How to Get Kids to Pick Up Quickly and Enthusiastically

I asked my boys to tidy their room, which was a disaster, and, because they’re smart, capable, 9-year-old children who don’t need to have everything explained to them anymore in excruciating detail, I gave them two basic directions, as follows:

  1. When you are finished picking up your room, gentlemen, I should be able to both see and walk upon the floor.
  2. Your things should be organized in such a manner that you can easily find everything. I’m sure I don’t need to mention that you can certainly not find everything — including the shoes, jackets, books, homework folders, etc. that you cannot find ANY of the school mornings — if you shove it all underneath your bed or in the closet. Correct? I do not need to point this out? That there needs to be a better system? No? You get it? OK. OK, then, boys. Full speed ahead.

They finished in 10 minutes.

They have NEVER finished cleaning ANYTHING in 10 minutes, but there they were, tumbling down the stairs in holey socks with giant smiles, proclaiming completion.

I clarified.

Me: I can see AND walk on the floor?

Them: Yep!

Me: And not just a teeny, tiny sliver of the floor?

Them: Nope!

Me: And you have organized your belongings?

Them: Yep!

Me: ALL of your belongings or SOME of your belongings?

Them: ALL!

Me: And I will find how many items shoved under your bed?

Them: None!

Me: And you have completed this entire task in 10 minutes?

Them: Yep!

Me: And it’s SO complete that you feel good about me inspecting it?

Them: Yes!

Me: Now?

Them: Let’s go!

We trooped up the stairs for inspection, and I patted myself on the back on the way because friends — friends — if you give your children FREEDOM to complete tasks THEIR WAY, and you DO NOT INSIST ON YOUR OWN, they finish jobs QUICKLY and ENTHUSIASTICALLY, and it’s a MIRACLE. I should write a Parenting Book! I have finally figured it out!

Also, here is their system:


As they say, “A clear path for walking and all of our belongings at our fingertips!” There is nothing under the bed anymore, and, in fact, nothing left in the closet, either, because they pulled everything out of it. Everything. To create their New System of Organization.

I asked where they got such a terrible, terrible idea, and they said — I kid you not — “We learned it from watching you.”

In conclusion, bless their hearts. Bless their punky, butt-nuggetty hearts.

Keepin’ it real,





P.S. Their room still looks like that because they pointed out there’s WAY less vacuuming this way, and “it’s likely to smother all the bugs.” I’m having trouble arguing with their logic. Well played, boys; well played.


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12 responses to “How to Get Kids to Pick Up Quickly and Enthusiastically”

  1. I hate to burst the bubble on this organizational system, but clothes and things in piles make a garnished for bugs, lots of small dark books and crannies for them to hide in. It’s like building the bugs a little home right there in their room. Good luck convincing 9 year old boys, though.

  2. Brilliant. Obnoxious. Hilarious. Frustrating. Both/and! Well played indeed.

    You haven’t written in a little while and I am hoping you are okay. I read this, and I liked it, and I thought you might, too:

    “I’m still pulling myself out of whatever blear-hole I fell into this week. You fall down, you pick yourself up again. No matter how many times the darkness closes in around you, you stand up and beat it back with a f***ing stick. How long do you keep fighting?
    As long as it takes to get back to the light.” –Bryan Ward

    Waving in the dark, Momrade.

  3. “Disorganization is one form of organizing,” said my college prof who carried our writing assignments and essays rolled up like little scrolls standing upright in a cardboard box. Here’s hoping it works well for them!

  4. Your children think like lawyers. You’ll have to start issuing instructions in legal “boilerplate” and have them reviewed by an attorney.

  5. The Old Marine is appalled. Your father is sighing in resignation. The grandfather these boys call Papa is laughing his a** off.

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