“OK, Mum, my room is clean!”
You know before you even see the finished product that your child’s room is most definitely not clean. And, sure enough, when you poke your head in the door, you see the same thing you always see after they’ve supposedly cleaned their room: A big clear spot in the center of the floor and a perimeter littered with random debris consisting of Legos, random scraps of paper, crayons, socks and plenty of other unidentifiable detritus.
You can also see, if you bend down, that the spaces under their bed, dresser and desk are in a similar state of disarray.
Can they not see it?
Oh yes, they can definitely see it because they are the ones who put it there. The problem is, this scattered mess is overwhelming for them even to look at, and they don’t have the slightest idea where to start with it. But I have a trick to help your kid clean their room — really clean their room — including the neglected perimeter and under furniture.
Although it can be intimidating at first, the Mountain Method is the most effective method I’ve come up with to get my kids to independently clean their rooms.
Create a pile
We begin the cleaning process by first scraping out all the clutter and debris away from the walls and out from under beds, dressers and desks, and pile all of that into a “mountain” right in the center of the room.
It doesn’t matter how mismatched and mixed up the toys in this pile are—the point here is to get everything in a single location. What I found with my kids is that they simply could not wrap their heads around the many messes scattered all over the room. It was just too much, too overwhelming. Scraping everything into a “mountain” gave them a place to start and one single mess to deal with.
Next, it’s time to sort. We set a trash bag nearby, as well as a donate bin. These are important—if your child can’t find a place for any particular item, the next option is to either donate or discard. Of course, you’ll want to make sure they do actually have a place to put their things (we use plastic bins for everything from Legos to doll clothes) so they don’t just give up and trash everything. In the beginning, I did have to help my kids make the choice between put away, give away or throw away, but they’ve got that down pretty well now.
The mountain method also works great for cluttered dresser tops and desktops. For example, take everything off a dresser’s surface and set it right in the middle of the floor. Wipe the dresser down and then have your child replace only what they actually want displayed on the dresser. Any items left over are put away, given away or thrown away.
When we first started using the mountain method, my kids both whined and put up a fight—that mountain looked like so much work!—but afterward, they both admitted that it sped up the cleaning process and got the room much cleaner than when they used to aimlessly pick at it for hours on end. Not to mention, watching that pile shrink and ending with a truly clean room is incredibly satisfying.