De-Clutter: Tip 103 Keep the Jungle OUT

"See anything to pick up on your side?"

In an ideal world, children pick up their stuff and parents come home to a crispy clean, welcoming living room. Many of us, though, live in the jungle. Take courage; there are ways to tame it.

Think Carrot and Stick
Why do kids leave clutter around? Ultimately because mom and dad allow it! We might scream, rant, and rave (think baboons), but the invasive clutter bothers the parents more than the kids. Children may even like being the center of parental attention—even if it’s negative. The key to the solution is to transfer the “pain” and the “gain” from the adults to the children.

Be inspired by a “reality discipline” example: If an employee regularly misplaces her sales materials, she’ll likely miss the sale, the raise, and the promotion. That’s pain. When she’s on time with her stellar presentations and the sales roll in (!!!); she’s compensated. Ok, it’s simplified but still sweet!

Carrot First
How often do you reward with thanks, hugs, or recognition when a child puts his schoolbag into his room instead of sprawling it by the front door? Try to do it more often. This simple thanking act changed me. And I knew it impacted my kids when they replied, “Thank you for saying ‘thank you.’”

The Stick = The Buy Back Bin
We call our stick the Buy Back Bin (a.k.a. Mess Eating Monster in some homes). It’s a container where Mom and Dad may store items that are obviously out of place. Action Man read Sophie's favorite book in the living room for three days straight? Through their negligence, the kids chose to have their items temporarily housed in the Buy Back Bin. 

We keep the Buy Back Bin in the parent's closet so that the children have to make a conscios gesture to retrieve their stray stuff.  They buy back their items  with eithermoney* or time. Set a fixed amount for each item in the bin: 25 cents or a 5 minute chore. As our kids grew older, the rate increased. To make sure the bin got emptied, all debts needed to be paid before the children received their allowance.

(*We give allowance to train in wise money management. When a 5 year old spends his few coins on house cleaning services, he learns at a young age that there is less money for fun.)

Some families give a warning, “The Mess Monster is hungry!” or “Look at all those dandelions that need weeding. How can I get that job done? (wink).” Others establish zones, “After dinner, all the toys are out of the living room…unless you want me to find a temporary home for them (big eyes)!”

Either way, snuggle up with your partner and enjoy the adult-friendly space.

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