The Messy Bedroom Battles: How to Get Your Child to Clean Their Room

Want to know how to get your child to clean their room–finally? Here are the best tips we’ve learned through the years.

If you have more than one child, chances are you have at least one who inherits the messy bedroom gene.

For many, it’s our free-spirited, creative, head-in-the-clouds child who could really care less about being neat, organized and orderly.

For others, their kid may be responsible in many aspects but their bedroom is their sanctuary which happens to resemble a war zone!

In my house, not naming names, but one of my middle children (ok, it’s the 9-year-old) totally fits this description.

Vertical graphic with girl sitting on her bed with notebooks and text "How to end the messy bedroom battle once and for all!"

She’s very bright, energetic, optimistic and is always in the middle of a big, messy project which she never feels inclined to clean up!

Her shoes, socks, coat and backpack are dropped like a breadcrumb trail from the back door all the way to the couch every afternoon.

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And I’m always afraid to enter her room because I don’t know WHAT exactly I’ll walk into – or step on.

Are some kids hardwired to be messy?

If you can relate to any of the above, first of all, just know:

For some people, middle child or not, an orderly space just doesn’t get their motor running, so to speak.

It’s just not in their genetic code.

According to research, middle children feel less pressure to conform and they can be crafty negotiators as well.

So what does this mean if you have a messy middle?

It might mean that they simply don’t care if their room is clean.

They don’t feel a need to compete with naturally organized siblings.

And they will work really hard to convince you to see their perspective —

–OR, they will attempt to stall until they see the cartoon smoke billowing from your ears.

Little girl holding hands up in "I don't know" gesture.

The Messy Gene?

And this endless cycle might make you wonder, should I even make my child clean her messy bedroom?  Is it worth the hassle?

To which I would answer, yes and yes!

I don’t expect perfection with my kids’ rooms, but learning to clean up after yourself is simply a life skill everyone must learn.

Your child’s future college roommate, spouse or co-worker will thank you for this someday!

Related posts:

Sibling Rivalry and a Biblical Response

• How to Keep a Clean House – Realistically, with Kids

Tips: How to Get Your Child to Clean Their Room

Because some children are not internally motivated to clean just for the sake of cleaning, here’s the thing:

You’re going to have to find what WILL motivate them if you don’t want to lose your mind arguing with them.

So what DO we do, other than just let the creativity flow and step through the bedroom landmines with extra caution?

Fortunately, I think there are specific ways we can help our child tackle a messy bedroom.

Two kids cleaning up a bedroom and putting laundry into a hamper.

Make Tidiness Possible.

And, who knows, maybe even enjoy the satisfaction of a clean space, if not the work itself.

Here are some ideas that have helped our messy child to see the value of a clean space – or at least get motivated to participate in the work:

1. Be Specific

Just barking, “Go clean your room!” sounds pretty straightforward to us as adults.

But to some kids, you might as well say, “Go write a dissertation!” as you watch their bewildered response.

Yeah, my tween is old enough to know what a clean room should look like.

But she is FAR more motivated when I help her break it down into smaller tasks.

A big mess is simply overwhelming to an already disorganized personality.

The younger the child, the more specific and involved you need to be in this process.

Trust me, it gets easier over time, but they do NEED a certain amount of your help to learn how to clean well.

Little girl holding a wooden bin of blocks.

Specific tasks, one at a time.

When her room is particularly bad, knowing her non-orderly nature, I’ll quickly assess what needs to be done in my daughter’s messy room.

Then, I’ll start her on just 1 or 2 small tasks.

It also helps her if I write down those smaller tasks in a list so she can check them off as she goes.

2. Ask for their input.

What makes cleaning more fun?  Ask your child this question.

For both of my older girls, it’s music!

I asked this the other day and it was a no-brainer that playing music while cleaning makes the process more enjoyable.

When assigning chores, I am also learning to ask them if there’s something they would like to change about their room to make cleaning it an easier task.

A simple toy net worked wonders in my middle daughter’s room.

She loves to see her collection of stuffed animals and a step stool in the corner allows her to access it and then toss the toys back into it when it’s cleanup time.

Little girl holding stuffed rabbit in her room.

Make cleaning fun!

From listening to my middle child’s feedback, I also decided on a compromise:

I allow her to leave one small area in the room that might look a little “messy” to me. This might be a project she’s currently working on like a Lego house in the works or a stuffed animal village that’s set up strategically.

As long as it’s not sprawling over the whole room for days on end, a little organized “mess” with a creative purpose is fine by me.

