Is anyone else COMPLETELY fed up with spending their trying to get kids to tidy up after themselves? 

It feels like a never ending cycle of mess – nagging – shouting – negotiating – threatening – tidying again and again and. We’ve never quite worked out why some people’s houses are constantly immaculate (how exactly do they do this? We suspect they stay up all night or employ secret cleaners) whilst our houses our overloaded with stuff.

Not only is all this stuff driving us demented but we know that teaching them to keep their stuff in order is an important life skill. So how do we do it?

We are at our wits end so we have called in Miss Manners , our resident parenting expert, to give us some top tips on how to impose some semblance of order on the seismic cycle of picking shit up.


Miss Manners thinks that kids who feel their space is their own prefer to keep it in order. So give them a room, a shelf or a corner they can call their own. Let them choose their ‘tidy’ boxes and label them up and they will be more likely to put the Lego in the Legobox, the art in the art box etc


When we say (or shout) ” TIDY YOUR ROOM” and “PICK UP YOUR  ****** TOYS” , we know that we mean. We mean pick up all the crap that is littering the floor and put it away so that we don’t have to look at it.  We don’t mean, pick it up and throw it under the cupboard or stuff it in an already overflowing drawer. However, apparently we need to be clearer.  We need to define EXACTLY what we mean. So if we make a check list, they can see what they need to do AND feel like they have achieved. Result!

It might look something like this…..

  • Make Bed
  • Open Curtains
  • Place dirty clothes in basket
  • Hang up other clothes
  • Put books on bookshelf
  • Pick up toys from floor and put them in their boxes


So Tidy is as Tidy does. If we have a tidy home then children are more likely to keep it tidy. (we’re not convinced by this one but get the general idea). We used to have a tidy home – before we had kids.


You heard her. Miss Manner’s top tip is DON”T BUY MORE STUFF. Keep the level of toys, clothes and general kid paraphernalia down. Bin the party bags, penny toys and pieces that don’t fit anywhere. IF IN DOUBT, CHUCK IT OUT!

In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game
And every task you undertake
Becomes a piece of cake
A lark! A spree! It’s very clear to see that
A Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down-wown
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way..ay.ay..


This makes total sense. They get a new Beanie Boo, then another soft toy has to hit the charity box. New books – then donate the old ones to school. We did wonder if we could do one in and two out? This not only keeps them from being overwhelmed but it also teaches them to feel good about donating to others in need.


A few times a year (or more if you have the time obviously) then organise a sorting day and literally go through everything. Anything that is broken, neglected, has been grown out of, is worn out can be recycled, donated or thrown away.


Bad news. It seems that we HAVE been doing it wrong. Miss Manners says armchair supervision just doesn’t work. Apparently we need to join in the tidying so eating chocolate cake whilst watching Homes under the Hammer is out. Damn it. 

Actually, Miss manners points out that tidying can double up as bonding time. Switch on the music and boogie too it or make it fun (remember Mary Poppins – she had the right idea!).


Teach kids the consequences of leaving toys everywhere. Give a warning, then if things aren’t tidied away then pick up everything in a ‘bin bag’ and collect and keep anything you find on the floor. If they don’t miss what you have taken then it is definitely time to visit the charity shop! Or you can walk in with the vacuum cleaner and announce that everything still on the floor in 3minutes will be sucked into the hoover from hell. We have it on good authority that this totally works and you may even get the morbid satisfaction of swallowing up a few Sylvannian family tat or overpriced lego to reiterate your point.


This is simple but most effective with older kids. Whatever their ‘thing‘ whether TV, screen time, gaming, reading etc – they only get access to it when the chores are complete. Technology is an easy one as you can change the wifi-password. It only takes confiscating an iPod or a phone before a kid gets the point.


Once the kids are teenagers and you know they know how to clean a room, it’s time to back off. Teenagers need their privacy and their room is their kingdom. This is the time to relinquish control, shut the door and ignore the piles of clothes and debris. Eventually, the mess might get so great that they will actually be forced to clean up to find something they want. They may even ask for your help…

Finally, Miss Manners advises, have faith in them. If you taught them well they may emerge from slovenly teens into house proud adults just as soon as they have a place of their own…