Show them a good time. When you’re dealing with grade-schoolers children, make cleanup feel like a game, not a chore. Put on your child’s favorite music or make up a fun song that you sing only when it’s cleanup time, then throw in some silly dance moves as you put toys and shoes and books in their proper places. And, remember, small rewards—say a trip to the local ice cream parlor—can work wonders in terms of motivation.
Put everything in its place. Once a month or seasonally, help your child tame the mountain of clutter inside his or her room. Make three piles: Keep, Donate, Toss. Have plastic bins or colorful canvas boxes on hand to store the keeps. If your child can’t decide whether to toss or donate, create a fourth bin labeled Storage. Date this box, then store it in the attic or garage with an agreement that anything in it can be reclaimed within a year. After that, you and your child can donate the contents to a local charity together.
Make the closet cleanup friendly. Make it easier for little kids to rehang their shirts, robes, and jackets by installing a lower hanging rod and thick plastic hooks. Designate specific areas (bins under the bed, peg rails along the wall) for storing everyday items like sneakers and backpacks. Organize play clothes and undergarments in easy-to-reach dresser drawers, so small-fry can put clothes away themselves.
Change the sheets together. Launder your linens, then enlist your kids’ help in making the bed. Flap the sheet over their heads (a guaranteed laugh generator), and then show them how to tuck in the corners and pull the cases over the pillows. Bonus: Once you’re done, snuggle in bed with your kids and read a favorite picture book.