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The key to teaching your kids to be neat and tidy around the house

Chores with Child
Aleksandar Nakic | iStock
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4 essential tips from "Organizing Made Fun" on how to get a better handle on the kid-clutter.

Wintertime hopefully means more time for family fun in the snow, hilarious board games, and movies by the fire — but it also means there’s more time at home for things to get messy.

Most of us learned how to be clean and organized as we grew older — and while they’re definitely out there, it’s rare to find a kid who actually keeps things clean without major prodding. Becky Barnfather, professional organizer and author of the blog Organizing Made Fun, is a mom to two kids, ages 11 and 16. She has tons of great posts about helping your kids get organized — and stay that way.

We’ve pulled some of Becky’s best tips to help your kids make some good use of their inside time this winter and instill some good lifelong habits.

1. Make some room

Periodically, and right around birthdays, Becky suggests doing a big purge with your kids. After all, a large part of her philosophy is that when something comes into the house, something else must leave. So every year, the day before birthdays, she spends time with her kids going through their rooms and purging them of unneeded or unwanted things. Of course, this should be approached with a spirit of gratitude and giving. Our “unwanted” things can bring great happiness to others who have much less.

2. Start small

Every parent knows that somehow even the tiniest kids accumulate a lot of stuff. Rather than heading into the nursery or your teenager’s dark dungeon and trying to tackle it all at once, Becky says to start small, breaking up the mess into smaller, easier-to-tackle projects. Don’t instruct them to simply “clean your room!” but instead start with, say, a bookshelf or an under-the-bed mess, and go from there.

3. Let them do it themselves — no rescuing!

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s so hard to do! Especially with children who are extra prone to messiness or clutter, it can be so tempting to jump in and clean everything up yourself, but the key is to teach them to do it. Accept imperfections at first and realize that any progress still counts as progress. Sure, it would be much easier to throw all those old fast-food toys in the trash in one fell swoop, but part of the process is teaching your kids just how good it actually feels to truly purge and be free of excess junk.

4. Utilize a chore chart and be consistent

There should be clear expectations and very specific tasks for kids to complete from a young age. Becky also advocates for kids to earn media time for completing extra chores. It’s easy to start such routines, but harder to keep them going, so she always reminds parents that consistency pays off. Pretty soon your little ones will be checking off chores and purging with pleasure!

Cleanliness is above all else a virtue. Teaching kids to be organized and tidy is as much about setting an example as any other parenting technique or practice, like prayer, helping others, and being honest. Kids will see how your household and life is run and learn more by watching than anything else. So, no excuses now, everyone get decluttering, together!

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