My struggle to get Miss 7 to tidy her room

by Katrina - The Organised Housewife

My attempt at getting Miss 7’s room tidy

Miss 7 is quite the hoarder, she can’t throw or part with anything, she keeps every single bit of paper that she uses or brings home from school.  She has a gorgeous room but sometimes it is hard to see amongst all the mess she keeps.  This week her father and I asked her to tidy her room, this was our struggle:

Day 1 – didn’t tidy room, was too busy playing

Day 2 – didn’t tidy room, again too busy playing

Day 3 – I asked her to tidy her room, she was in their for 1 hour tidying, when I went in to check nothing was different.  We then had lunch, went out for awhile, returned home swum in the pool and showered.  She asked me, can I watch TV.  I reminded her that her room needed tidying (blank look on her face).  So I asked Miss 7, you have 2 choices you may watch TV or tidy your room, but remember there may be consequences as we have asked you for day’s to tidy your room…..she chose to watch TV, I was so angry, but kept my cool. 

Hubby arrived home, together we took a big container (it needed to be big with all her ‘stuff’) and picked up everything that was on the floor, all over her bed, all over her chest of drawers, all over her desk.  And casually walked it all down to our bedroom. 

When it was bedtime she went into her room and noticed, it was tidy, firstly thinking ooh great mummy tidied it for me…but then, she noticed that her favourite teddy she sleeps with was missing (this was heartbreaking to see her so upset).  Then her ipod, her Hannah Montana barbie, her handbag, she stated noticing it was all gone.  She was just so devastated.  I sat with her, didn’t yell at her for the choices she made, but explained that it isn’t my responsibility to clean her room, but i will not allow her to keep it in that state.  I have taken everything that was out of place and after 2 days of keeping a tidy room she can take one toy from the container.  Each day after she can remove a toy for keeping a tidy room.  However…if there is a day that it is not tidy, I will remove a toy from the container and donate to charity. 

Hmm…was this approach too brutal?  Boy I felt it was at the time as I felt her heartache, but we stuck to our guns and it has worked so well.  She has kept a tidy room everyday and has received quite a few things back.  We have since sat in her room together and she recognised that she does have too many things and we will go through her room together and giveaway some items.

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liesll January 25, 2011 - 3:23 PM

Loved the read, I wonder will this work for my 17 year old teenager? I have to beg her each and every day, she just does not care. She does'nt even care that her friends see how untidy she is. I even tried paying her to keep it tidy which to my surprise, only worked one week. I'll try this approach and see if I get better results.

Katrina February 16, 2011 - 12:01 AM

I think its worth a shot Liesl, what have you got to lose? Good luck with it…..whatever you do, stick to your guns and don't give in.

Sarah January 25, 2011 - 3:56 PM

I think you have taken a wonderful approach to the problem. Good on you for sticking to your guns.

Katrina February 16, 2011 - 12:01 AM

Thanks Sarah, I appreciate your comment 🙂

Marita January 25, 2011 - 4:23 PM

We had a similar problem with our 7yo. She hoards but also struggles with spatial organization. I got her some folder with plastic pockets to slide her art work into an some photo albums with little pocket sleeves for her to slide precious items into, plus a plastic tub that is her memory box. When the tub starts to get full we open it and look at the contents, I sit beside her with a camera and take photos of things she doesn't need to keep and she gets rid of them. It is often easier for her to get rid of things after a break and some time to forget why they were so special. Things she can still remember after a couple of

Months are usually going to stay special.

We are talking about a girl who keeps Manu of her birthday gift brand new in box and has done since she was 5 yo.

Gotta love Aspergers 😀

Katrina January 25, 2011 - 4:32 PM

That's a really great idea Marita taking a photo of items you will throw out. Might incorporate that into her new interest for scrapbooking, create an album for 'special things'.

Katrina February 16, 2011 - 12:02 AM

Good job Marita, you're doing well…keep up the good work.

Karen February 19, 2011 - 8:56 PM

Marita, I think your approach is so lovely. I admire the way that you are partnering WITH your daughter, sitting with her, taking photos of her special things, providing resources to help her organise things she doesn't want to part with. Love it.

Monique Follett January 25, 2011 - 4:54 PM

Great ideas – I also have a special box of my son's treasures.

Good on you for sticking to your guns, Katrina. I have a similar problem, and after 7 hours of tidying his room recently, I have decided to get very strong with him, too. I've already done the clean up toys and put in bin routine, and now also refuse to buy him anything else until he shows me he can look after the things he already has.

