How to Teach Children to Clean Their Bedroom

How often does this happen to you?  You ask your children to clean their rooms, and when you go to check on them, you find that they have done almost nothing.  It happens to me all the time, and it’s one of my major frustrations as a parent.  It’s time to solve the problem!  Have you stopped to think that the kids aren’t cleaning because they don’t know where to start? Don’t worry. A clean bedroom without nagging is possible!

I just finished reading, “A House United:  Changing Children’s Hearts and Behavior by Teaching Self-Government,” by Nicholeen Peck.  (I’ve linked you to her website.)  I am on the road to getting my family better under control, and I am so excited to share what I’m learning with you.

How to Teach Children to Clean Their Rooms {} Tired of nagging kids to clean their rooms? Your kids might be overwhelmed and not know where to start. (Free Printable Reminder Cards)

When it comes to getting things done, we are not all created equal!  Some of us are LINE DRIVERS, and some of us are ROAD MAKERSROAD MAKERS see a problem and push forward to create a solution.  LINE DRIVERS like to do things right.  They want instructions.

When asked to clean his room, a ROAD MAKER child may be able to walk into his room and devise a plan to get it done.  That does not mean, however, that he will do it right.  He may put things away correctly, but he may also just stuff things under the bed or in his closet.  (He won’t have trouble getting started, but he may need some reminders to do things correctly.)

When asked to clean her room, a LINE DRIVER might plop down in the middle of the room feeling overwhelmed–not knowing how in the world to get started.  Once she’s told what to do, she’ll be able to get started, and she will likely do the job well.  (She wants to do it right, but she needs to be taught how to do it.)

I haven’t quite figured my kids out completely, but when it comes to cleaning their rooms, my kids seem to be LINE DRIVERS.  Since they haven’t learned to keep their rooms clean (another teaching opportunity on my list) the task is too overwhelming, and they just don’t know where to start.  It’s time to start teaching! 

How to Teach Children to Clean Their Rooms {} Tired of nagging kids to clean their rooms? Your kids might be overwhelmed and not know where to start. (Free Printable Reminder Cards)

Are you ready for a dose of my reality?  Here’s what Boo and Lu’s room looked like this Saturday morning, and week two of our new room cleaning solution.  I wish I had a picture of week 1.  Since the floor was barely visible, it’s no wonder they didn’t know how to begin!

Based on how I clean my own room, I created a step-by-step plan to teach children how to clean their rooms.  (The steps are simple, but you may have to teach other skills within each step.)

Step 1:  Make your bed

For my kids, this means sweeping the junk onto the floor, folding the blankets, and rearranging their pillows and stuffed animals.

Step 2:  5-Minute Sort

How to Teach Children to Clean Their Rooms {} Tired of nagging kids to clean their rooms? Your kids might be overwhelmed and not know where to start. (Free Printable Reminder Cards)
This sort will be different depending on what is in the room.  (Empty laundry baskets are great for this step.)

The first week–when the room was a complete disaster–we put clothes on the bottom bunk, things that stayed in their room in one basket, and things that belonged in another room in another basket.  It took us 11 minutes to do the first five-minute sort.  The kids didn’t quite understand what to do, and they were not motivated to do it.

The second week–when the room was messy, but much more manageable–we put clothes on the bottom bunk, toys in one basket, and shoes and books in the other basket.   The five-minute sort took exactly five minutes, and the girls loved getting it done as quickly as possible.  They knew what to do, and they understood that it would help them get their room clean quickly.

When the sort is complete, there should be nothing left on the floor.  (This is a great time to pick up the tiny garbage that wasn’t noticeable under the junk.)

Step 3:  Put Away

How to Teach Children to Clean Their Rooms {} Tired of nagging kids to clean their rooms? Your kids might be overwhelmed and not know where to start. (Free Printable Reminder Cards)

Start with one pile (we usually start with the clothes), and put things where they belong.  If your children don’t know how to hang up clothes or put things in their drawers the right way, this is a good time to teach them.  When one pile is finished, move on to the next until the room is clean.  (If you have a road maker child, be sure to follow up to make sure that their things are put away in the right places!  If you teach them where their things belong, then they avoid getting into trouble when they put things away “creatively.”)

Doing it Alone

How soon the kids can do this alone will depend on the child and the child’s age.  My kids have now gone through the steps twice.  This week, I plan to print the chart and challenge them to do it on their own.  I don’t expect that the little ones will be quite ready yet, but I’ll be watching from the hallway, ready to praise them every step of the way!  Don’t you perform better when someone notices your hard work?  So will your kids.

The Bottom Line

Whether your kids are line drivers or road makers, they need to be taught how to do a job right!  Knowing what to do will free the line drivers from anxiety, and it will give the road makers a guide for appropriate solutions.  (Your road maker might rearrange the steps, but he’ll know how to get an acceptable result.)


Try it at Your House!

