions.
So with those four things in mind, here is my patented method for cleaning any bedroom:
a) Start by stripping the bed. Put the sheets in the dirty laundry, and put the bedspread and pillows in another room until your finished. If the sheets are clean and the bed doesn't need changing, make the bed up instead.
b) Put everything that's on the floor onto the bed. Have a trash bag handy while you're picking up, and throw trash into it as you go.
c) Get the trash out of the room.
d) Sweep and vaccuum, including under all the furniture.
e) Find a laundry hamper or basket. All dirty laundry goes into the hamper. Take the hamper out of the room.
f) Dirty dishes go down to the kitchen.
g) By now you'll find that the pile has noticably lessened, even if you've still got a long way to go. Next up, choose a category of item that's taking up a lot of room. Toys and/or books are often good places to start. Gather those together on the bed, and start dusting, cleaning, and putting them away. Continue on with a different group of items.
h) Clean laundry gets folded/hung up and put away.
i) As you work your way through, you'll be left with a small pile of greeblies that belong elsewhere. Sort by room, and put them away. The steps above can be done in any order, but this one is usually last because it's the smallest pile (usually) but requires the most running.
j) Clean any animal pens/tanks in the room. Prune and water any plants.
k) Now that the room is in order, finish by straightening out what's on the shelves and dresser, and dusting if necessary.
l) Finally, look around. If the room still looks cluttered, THERE'S TOO MUCH STUFF! We always want to give our children the world, but far too often we never figure out where we can put it. Nor do we take the time to realize that we only have so much time in the day, and if we're playing with a new toy, we're not playing with an old toy.
Take the time to look through the stuff your child owns, with her present, and decide together what to keep, what to throw out, what to box away for a bit, and what to give to less fortunate children. (And please note, this isn't something you should do without your child present, or without giving your child a vote. You gave the toys to her--they're HERS, not yours. Respect your child's property, and she'll grow up respecting the property of others.)
Hope this helps somebody out there. In the meantime, I used this method just today to clean my own bedroom. Not that it was particularly dirty, but I had some laundry to put away, and the bed to make, and a lot of dusting to do. Now it's not just neat, it's CLEAN. And I'm happy with my progress for today.