Katrina February 16, 2011 - 12:04 AM

Thanks Monique, yes its tough love but they'll thank us later….I hope!

Joyce January 25, 2011 - 5:22 PM

What a fantastic idea!! Will definetely be trying this one

Katrina February 16, 2011 - 12:04 AM

thanks Joyce….good luck with it

Crystle May 4, 2015 - 12:14 AM

Me too! Love it Kat x

Rachel Bradley January 25, 2011 - 5:47 PM

It is so hard to stick to your guns! I've gone in and packed up the toys in a garbage bag and stored them in the garage. They scream and holler, but it doesn't take them long to forget about them! (so it isn't too effective!) – it's nice to hear someone else's approach, might give it a try!! My girls like to keep artwork too! as most of it is from Kindy, I keep the good ones for their scrapbook (like the picture my eldest drew on her first day of prep!) or the really good ones I put in frames to hang in my office and throw the rest when they aren't around!

Pen January 25, 2011 - 8:04 PM

that happens with us too! we pack it all up, and they forget about it and play with something else. they don't actually have that much stuff, and we gave away a lot for the flood appeal. when they can't find something, this is my opportunity to remind them that if they put things away, they'd find them easily 😉

Katrina February 16, 2011 - 12:05 AM

Keep up the good work Rachel. Be consistant 🙂

Jasmine January 25, 2011 - 6:47 PM

Awesome, I'm going to do this with my Miss 7! And Marita the photo idea is priceless I am so doing that this year with both my girls! Katrina, I just wanted to say thanx for the blog, I'm really enjoying it & yes it's helping me get organised. Yesterday we drew up "Chores from the heart charts" in the hope it will help my girls 7 & 11 be more responsible in our family life.

Tam January 25, 2011 - 7:16 PM

Oh, you have just written about my life for the past few months! It's my 10 y/o we have the most issue with. We have a never ending cycle of I tidy the kids rooms (and throw out those things they no longer need – always a huge bagful eachtime) and then within days it's totally trashed again :s. We've tried bringing the outside bin inside to 'tidy' their rooms (only makes the house smell haha) and lots of other bits and pieces, but it never works. Will give your method a go and see how it works here – I can only dream I guess!

Tam January 25, 2011 - 7:17 PM

And love the photographing the memories bit too!

Katrina February 16, 2011 - 12:06 AM

Thanks Tam, hope its all going well for you.

Belle January 25, 2011 - 7:41 PM

Love it! I must try this with my 11yr old. I have tried many many things in the past and I have pretty much given up as nothing seems to work. (My 4yr old on the other hand, is a star. Sometimes I think they are not related!) Thankyou!

Katrina February 16, 2011 - 12:07 AM

lol Belle, yes give it a go, what have you got to lose? good luck with it

Alicia Ilievski January 25, 2011 - 10:42 PM

Great approach…. Peter Walsh does simmilar and calls it the Friday Bin. Anything left lying around goes into the (clear) plastic tub and they dont get it back til Friday. This works for hubby's that leave stuff lying around also.

My kids dont have toys in their room. They go to Montessori preschools and I loooove some of the Montessori ideas of not having 'clutter' in bedrooms. I will totally be using your technique Kat for the playroom…..Going to tackle that when school starts. But first another bday! Horray more STUFF LOL!!

Leesa January 26, 2011 - 5:01 AM

love it!!! I need to do this for my 4 year old. No matter how often I cleanse her room it still multiplies.

Katrina February 16, 2011 - 12:12 AM

Yes they do that don't they? Good luck with it. Stay strong!!

Kerrie January 26, 2011 - 6:50 AM

I did this to my daughter years ago and I remember feeling just as bad – although she grabbed her favourite teddy before I did! 😉 I took every toy, book, dvd, whatever and she had absolutely nothing other than her favourite teddy for two weeks. It worked! It also made ehr realise she didn't really care about most of it which made it easier to only put some of it back. 🙂 I have a friend who took everything off the floor and actually gave it to St Vincent de Pauls! So don't feel too bad. 🙂

Katrina February 16, 2011 - 12:14 AM

Great to see others use the same method….Well done to you for sticking to it 🙂

LIsaW January 27, 2011 - 2:00 AM

What a great approach to a frustrating situation. I might have to give that a go too. Seems like a very fair method of teaching her how to care for her things.