How to Teach Children to Clean Their Rooms {} Tired of nagging kids to clean their rooms? Your kids might be overwhelmed and not know where to start. (Free Printable Reminder Cards)

Want to try this with your kids?  I’ve created a visual reminder for the kids to use until they are comfortable doing the job on their own.  Two sizes are included:  Half sheet and 3″x5″.  I’ll be making more cards as the kids learn more jobs. To get the printables, click the dowload image with the three dots below. This will open a new window. You can print the file from there or save it to your computer to print later.

Click to download

Thanks for visiting!

If you like this post, you may be interested in my free motivational point cards:

Motivational Point Cards for Kids Free Printables from OneCreativeMommy.comJanuary Download | February Download | March Download | April Download

Want more great ideas? Check out the ideas below by clicking on the images. The images are linked to posts.

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The surprising secret to getting your family's attention -- INSTANTLY! The answer will shock you! {}

This printable Valentine's Day Bingo game is the cutest! I can't wait to play it with my kids. {} Class Party Set and Family Set




  1. Hi, everyone. For some reason, the commenting option was accidentally disabled on this post. Sorry if you tried to comment or link back to the post and were unable to. It’s all fixed now! I’m so excited that so many of you have pinned this post. I hope it’s helpful.

  2. What a good idea. I have been struggling with my five year old when it comes to keeping his room clean.

    I will be trying this method this week!

  3. Great pointers! I will add one thing, as a professional organizer, the biggest problem kids have with keeping a room clean is TOO MUCH STUFF! Moms, keep the room simple, just a few toys and books, skip the top sheet and just use a comforter, don’t overstuff the closet and drawers with clothes etc. Label everything so there is no question about where stuff goes (use pictures if they can’t read). Shelves with bins are better than a bottomless toy box.

  4. Love your clean up idea! Saw this on the Wow me Wednesday link party. We are featuring your printable on our blog tomorrow! Stop by if you have a chance : )

  5. Great idea. I divided ours into 5 things and we’d pick a number to count to for each catagory. Like: 15 peices of toys, laundry, shoes, books and trash. The older they are, the higher the number. But I do like this idea too.

  6. I like it! My daughter’s a little older now, so she’s gotten the hang of HOW. Though it can still be a battle to get her through it. But once she gets herself going, she does a bang up job. I did something similar and made her a list of what makes a clean room (bed made, floor clear, toys in tubs, clothes in drawers, drawers shut, etc.) I do agree, they’re not born knowing how & we forget that sometimes!

  7. Where are those bunk beds from? Love!

    • Amy, the bunk beds were floor models from a home show. We got them for a steal at a little shop in Las Vegas that sells off floor models. Before we bought the beds, I considered buying the Beatrice Twin Size Student Loft Bed from I can’t be positive, but I’m pretty sure that’s the bed we have (in blue). White would be better for my girls, but at least the blue doesn’t show dirt! (It looks slightly purple in most lighting.)

  8. This is really awesome! My kids are definitely line drivers, as am I. It’s great to simplify the steps. Thank you so much for this we will put this into practice TODAY!

  9. Haha I have just realized I am totally a line driver! Super pleased to have instructions so i can start teaching my three year old to clean his room (with me). Thanks for the link to the book you read also, think I will check it out :)

  10. Thanks! I just printed these and will start TODAY!

  11. Love these steps! I’ve tried so many things with my daughter that haven’t worked. We will see how this works. Thanks for the free printables!

  12. These are some great tips! I especially love the 5 minute sort! My older kids are great about cleaning up after themselves now, but it didn’t used to be this way! Lots of “making it a game” and “reward charts” and other simple things helped a lot!

    Thanks for linking this up to my Best of 2013 Link-Up. I can see how this was your top post of 2013! It’s great! :)

    • Thanks, Julie. I wish I could say that my kids were great at cleaning up after themselves, but we’re working on it! Baby steps, right?

      • Exactly! Some days my 3 year old is great about cleaning up, and other days, not so much…Same with my 9 and 11 year olds! If I think about it, I’m the same way. Some days I just can’t get motivated (though you’d think a clean house would be motive enough). Always a work in progress for everyone. Though, overall, my kids are great about cleaning up, we still struggle some days. I think that’s just life, ya know?

  13. This is perfect!! I am so excited to use this. Thanks Heidi!!

  14. Thank you so much Heidi for all of these wonderful tips!!! I’ve been struggling with teaching my son to clean his room on his own, and it actually being clean without me doing it all! It’s been very difficult..I’m a bit OCD, so I always do it myself. Thank you very much, I’m definitely going to give this a try!

  15. Oh holy cow…. I don’t know why… but it never occurred to me that my kiddo would be JUST as overwhelmed as I am when it comes to her room…. It all makes sense now, and I plan on making this a topic of conversation TONIGHT!!! So glad I found this post…. Thanks for sharing. I think I’ll be buying the book too….

