Throw It All Out: A New Approach to Cleaning Kids Rooms

Keeping rooms clean is a never ending struggle. I know that. You know that. (Well, if you’re mortal, you do. I’m not convinced some of you are mortal when it comes to cleanliness, though. We normal people have to scrape by somehow, however.) Kid rooms can be particularly difficult, as I’m sure you’re aware. I came back from my conference (where maids magically cleaned my room every day) and moved furniture around in the kids’ rooms. While I was doing that, I was dismayed to see just how much stuff TRC had accumulated since we did this the last time.

I’ve cleaned his room with him before, and it’s a long haul. Every item he had was a decision: keep it, toss it, donate it, etc. And decisions are hard for people to make if they’re like me at all when it comes to stuff. In other words, I realize I have a hard time letting stuff go. TRC has the same issue.

So as I was looking at all this stuff in his room, I came up with an impromptu offer. If he would let me, I would clean his entire room. Drawers, horizontal surfaces, and all. I would make all the decisions for what should stay and what should go. I’d put everything in a “Go” pile, and when he came home from school, he’d be allowed to pick 5 things out of it that wouldn’t go. Anything beyond that, he had to buy back from me.

He agreed.

It was such a different experience. This wasn’t my stuff I was making decisions about. I had the distance from the attachment that I could just objectively decide if something was worth holding onto or not. I put a whole trash bag of stuff into that “Go” pile. Knickknacks, Happy Meal toys, rocks, papers. You name it. By the time I was done (it took two hours), the room looked fantastic. But I didn’t know what TRC would think when he came home. Would we have a big confrontation about some of the decisions I’d made?


He picked five things, and he paid for three more (a total of $3), and that was that. Denisa did go through the pile once on her own to see if anything was needed elsewhere, and then off it all went to get donated or tossed. Somehow, seeing all the stuff clumped together in one big pile made things a lot easier for TRC. Better yet, he had the ability to prioritize what he wanted and didn’t want. When you’re not willing to pay $1 to hold onto something? You don’t really want it. I think that extra cost made a real difference. Too often we don’t view holding onto things as coming with a price, but it does. The clutter can just drown a room. But by quantifying that price, suddenly you can reanalyze what you do or don’t want.

In any case, I just thought I’d pass this experience on to all you lovely people. It might not be new to you, but it was new to me, and it worked really well. Now to see if someone will do it for my drawers . . .

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