The clean room challenge begins

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Our 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter are convinced they are the only children in the suburbs of Chicago who do not have their own iPods. I know I should probably feel like a horrible mother for subjecting them to such a terrible first world problem.
But despite their begging and pleading, we have told them they have to wait until they are 13 to get a phone or iPod. The ironic part is that our oldest son is one week away from his 13th birthday and he doesn’t even want an iPod or a phone. Not the younger two.
They are counting down the days until they officially become teenagers and dreaming of what wonderful technological advancements might be made before their 13th birthdays. They also scheme and plot and manipulate to try to find a loophole in the iPod rule.
So a few days ago, after being asked for the 425th time about how they might be able to get an iPod early, one of them hit me in my weakest spot. “What if I kept my room clean every day for the rest of the year?”
I feel like I have tried every system and strategy in the book for getting them to keep their rooms clean. Another irony is that the oldest one… the kid who will be 13 in one week… the one who doesn’t WANT an iPod, keeps his room perfectly clean every single day without ever being asked. Not the middle two.
Their rooms are always disaster areas. Even when they do get them clean, the organization only lasts about 24 hours before it’s a mess again.
When my daughter made this proposal, it was if she had said, “What if I sent you to Hawaii for two weeks?”
I thought about it for a while and then decided that #1, the chances of them keeping their rooms completely clean for the next two months is very slim. And #2, if they could do it, I actually think it would be worth an iPod!
So, I made some conditions for the challenge. First, the iPod would be their one and only Christmas gift. Second, they would have to meet my standard of what a clean room would look like.
I have spent the past week getting their rooms to “Ground Zero” level. I wanted to set them up for success. The more I have thought about this, the more I really do want them to succeed! I mean imagine how terrible they will feel on Christmas morning if one makes it and the other one does not.
Plus, just the thought of seeing their rooms clean every single day makes me incredibly happy!
I did a major overhaul of their rooms a couple of years ago (here and here), but things have slowly starting falling into disarray. This week, I have been labeling and sorting to get all of their stuff to a place it was easy to put away.
Here are a few of my organization projects:
In my son’s room, I basically just needed to add some labels to his bins and the boxes at the top of his closet. We purged some of his clothing and organized what was left in the closet.
My daughter’s room was more of a challenge. She shares her room with her 3-year-old sister, so they have possessions ranging from baby dolls to fashion accessories. I labeled all of their toy and clothing storage earlier this year, and that has been working well when they do pick up their room.
But the closet still needed major work. One of the biggest problems was the huge bin of costumes and ballet outfits at the top of the closet. We organized the contents, folding each costume neatly and placing it in a large ziplock bag. Then we divided them into two boxes at the top of the closet. The third box holds craft projects.
I also bought them a storage unit for their shoes and added some bins for scarves, bags and sweaters.
And of course, I made them both a checklist. You know how I LOVE a checklist! It lists every single thing they need to do each day, plus some weekly cleaning chores, like vacuuming, dusting and taking out the garbage.
The clean room challenge begins tomorrow. They have to keep their rooms in tip-top shape for eight weeks! Do you think they can do it?
So tell me… How do your kids handle keeping their rooms clean? Do you have any systems that work? Or is it a constant struggle?


  1. I just started a similar challenge for my boys (11, 7, and 3). I fill a jar with 30-31 quarters at the beginning of the month and take one out each night if their room is a mess…at the end of the month, whatever is still in their jar is theirs. (Idea LOOSELY based on Kay Wyma’s book :”Cleaning House”.) So far it is working! This way, there is no fight or drama…they just see their $$ slipping away!
    Shh! Don’t tell my kids that your kids worked an IPOD deal! 🙂

    1. I LOVE that idea, Christi! We are definitely going to do something like that after the two month challenge. To be honest, I was about to cave on the iPods anyway. They have never had a DS or any other type of portable electronic device. 🙂

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