We’ve purged my daughter’s bedroom more times than I care to count. It’s probably not that many times actually, but it sure seems like we’ve gone through it a bunch of times. Every couple of months we do a mini purge to remove any accumulated trash and broken toys and to thin the herd of dolls, animals, and toys.
The mini purges are necessary because she tends to gradually accumulate stuff. This stuff might be an occasional gift from a friend or relative, a reward from us for an accomplishment or good grades, junky toys from happy meals, crafts that have been completed but don’t need to be kept forever, or random things that might be bought when she gives us the puppy dog eyes.
Sometimes mini purges aren’t enough, and we move on to a big purge. We set aside one evening last week for a big purge day.
Our daughter, Faith, has gotten accustomed to these purges. We’ve done them enough times that she actually looks forward to them when her room starts getting too cluttered. Kids have a hard time cleaning, straightening, decluttering, or purging on their own, and they really need a parent to assist.
Faith’s room has been a disaster for the last couple of months. It had been that way for far too long actually. It was downright embarrassing to see how messy her room was. The floor was covered with toys and we could barely walk in there.
Big Purge – A Child’s Bedroom
The purge we did last week was a big one. Faith and I discussed her favorite toys. We talked about which category of toys were her absolute favorite to play with. The discussion went something like this:
Father: “I was thinking you would have more room to play if we got rid of some of the toys that aren’t your favorites.”
Father: “I think your favorite toys are Barbie dolls, Stuffed animals, and baby dolls.”
Daughter: “Yes, those are my favorites.”
Father: “Are you ready to get rid of all your small princess dolls since those aren’t your favorites?”
Daughter: “Yes, I don’t play with those much anymore.”
Father: “And you are ready to get rid of all the other stuff that isn’t a Barbie, animal, or baby doll?
Clearly we’ve had similar discussions about cleaning and purging in the past so this one was easy. Regardless, I feel that a frank discussion is important prior to beginning a purge. It sets the expectation of what is getting kept and what is going away. It also sets some ground rules and makes it easier for the child to make decisions.
This is especially important in our case because Faith always makes the decisions on what stays and what goes. This empowers her and makes her feel comfortable with the process. It’s not Daddy throwing away all her stuff, it’s HER making her own decisions.
With the plans laid out we began our purge. We started right after school and armed ourselves with two garbage bags. One was a donate bag and the other was for trash.
I’m always amazed at how much trash accumulates in her room. The trash bags were quickly filled with junky toys that aren’t good enough to donate, broken toys, and paper and craft items. We filled three bags of trash and two bags of donate.
As I mentioned, the process of deciding is left to her. In our purges, I do most of the physical labor while Faith handles the mental part – the decision making. Don’t underestimate the mental, making all the decisions of keep or purge can be taxing, especially for a kid.
Our purges have progressed over the past couple of years as she has gotten older. In the past I would hold up an items and she would give a yes or no (meaning keep or purge.) To put some perspective on age, she is seven now. This process of me doing the labor and her acting as approver has worked well.
During this purge, we progressed a little. We started in the same manner, with me holding things up for her to keep or purge. After a short time, I started making small piles of items for her to sort through. I made the piles and she would sort them into keep or purge piles. This is an important baby step, as it teaches her how to break the large task of purging into smaller, more manageable tasks. Over time we’ll progress to a point where she’ll be able to do everything on her own.
We worked for a couple of hours and then took a short break for dinner. After dinner we were back at it and finished around bed time. In all we spent about four hours purging and organizing.
The result is a clutter free room with lots of floor space to play. During the purge I got three random hugs, which shows me just how much she appreciates the help. As with every time we finish a purge, she’s been playing in her room every day since.
Preventing a Messy Bedroom
A child’s room clutter is an ongoing battle. We constantly try different techniques to keep the clutter down.
One possible solution to prevent it from getting messy would be to institute a one-in one-out policy where every time she gets something new, she would get rid of something old. We’ve attempted this, but haven’t done it with any persistence, as the pre-purge state of her room clearly showed.
It works when she does the puppy dog eyes for something she wants, but it doesn’t work when she gets an item as a reward or when she receives a gift. It would be a real buzz kill in those situations.
The mini-purge-big-purge works well for us, but that technique has its faults. The main fault being that the room gets really messy between purges.
We’re trying something new. Faith and I agreed on a five minute a day cleaning. After school she is going to spend five minutes cleaning her room. This is a small enough chunk of time that it feels reasonable to her. So far she spent more than five minutes each day and went ahead and finished up any tidying to get her room ship shape.
I’m hoping the daily routine will help. It’s been helping me also, as I do some cleaning in the rest of the apartment while she works in her room.
We have also implemented an “it must be picked up before bedtime/your friend leaves/we go anywhere.” As I mentioned in the Home Full of Kids post, Faith has a friend over to play almost every day of the week. At first her friends were a little taken aback at the idea of putting away the toys they played with before they left. After a few times of doing so her friends are getting used to it. (Funny side note: over the summer her cousins spent a few days with us. Before they left we asked them to clean up and they thought they were being punished.)
The 5-minute cleaning coupled with the clean-before-you-leave is working so far. I’m hoping we can keep up with it – meaning I hope I can keep up with it as it really takes a parental reminder to kick things into action. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.