4 steps to get your kids to actually clean their room!

We’ve all been there – the kids’ rooms are a mess. You dread the thought of going in there, but you can’t stand it any longer. If you’re a parent, chances are you know all about the battle of the bedroom bombsite. 

The battle is not so much with the mess in the bedroom itself. It’s getting your kids to actually clean it up. Most of the time when we tell our kids to clean up their room, they don’t do it. Maybe because the job looks so overwhelming that they don’t know where to start.

Breaking the job of cleaning up into smaller steps and showing your kids how to do each step will help them manage the mess and save your sanity.

Here’s how you do it:

Sort the task into smaller jobs

Step 1: Break the task into smaller jobs

When your kids don’t know where to start, break up the task into smaller jobs. I’ll bet the first two jobs will be picking up clothes and toys. You can choose the third one!


There’s two smaller jobs when tidying up clothes:  

The first job is sorting clothes: one pile for dirty one pile for clean. Have a basket or hamper ready for dirty clothes to go straight into. 

The second job is sorting clean clothes into hanging or folding and putting them away. 

You don’t want all the clothes ending up in the hamper and having to deal with mountains of unnecessary washing. Make an agreement between you and your kids about which clothes you will call dirty and which you will call clean. For example, decide that any clothes are smelly or wet, or have dirt or food on them are dirty.


You can sort out toys just like clothes. Soft toys can go into another basket or hamper, hard toys can go into a toy box, a shelf or a drawer. I used a toy box and a chest of drawers for toys with my son. The toy box was built into the wardrobe for big hard toys like remote control cars, basketballs and roller skates. The bottom drawers of the chest of drawers was for smaller hard toys like Lego and matchbox cars. 

Your choice:

What else needs to be done that drives you nuts? When you see it, you’ll know it! See if you can break it down into 2-3 smaller steps. 

It might be making the bed, pulling up the quilt over the bed and putting the pillows on top of the quilt and pyjamas under the pillows. It could be putting away shoes. My son was notorious for piles of empty plates, cups and cutlery stacking up in his room. He soon learned how to pack the dishwasher as well!

Teach your kids how to do a job, one at a time

Step 2: Teach your kids how to do each job, one at a time.

Start with the biggest mess first, because it will make the biggest impact. If it’s the clothes, start with them first, if it’s toys or shoes, start with them. 

Start by doing each job together to show your kids how to do it

Take photos of each job and then put the photos on a chart on their bedroom door. (More about charts in Step 3). Photos are a great way to remind your kids each job they need to do. 

Stay in the room while your kids are still learning to help remind them if they forget a step. 

When your kids have mastered doing the messiest job, and the room is starting to look a lot better, then you can start teaching them the next job. Teaching one job at a time means you will have to put up with a room that is only partially cleaned up while your kids master each step.

Let’s look at doing one job at a time with clothes.

Job 1: 

Sort clothes into piles of dirty and clean. For example, if any clothes are smelly or wet, or they have dirt or food on them, then they are considered dirty. Put dirty clothes in basket or hamper to be washed. Put clean clothes on the bed to sort out how to store them.

Job 2: 

Sort clothes into which gets hung which gets folded. For example, the clothes you wear on the top half of you, like a shirt, or dress or jacket, that gets hung. The clothes you wear on the bottom of you, those get folded. Underwear in one drawer, trousers and shorts in another drawer. 

Job 3:

Hanging: Start with hanging if you have the space and it’s the easiest way to store clothes. If you don’t have enough hangers, encourage your kids to choose the hangers they like the next time you go shopping. 

Job 4:

Folding: Show them the easiest way to fold, and get them to practice until they can do it themselves. Let them decide where the folded clothes go, in drawers, shelves or in baskets on shelves

Make a chart and tick off each time a job is done

Step 3. Make a chart and tick off each time a job is done 

Make up a chart to put on their bedroom door. The chart will have a name and photo of each job, and a list where you can mark off when each job is done. You can do this with ticks, stickers, smiley stamps or gold stars. Kids learn better when they experience repeated success, so marking off each job they finish helps them see a record of their success. 

Celebrate success

Step 4. Set a target and celebrate success when they reach it.

When marking off jobs when they are completed, set a target to work for, and plan for a celebration when they reach that target.

Make the target realistic. Kids need time to learn something new, so they may not get it right every time, especially in the first few weeks. Decide together what would be a realistic target to reach. If 100% is not realistic to start with, choose a lower percentage for the first week and add to it every week. It’s important that you’re there to help remind them and guide them along the way to give them every opportunity to reach the target. 

The celebration is really important, so don’t miss out on this step. Plan together ahead of time how you will celebrate at the end of the week when your kid reaches their target. A celebration of success can be something simple like staying up a bit later on the weekend, a special meal, extra time doing something fun that your kids enjoy.

When the war is over

It’s a big job learning to clean up your room when you’re only a kid, and there are a lot of steps to learn along the way. You can celebrate too because you can see the day coming when you say “Clean up your room” and your kids will actually do it. Breaking tasks into smaller jobs, putting the time and patience into teaching your kids how to do those steps and supporting them as they learn is well worth the investment.

You’re also teaching your kids a lot of life skills when you teach them how to clean up their room. You don’t just teach them how to clean their room, you also teach them how to tackle other big jobs in their life as well, and you give them the gift of independence.

All the best battles are won with a clear strategy and good leadership. Get ready to rumble and give the four steps a go. Drop me a line in the comments and let me know how you go, I would love to hear from you. If you know someone who could benefit from this article, please share it with them, I would love to hear from them too.