Katrina February 16, 2011 - 12:15 AM

Thanks Lisa, hope it worked for you too 🙂

Jodie B January 31, 2011 - 2:30 AM

well I must say HELP!… I am a mum who has a garage full of removed toys…. sometimes numerous garbage bags full(we have also donated many things to St V's after several garage clean outs)and have close to a dozen scrapbooks of kids artworks from childcare to grade 3….. and have tried punishments, praise for good work, reward charts, bribery — you name it. Nothing works for more than a few days. The kids have so much "stuff" including school bags, uniforms, playclothes, shoes and toys. We also have a small house n the kids have to share a bedroom. After I renovated their room 12 mths ago to ensure everything fit nicely, we are still battling to get them to keep it tidy. Our kids are excellent students n get rewards at school regularly but the reward system just doesnt work at home, and punishments always seem to have a short term effect on their tidyness.

Has anyone got any other suggestions to help>?

Katrina February 20, 2011 - 8:49 PM

Jodie, I am so sorry it has taken me so long to reply to your message. Over the years I have used many stratergies. At the moment the reward charts are working really well, but there has been times in the past where like you they only worked for a brief time.

Last year a friend introduced me to this strategy. If child’s room is messy, dad should notice, then ask them why they haven’t picked toy’s/clothes off floor. Their usual response would be ‘i don’t know’. Then dad needs to ask, ‘are you just wanting mum to pick it up? ok, i’ll get mum for you so you can ask her to pick it up’. Then they usually pick it up straight away. Allow Dad to help them understand it is their resonsibility not mum’s. Mum is busy with other jobs like washing clothes and cooking dinner, we would much prefer her to play a board game with us later but not have to pick up after you. It worked reallly well for my friend who is a mother to 4, my kids react really well to this concept too.

Hope this might help you Jodie?

Crystle May 4, 2015 - 12:23 AM

I really love this too! (fantastic little forum you have going here Kat)

Karen February 19, 2011 - 11:02 AM

I would not want to be the child in most of these homes. I would feel disrespected, controlled, resentful and disempowered. The only example that I think is wonderful is Marita’s, because it’s more of a partnership approach, and honouring to the fact that her daughter has things that are precious to her. I too struggle to help my 8yo daughter keep a tidy room, but I would prefer to help her out and partner with her, than to take over in a controlling manner. I certainly would not want anyone to do that to me. I still remember my mother-in-law throwing out all my sister-in-law’s soft toys one day while she was at school. The daughter was absolutely devastated. She finally found them all in the outside bin and retrieved them. There are better ways.

Katrina February 27, 2011 - 8:36 PM

I agree Karen there are other ways, but I have tried so many and this worked really well for our situation. On the day her bedroom was untidy I asked her to pick something from her box and most of it was actual rubbish like bit’s of paper with a partial drawing.

melzeiher February 23, 2011 - 4:59 AM

sometimes we need to be cruel to be kind…to let them learn how to control their environment and how to earn even more respect seems like a good idea to me.

Katrina February 27, 2011 - 8:37 PM

absolutely Melzeiher and I am so pleased to say that her bedroom has been tidy now for 3 weeks staight, I am so happy and proud of her.

Lori February 24, 2011 - 4:46 PM

Hi, I am so happy to have found your blog! I love all of your encouragement and great ideas to get organized, especially your meal planning. I also love your many organizational ideas. I am 45 and have 3 children; 18 year old daughter, 12 year old son, and 6 year old daughter. I also have Attention Deficit Disorder, and am constantly craving inspiration and ideas for sticking to routines and forming good habits. So Thank you! I am very sympathetic to children going into their room and feeling overwhelmed by the mess. I had no idea how to go into my room as a child and clean it. I would shut down feeling completely overwhelmed. I learned for myself and for my children that if I will go in my room (for me whatever area of the house I have to organize or clean) and start with one thing at a time, I am less overwhelmed and so are they. For instance I will tell my 6 year old "first go make your bed, and you will feel better", then go in your room and pick up all your dirty clothes and put them in the hamper or put away all your toys and things on the floor, next go pick up all the trash", etc. Then I taught them how to go in for 10 to 15 minutes with a timer to see how many little steps they could accomplish in those few min. I have to break my life & jobs into steps, small bites to chew at a time, and this knowledge has helped me and helped with the kids as well. Now all I have to say is go clean your room and their brain automatically breaks down their room into bite size pieces. Thanks again for all your time it takes to share your creative, fun ways to help us get organized.

