My daughter Megs was shocked when I told her to go ahead and let her room get messy. Normally, I expect a clean room, and my kids generally comply. But I wanted to take some pictures to teach you guys how to teach your kids to clean their own rooms.
Start them off with a level playing field
Before you can expect your kids to clean their own rooms and keep them clean, it helps to have the rooms set up in a manner that the kids can easily keep their rooms clean.
If your kids struggle with keeping their rooms clean, they have too many toys. Heck, my kids are able to keep their rooms clean and they still have too many toys. A kid with way too many toys will get overwhelmed and will end up playing with your vacuum cleaner attachments instead. They'll let their rooms turn into a complete disaster and won't know where to start. Keep the toy level under control, and it'll be much easier for them to clean their rooms.
Once you've got the toy monster under control, make sure their room has lots of low shelves and baskets to put their toys in. With plenty of storage, they will be able to put their things where they belong more easily. A "pet net" is great for kids like my daughter that have obscene amounts of stuffed animals.
Low shelving is key. Let them organize the shelves as they see fit. It might not be perfect and beautiful, but it'll be their own design, which they can be proud of.
Now, let's get them started cleaning
I bet you've sent your kids to clean their rooms and you walk in there, and they're sitting there playing, or reading, or something. It used to completely infuriate me- I sent them to clean their rooms, not play! One day as I was standing in my totally trashed kitchen, not really knowing where to start, I realized the kids are probably the same way as I am. If I don't know where to start, I get stalled and often wander off to watch some TV or surf the internet. Once I realized that, I taught my kids this system to cleaning their rooms and they now always know where to start and can go from there.
First, tell them to make their bed. My mother always told me, you could have clothes on the floor, but a made bed, and the room will look better than a room with an unmade bed and nothing on the floor. This also gives them a surface they will use later to aid in their cleaning.
Megs always wants to put 42,000 pillows and stuffed animals on the bed. We've compromised with 2 large pillows, 1 regular pillow, 1 small pillow, and 1 stuffed animal.
Then have them pick up all the laundry in their room and put it into a laundry basket. Keep the laundry basket handy in case you missed some laundry.
Why, yes, we are big fans of Hello Kitty, thanks for noticing!
Next, have them pick up toys in groups. I have Megs pick up all her stuffed animals and toss them into the pet net. I have my boys pick up all the cars and put them in the car box. Then move on to another group of toys until you've run out of groups of toys.
You'll usually end up with a bunch of odds and ends that don't really belong anywhere. Have them toss all of those items on the bed.
Oh where, oh where should this other junk go?
The floor should now be completely clean in their room. Have them pick up each item from the bed individually, and decide where each item should go. If they cannot find a place for it, it has to go in the trash. (Or the freecycle bin, or the goodwill box, etc.)
Once the bed's cleaned off, they can dust and vacuum (if age-appropriate, I don't generally let my kids vacuum until they're about a head taller than the vacuum cleaner- my 6 year old is not quite tall enough yet, although she's been cleaning her own room since she was 4.) and the room will be clean!
It might not be showroom perfect, but let your kids revel in the fact that they did it themselves!
Remember our compromise about how many stuffed animals and pillows were allowed? Looks like I lost that battle.
Yes, I did let her decorate her room herself.