Before we know it, Santa Claus will be coming to town. That “big old pack upon his back” will be unloaded into our homes. It sends a shiver down the spine, doesn’t it?
Before the holidays are in full swing, now is a great time to pare down and purge our homes of items our families are no longer enjoying, using, or fitting into. No need to go it alone, though. Involve the kids!
Even young children can take part in making decisions about their personal belongings, taking responsibility for their spaces, and thinking of other people who may benefit from donated items. In the season of Thanksgiving, a good tidy-up carries with it many apropos lessons that can benefit our children.
Of course, many children may not jump for joy at the idea of cleaning up, even if Santa is watching. Here are seven ways you can encourage your children to roll up their sleeves and get ready for that “jolly old elf.”
Start With a Clean Slate
First of all, make sure your home is tidy. Trying to tackle a messy space for purging is too overwhelming for even an adult, much less a child. Get everything back to square one before you enlist the help of your pint-sized cleaning crew.
Find a Charity or Local People in Need
Setting aside items to donate to others in need gives your work a more meaningful purpose. There are many charitable organizations who would love to receive items that are still in good condition this time of year. Talk to your children about where you’ll be sending your donation and how it will benefit others.
Sell, Donate, Toss
Set up receptacles for discarded items. Utilize cardboard boxes, shopping bags, or other spacious containers and label them: “Sell,” “Donate,” and “Toss.”
Simply having these prominently displayed in your home will invite family members to start filling them up. When the work is in high gear, there will be no question as to where the discarded items should go.
To further reduce the overwhelming nature of the task at hand, break it down into bite-sized pieces. The younger your children are, the smaller the pieces should be.
Very young children may not be ready to go through many items at a time, but you can ask them if they would like to pick out three stuffed animals to donate, or two puzzles they no longer play with. Little by little, encourage them to tackle very specific tasks and acknowledge their effort when they do.
Older children can handle more complex tasks, but still keep the possibility of becoming overwhelmed in mind. Perhaps they could go through their desk drawer, or all of their T-shirts, or their books. “Clean out your room” could send even your spouse running for the hills.
Move to the Music
Pipe in the tunes that will motivate your little ones to get to work. If you’re focusing on holiday prep, perhaps it’s not too early to play your favorite holiday tunes. A high-energy classical playlist or scores from their favorite movies may also work well. Make it fun and dance around while you work. The kids will almost forget that they’re cleaning!
When in doubt: bribery. (Just kidding.) However, a little basket of holiday-themed rewards to celebrate each cleaning win, like a freshly organized drawer or a clean closet, can make the task more fun and motivating. So as to not add back to the clutter, though, make sure your prizes are either consumable or truly things that will be used, enjoyed, and—most importantly—put away.
Clean With Them
When everyone’s got their sleeves rolled up and is pitching in, it feels like teamwork. Don’t simply instruct your children on how to clean and then go off and work on dinner. Get in there and work with them. Perhaps while they’re cleaning out their sock drawers, you’re in the next room going through the DVDs. You’re all in this together, and many hands make for light work.