How many times a day do we say that to our kids? Put that away…clean that up…pick up your room….
But what if they don’t know where to put it? What if they know where to put it, but they can’t fit it in because there’s too much other stuff? What if an item just doesn’t have a home–especially new items, birthday gifts and such? If we require them to do their part in keeping a clean house, we need to be setting an example in love and helping them be able to keep a clean house.
We’re so inundated with stuff that I think the first step is to pare down. (See my previous “sock post” for a good example of what happens when you don’t!) Go through the game cabinet or shelf with your kids; find out their favorites that should stay there, their not-so-favorites that maybe could go in a more out-of-the-way spot, and the ones they don’t care about that can just go. (Maybe they’ll have so many they don’t care about that you could keep all the games in one cabinet–that would be my goal.) We weed through our books on a regualar basis; I spread them out all over the floor and have the kids pick out their favorites, the ones they absolutely want to keep. Pick your five favorites….pick three more you’d like….pick three more you think you want to keep. We work through until we have a stash they are willing to give away. (It helps that we take them to a used book store, so the more they give away, the more cash they’re getting in return.) I’ve been known to spread out all my sons Hot Wheels in a giant parking lot before asking him to pass some on; I think seeing the sheer amount of cars, all lined up, helps emphasize to him that wow, there really are a lot of cars there.
I also think it’s important to go alongside your kids for awhile; show them what you mean by “pick up” and “put away.” Set an example in what you do, and help them (for a time) in what they do. It takes some time now, but eventually they’ll get it. [An aside: As I type this, my daughter just informed her friend, “Wait! I’m not done putting this game away yet!” Clearly they can be taught. 🙂 ]
Finally, and I think most important, is that everything needs to have a home. No one can put something “away” if it doesn’t have a place to be put away. This can be as simple as “my favorite teddy bear and blanket live on my bed,” or it can be shelves and tubs arranged to hold all their goods. We have a shelf for kids’ books in our living room, but each child also has a bookshelf in their room; there’s really no excuse for books to not be put away in this house. If every item has a place where it belongs, it’s so much easier for everyone in the house; not just the kids.
Keep in mind: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)