“But Mom, I’ve been cleaning my room this whole time!”

I looked around my 10 year old daughter’s bedroom.  After spending an hour supposedly cleaning, there were still hundreds of small objects covering every surface.  I could feel the same old anger brewing inside of me, but I knew exactly where that would lead.  There would be a solid battle line drawn between mother and daughter fighting for control over her room.

Nobody wins that battle.

Taking a deep breath, I forced myself to try something different.  I sat next to her and asked her why it was difficult for her to clean her room.  I already knew the answer, but I let her say it out loud from her point of view.

“I don’t know where I’m supposed to put all this stuff.”

“All your storage bins are full already, aren’t they?”


“When I tell you to clean your room, it feels impossible?”

I’ll never forget the relief in her eyes as she cried, “Yes!”

I gave her a hug and apologized.  To be clear, I did not apologize for asking her to clean her room.  Keeping your stuff tidy is an essential life skill and I was not about to let her duck that responsibility.  Rather, I apologized for the fact that the job was too hard.

At that moment, I felt the battle line dissolve.

I was no longer the enemy; the enemy was the mountain of stuff.  We were on the same team facing that mountain side by side.  From that position, I was free to offer a solution without domination, and she was free to accept it without admitting defeat.

Here was our solution

As she cleaned her room, whenever she came across an item that she didn’t have a spot for, she would place it in “Deal With It Later” bin. When she was done, the big bin was full to the top, and her room looked reasonably tidy. 

I gave her a huge hug and we celebrated the victory!

What did we do with the bin?  I stashed it in the guest bedroom and told her we’d deal with it next month.

A few days later, her room was messy again, and I sent her upstairs to clean it as usual.  Half an hour later, her room was lovely!  She was actually smiling!  She told me how much easier it was to clean her room.  She even commented that she hopes she doesn’t get too much stuff for her birthday.  Music to my ears!

This all happened about a month ago, and that “Deal With It Later” bin is still stashed in the guest room.  Eventually, we will move on to the decluttering and downsizing phase.

In the meantime, my daughter is enjoying the freedom of owning less, and we are both winning the clean-room battle!


Would you like more ideas for how to make cleaning easier? Check out these resources!

Guide to a Smooth School Year

Do you have school-aged children at home? The Guide to a Smooth School Year helps you anticipate the most common trouble-spots in a typical school year, and gives you tools and strategies to smooth out the road ahead.

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​Practical strategies for getting your family to pitch in more, including the kids!

Click below to learn more!


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