I would like to request some advice or suggestions. How can I teach Blaine to keep his room clean? He doesn't seem to mind the clutter at all. He's perfectly content with toys and crayons and legos and stuffed animals all over the floor. When I ask him (more like demand) that he clean up his room, everything gets thrown in the closet or in drawers...just out of sight, but not actually put away where they belong. First question: Is he too young (seven next month) to comprehend neatness and taking care of his things? Here's what we've tried: a) eliminating seldom used items...old toys and old books. b) I bought organizing tubs and stackable drawers for craft/school supplies, action figures, and legos. A few of these work, but not all the time. I've even tried to approach small tasks each night to eventually reach a clean room by the end of the week.
A little background info: he is an only child and an only grand child on his dad's side...he has a lot of stuff. I have convinced the family to buy less at holidays and birthdays and come up with more creative gifts such as gift cards to the movies and book stores and since his dad and I are divorced, some of his "stuff" stays at his dad's now. What a run-on. And I feel like you should know...I am sort of a neat freak. Some might even say a little OCD. Everything else in the house has it's place and it gets put back when not in use. I won't go into a lot of detail, but I don't want this to spill over to Blaine. It's not a bad thing, it's just the way I am. However, am I expecting too much of Blaine because of my obsession? ;-) Some things about parenting come so naturally, yet others stump the heck out of me.
Second question: Is it really that big of a deal yet? I don't want him to feel like it's boot camp at home. Because, let me tell ya, he gets away with everything at his dad's. But I can't really blame Aaron, he only gets him four days a month. So, by no one's fault - Dad's has become the fun place and Mom's has become the place where there are rules. Now that I've written a book...do you have any suggestions? Please speak bluntly or openly...I wouldn't be asking if I didn't want the truth! Maybe it's as simple as - it's a boy thing.
If I were in your shoes, I would totally send all the toys with small parts to Dad's, but I'm hostile like that. Hahaha...
Ok, seriously... I think the belief that "it's a boy thing" is the reason why so many of us (not me of course, but a lot of my friends...) have husbands who refuse to help around the house, so we're not going to buy that excuse around here. Someday your future-daughter-in-law will thank you if you teach your little guy good habits now! It's never to early to start, but you have to have realistic expectations. It's going to be a while before you can say, "Go clean your room!" and have him do it to your standards. It'll be even longer before you don't have to remind him. My mom will tell you that I was about 29 when I was "old enough" to do that. ;)
And, boy howdy, do I know what you mean about grandparents. We keep almost all the toys in the toy room (because we have a 2 story house, and I don't want MG playing upstairs on her own just yet), and people come in and say, "Holy God, look at all the toys!" (or, more often, "Too bad your kids are so deprived," sarcastically...). I can count on one hand, though, the number of toys that we have purchased for our kids - the rest are gifts and hand me downs. My girls have 3 living great-grandmothers, 4 grandmothers, and 3 grandfathers, plus a full compliment of aunts and uncles. They are sPoiled, with a capital P, that rhymes with T, that stands for toys!
So, what to do? Well, I think you're on the right track with having lots of tools (bins, etc.) available for him to put things into. After all, how could you clean your kitchen if you didn't have any cabinets... It's only fair to give him "cabinets" (in the form of drawers and bins) for his stuff. Do you see the bins in our toy room, with all the bright colors? I got that thing on sale at Toys R Them for $25, and I wish I'd gotten all three of them. It is FABULOUS. They sell them at Amazon, too, but they're a little pricier. Still, totally worth it, because MG can put things in there herself, without any help from me (not that she does, but we're working on it). No lids to get in the way, and things look neat. Bonus - the toys are visible, so they get used more often. Things in bins with lids tend to be forgotten.
I think the key is to break the task up into small chunks. "Hey, Blaine. Can you go pick up your Legos?" is a much easier request to comply with than, "Hey, go clean your room!" And the more specific you are, the better. "Blaine, can you put all the Legos in this bin?" is even easier than, "Pick up the Legos." Make it easy for him to succeed.
Another way to make it easier for him, and more fun (for him), is to do it with him. However, if you say, "Let's go clean up the Legos!" you know that you're going to end up doing all the work while he sits there and watches you. So make it a contest... "Blaine, do you think you can clean up the Legos faster than I can clean up the crayons?" Keep doing that until he loses interest.
A lot of parents I know have had success with setting a timer. The goal being to clean for 5 minutes (you'd be amazed at how much you can do in 5 minutes - I do this with the house all the time, and I swear I can unload and load the dishwasher in 4 minutes. I can take a shower in 3 and a half...). If you did 5 minutes before dinner, and 5 minutes before bed every night, I'll bet it would stay cleaner (especially if you clean his room today, then start doing this tomorrow).
And of course, you want to reward good behavior. Rewards don't have to be big. But if you walk by, and you know he's been playing in his room for an hour, and it's still clean, saying, "Wow, your room looks great! Let's go get an ice cream cone!!" will go a long way toward making him want to keep it that way on his own. Heck, if BJ bought me ice cream cones for doing laundry, I'd do it more often (and I'd weigh 10,000 pounds).
His room may not stay "clean," but it should stay "cleaner" with these hints. If it's really driving you insane, you might try The House Fairy. While I don't have any experience with this program, specifically, it was created by the same people who did Flylady and Saving Dinner. I've used both of those with great success.
Readers - leave further suggestions in the comments!
If you have a question for me, write to Dear Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org... The people in my life who have been the unwilling recipients of years of advice are more than happy for me to get it out of my system with willing recipients!