You’ll have to decide where to draw the line here, but I think a little compromise goes a long way.

It helps to give your child a sense of control and it shows that you respect the things that they value.

Related article:  Raising Kids to Become Respectful Adults

3. Declutter FREQUENTLY.

If you have a child with a chronically messy bedroom, they may also be little hoarders who collect lots and lots of things.

In order to help the cleaning process along, I’ll bring in an empty box (it doesn’t have to be large) and ask her to fill that box while she’s cleaning with the things she doesn’t use or need anymore.

This is not always easy for her (read: Never). But we do it so frequently that it’s become sort of a game.

The obvious benefit is that it makes the room easier to clean the next time.

Cardboard box of toys ready to donate.

Out with the Excess.

We have a great “stuff giveaway” that’s ongoing at our church and it helps her to know that someone else will enjoy her beloved items.

(Because that would be ALL of them!)

You might be surprised that having LESS storage boxes, totes, and containers in your child’s room makes it easier to clean – IF you make a giveaway box a part of the routine.

Having less stuff in general is honestly the best tip for how to get your child to clean their room.

One particular storage bin that I do suggest, though, is this type because it’s large yet lightweight and easy for kids to drag around during cleanup.

Related Content:  5 Suggestions for the Mom Who’s Struggling to Get Stuff Done

4. Give an incentive

Hear me out:  I am NOT talking about paying your child to clean their messy room.

If you do have a paid chore system that works, though, more power to you!

My philosophy is that there are certain chores that are expected to be done by each member of the family.

You do it because you’re a part of the family and we all have to contribute.

I occasionally pay for EXTRA chores that go above & beyond the regular chores, however.

This would be something a little above their skill level. Basically, one of my own regular chores that would benefit the whole family and save me time as well.

This allows them the chance to learn to save for things they want and manage what they earn.

However…back on topic. The kind of incentive I’m really talking about here is some type of family activity.

Family playing a board game.

Incentivize togetherness

I’ll usually say something like, “Hey, let’s quickly get this area clean and then we’ll have time to play a board game!”

In general, the more positive you can be about their chores – and YOUR OWN – will make it feel less like a chore in the first place.

5. Set a time frame, make it a habit

Lastly, once you’ve gotten your child into the practice of tidying up (hopefully!), make it a daily habit.

You can work it into the bedtime routine.

For instance: take shower, brush teeth, straighten up the room. Then Bible reading until mom comes down to tuck you in.

Another checklist might help here, at least for a while.

If you haven’t been consistent in the past with making your kids clean up after themselves, this process will take a while to catch on.

Again, you WILL be more involved in the beginning but less so as the habit becomes the norm.

I’ve also found it helpful to ask them how they feel after their room is clean.

I’ll point out the positives of a clean space:  Don’t you like having more room to play?

Isn’t it nice you can find everything you need? And how nice that the toys aren’t getting broken underfoot.

With the right motivation and practice, even the messiest middle child -or any child for that matter- can get on board and learn to clean their room.

And maybe, eventually, they’ll even enjoy it just a smidge.  😉

graphic with image of Girl with arms crossed, smiling with text overlay "How to motivate your child to clean their bedroom"

You might also like:

How to encourage kids to cooperate

Understanding your daughter’s emotions (instead of running away)

Why discipline still matters

Teaching Patience to an On-Demand Generation – and What’s at Stake if we Fail

Image of mom standing in doorway of child's messy bedroom with text: how to motivate your messy child to clean up!

4 thoughts on “The Messy Bedroom Battles: How to Get Your Child to Clean Their Room”

  1. Michelle Fehrenbach

    Love these tips! Both my oldest girls are messy, but my middle is especially unmotivated, haha. She’s four, so I have to be a little more hands-on with her, but this info will definitely help! Thanks for posting!

  2. Thank you, For new creative ways! I need to share: When my daughter was 5, I asked her why her room looked the way it did (I, too, was afraid to open the door all the way!) And her immediate answer was “shshsh… It’s my boobies traps mommy!” Me, Trying very hard not to die laughing, slowly backed away from the door and motioned her to come quickly! Once out of the room, I sat on the floor and profusely thanked her for saving me! Glaring at her bedroom door she asked me (in a rather small voice) “from what, mommy?” “All those boobies traps Lilli, I know those things aren’t adult proof!” It took a couple of seconds to register I was being silly, but she soon understood that her “cupboard monster boobie traps” where just as dangerous for humans! Every now and again i can remind her that her room is not “adult proof” and I’m not coming in till it is! (Sometime I get a path cleared for me!!!)

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