Katrina February 27, 2011 - 8:41 PM

Thankyou Lori, I am so pleased that I am able to help you. I am starting a new series tomorrow which I know you will enjoy! Keep up the great work, you are an inspiration to others showing that you can make a change!

really? March 5, 2011 - 9:37 PM

You took her teddie? Yes, that is brutal. You need to remember she is only 7 so keeping a house tidy is not amongst her top priorities in life. Reward her for tidying up, don’t punish her emotionally. She will remember that incident when she is grown up.

Kate May 28, 2011 - 5:06 PM

Am a new reader. I really like your idea as a principal. I think teaching from a young age is really important- however, I agree with your reader above.. She is only 7 and has a limited grasp on the world. I can understand it’s frustrating to have one room cluttered- however, if you say she has trouble with hoarding, then, by taking everything away so suddenly like that, you’re only going to encourage it more.
I struggled with this with my daughter who is now 10, who didn’t want to clean up her room. Instead of giving her choices we did it together and then found something to do together afterwards. I found that making the time to help her was the better thing to do, now, she likes to have things organised, and knows if she needs help that all she has to do is ask, after all- we all aren’t perfect, and we’re all guilty of letting things get out of control once in a while…
But, the best thing you did was stick to your guns and that’s a huge inspiration. I don’t know much about what’s happened up to this incident- however I’m worried that some women could read it and take it the wrong way!
And at the end of the day, you know your daughter the best and know what she needed. I just mean to point it out that what works for one might not work for all and sometimes you might need to point that out a little more.
All the best.

Jodie Daniel June 13, 2011 - 12:41 AM

What a great idea! I try to limit the toys in my kids room (as they have a toy room)… but they still gets messy. My kids are 3 & 5… so I will start using this idea now (modified for their young age). But… I’ll also use it for their toy room – which might be more effective!

Channy January 31, 2012 - 11:56 PM

Great idea 🙂 I have one of those 7 year olds ( male variety) as well!! Thanks for your tips.

Caz Pen February 5, 2012 - 1:24 PM

Oh I sooo feel your pain!
I laughed out loud when I read she was in there for an hour & nothing had changed! Very familiar…I love the way you dealt with it. I’m definitely inspired to try this approach as i was totally out of ideas. 🙂

Candice Louise Mannix July 18, 2013 - 12:36 PM

I love this idea, i just find my girls don’t seem so attached to things hence perhaps why they aren’t as “tidy” with their items. Hubby tells me i should clear it all out down to empty shelves and only the bed even pics on the wall off for dramatic results but i’m unsure if this is too extreme i think i failed somewhere between respecting there items, but i am not as organised myself and i really believe they learn from what they see you do also 🙁

Emily November 16, 2013 - 3:56 AM

Thank God I’m not the only one dealing with this too!!
My son is very good at creating mess, he throws all his clothes on the ground when finding something to wear and when i ask him to tidy up he just dumps them all in the washing basket clean and dirty.
he keeps a lot of things, though on the times Ive gone in with him to declutter its got to the point where i know he is not playing any attention to what he’s putting in the donate basket.

I am at the point of doing something similar, though I don’t think i could donate any of his toys on him
but it is so frustrating, I used to clean it for him but its a mess again with in hours so I have decided he has lost that privilege if he wont respect it, we’ve tried cleaning with him, we tried just leaving it messy keeping his door shut and letting him live in it and when he stands on things and breaks them or loses them we explain that when his things are on the ground that’s whats gonna happen.
I tried having everything organised in its own places and labelled but he throws everything in together anyway and it was just more stressful for me so now i just put all his toy unsorted in his toy draws and when he cant find things again I just explain that its what will happen when he doesn’t bother to keep tidy, and that I am more then happy to help him tidy up and organise things but only if he will keep them that way

but even that doesn’t work he still waits it out a month until i cant stand it and tidy up.
some times i wonder if maybe getting him to clean it all isnt fair at his age, but the amount of mess he can create in just a few hours isnt fair on me lol

as Ive seen other ppl say no strategy we put in place lasts longer then a couple days then the mess comes back.

I also cant believe how much stuff we donate and yet some how it feels like it just never goes down.
(though its the same for my clothing too lol)

it doesnt help everytime some new toy comes out my partner gets just as excited as our 8year son about going out and buying them, and trying to collect them all lol


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