HELP! I’m Up To My Eyeballs in Clutter!

When my seven and five year olds were in school most of the day, it was a lot easier to keep the stuff in check. We only had about 4-5 hours of destruction time after school. Contrary to popular belief, a two-year-old does not necessarily create a more destructive wake than a five-year-old.

I know it’s not backwards day, but I really need some help! I want the girls to be able to get their toys when they want to play with them. The only problem is: they never want to put them back! It takes at least 30 minutes to get Princess to put he stuff away when she’s done with them, and that’s only if I’m right behind her, um… encouraging… her.

I never want to be one of those moms who dread summer vacation, but it’s getting to the point that I don’t want to try to clean the house, because I will turn around, and a tornado will have hit!

1. How can I motivate them to clean up after themselves? (especially the five-year-old)
2. Is it just a fact of 2-7 year-old life that a wake of clutter will follow them wherever they go? Should I just suck it up for a while?
3. Am I being too whiny, and sounding more like my kids than their mother?

Please help! This is NOT working for me!


About Sarah Pinnix

I'm a mom, blogger, vlogger, libertarian. I love Jesus, and my husband, too. Social Media Strategist for a Non-Profit (All statements here are solely my own)


  1. My kids are much younger, but the Flylady ( probably has some tips on this. I’m recalling a House Fairy that brings little treats to kids. I think the key would be breaking it up into manageable tasks that don’t seem overwhelming for the kids, maybe doing a 2 minute clean-up each hour. ??? Good luck!


  2. I have told my 6 year old that when she’s cleaning up, anything left out becomes mine and I take it and put it away somewhere where she won’t have access to it. I never actually had to take anything and put it away because she was so terrified that I would do it, she always got everything picked up.


  3. When I saw your post the “Toy Library” came to mind. I don’t know if this works as my little one is only 1yo but here is the link:

    I remember thinking it was an interesting idea, but wondered if it would work. But you may find more ideas here too.


  4. Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates says:

    My son just has open shallow bins that slide under his bed that he can throw toys back into. I do have to remind him daily to run around, collect all the little things and put them back into his room.

    What if you set a timer sometime after dinner and make it a game to see who can collect all their things and put away the fastest?


  5. ttelroc says:

    I don’t have children, but I have an adult that leaves a wake of clutter… Oh, that’s me!!

    I set a timer. 15 minutes for me. Probably 2-5 minutes for your kids. Make it a game if you can.

    I saw the laundry room post – AWESOME job on that one.

    Have a great day!


  6. Hi! Just wanted to second what everyone else said.

    I’ve found a timer works great with some kind of reward at the end.

    I’ve not tried it yet, but I have heard that works well.

    FlyLady sends out a Riley challenge everyday for kids.

    The best advice I’ve heard is to get rid of a lot of the toys, or put half away for a while. They probably want to be with you and use your stuff anyways. LOL.


  7. My kids are now 9 and almost 7 and when they were that young we had those 3 level bins from Target with all their things in each. My OCD son used to get mad if I help him clean up and put the wrong toy in the wrong bin! (he got it honest).

    I have learned that by taking things away, puts some validity to your requests! 🙂


  8. Coma Girl says:

    I don’t know if this works for younger children (especially the 2 year old), but with my teenage step-sons I use the line “put it away, or I will sell it on ebay”.

    The only problem is when it is stuff they don’t care about…


  9. Sarah Mae says:

    I’m with you! I guess it comes down to obedience – you have to train them to obey you, even if it’s in cleaning. Just be realistic in what you expect of them.



  10. Sab Mad says:

    I do the timer thing and when, not if, it’s a big mess then I break the room into quadrants and set a timer for each with a break in between.

    I with you sister – the whole having your kids clean is so hard and I find myself turning into a ‘mom’ster way more often than I want to admit!


  11. Flylady does recommend the House Fairy I think starting at age 2…my little guy is 21 mo, so I’m looking forward to getting started with it shortly. The premise (as I remember) is that the House Fairy is Santa’s sister and instead of you being the bad guy/boss/etc, they are working to please the House Fairy. She has a whole system set up where you leave them notes, occassionally little treats, but essentially use their imaginations to help motivate them. I love the idea of sprinkling a little magic into everyday chores! 🙂 Best wishes!


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