  16. This is perfect. Thank you!

  17. Hey cous! I can’t believe I somehow missed this post from you! I love all the creative and helpful tips you give. I don’t post comments but I am on this. I WILL BE USING THIS LIST WITH MY BOYS!! Along with getting rid of a lot of our toys, this checklist will be a great help for Le and J. They have Legos and junk ALL OVER their room. Em loves a clean room and Lu and T don’t have anything but beds and dressers in their room so far. Le and J are road makers. They will put things wherever they can as long as it is off the floor and out of sight. It’s amazing where I have found things. Toothbrushes in underwear/sock drawers, dirty clothes in their pillows, bits of paper wrapped up and in the laundry bin, etc.

    I use the 5-minute Sort technique for every room I start to clean (only it takes me a LOT longer than 5 minutes!). I gather everything that belongs in a different room and put it in a container, then I clean and straighten that room. Then I go room to room with my container and put things away. My problem is right now, not everything in the container has a home but I don’t want to get rid of it yet. Suggestions? :(

    • Hi, Erin. It’s so fun to get comments from people I know! It sounds like you’ve got a great sort technique. It’s so easy to get distracted while cleaning a room. The baskets help a lot. A year ago, we took a lot of stuff out of the playroom and put it in boxes. Some were for a garage sale, and some were to keep for later. Now that we’re ready for the garage sale, we kind of think all of it can go to the garage sale. We discovered that the kids didn’t really “need” stuff as much as they thought!

  18. I don’t know about teaching my children to clean their rooms – I think I need to show this post to my husband!

  19. this isn’t going to help I’m 12 and in the 7th grade and we don’t want instructions we want something fun like playing basketball for example if u have a dirty clothes basket that will serve as the goal and the dirty cloths will serve as the ball and put the “goal” 2 or 3 meters far from your child and FIRE and for making the bed go out and buy them an stuffed toy or doll and tell your child that their stuffed toy or doll LOVES to sleep and help get their toy off to bed for a long sleep ahead of the it :) (if u have Gaggle, gaggle me and ill tell u moms more about the kid world and i would also love to hear some more totally cool ideas for hair ) Thanks!!!!!!!!

    • This is so fun Kelsea! My site had a glitch for awhile, and I stopped getting notifications of comments. I just saw this today. This post is really for helping little ones know how to start when their room is a huge mess. I love your ideas for older kids! Thanks!

  20. Love this post! I have 4 kiddos (almost 8, 6, almost 3, and 5 months). I love the printable and will print it and do this very very soon!! As of right now, no one shares a room, but I am looking to do that when the baby is a little older. Not sure who I’m bunking up yet though!

    • Thanks, Jaren. Sorry I missed this comment back in January. I hope this plan worked for you! (Good luck with the room sharing. My kids usually take turns wanting to be neat. One messes up the room, and the other gets frustrated that it’s a mess!)

  21. We use a similar system for our house. We just recently starting cleaning up their room every night and they each get a quarter when complete. To a 4 and 6 year old a quarter is enough. Hopefully that will last awhile. And when you do it every night, it doesn’t get that messy especially when they are at school for half the day.

    Our 5 minute sort is actually done by me. I make a pile for my son to put away and a pile for my daughter and then one for myself (they are too little to hang up laundry). This seems to work really well. We just need to work on them learning to fix their beds.

    Thanks for the post.


  22. Wow! wow wow wow. This post just changed my life! Thank you so much for taking the time to share this. I’ll be starting this skill out young. Hopefully by the time they are old enough they will be so familiar with the “sorting bins” that they will approach it with ease.

    Thanks again!


  23. This post is awesome! You have so many great ideas! Pinned & stumbled!

  24. Turning the process into a game is a great way to encourage kids to clean their room. If they actively enjoy doing it, they’re more likely to clean their room without being told. There are a lot of ways to do that, but this is my favorite:

    It’s a motivational tool that doubles as a craft you can do with your kids. It’s fun for both the child and the parent! :)

  25. Great article! Really interesting between ‘line drivers’ and ‘road makers’…I definitely have one of each, haha. Good tips on how to get them to clean up…we’re still figuring it out.

    To make clean up time more fun…I just created a pop-up children’s book on the subject:

    Love this blog! I’ll be back for more great advice!

  26. Hi sweets, I love your tips and have been using them for a couple years. I just tried to print the how to teach kids to clean their room, and also the January motivation sheet. Both come back with an error message. Are these items still available?

    • Hi, Katie. Thank you so much for letting me know about this! Apparently, it was a site-wide issue with my zipped files since changing something with my hosting a few weeks ago. Those files probably haven’t been working since the end of December. I’m so glad you told me! Everything should be fixed now. Please let me know if you still have problems. (I actually just updated this post, so it is no longer a zip file.)

  27. I like this post, it’s very informative ! Loved the pictures showing the step by step process. They have a lovely room :)

    Just wanted to add that I have a guide up on my website on how to make smaller children, toddlers specifically tidy their rooms. You can check it out here if you have a toddler

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