I Am Not Cleaning Your Mess

As my boys began to grow bigger and their capacity to make a mess increased, I decided to have a strategy for cleaning up their toys. I was not going to do it and neither was the househelp. My kids would learn to be responsible for their own chaos.

It’s really quite a simple technique but it works. When they take out a toy or toys, they must put everything back. Wow! It is not rocket science, is it? Everybody does this, right? But surprisingly, most kids in the Philippines don’t clean up after themselves. They have an entourage of people who do. But, we can’t raise our children to be so handicapped by the privileges of househelp. Our children need to take responsibility for putting away their things, plain and simple. They also need to mop their spills, remedy their destructions, and learn to do things like bring their empty plates and cups to the kitchen.

The last thing I want to instill in my children is this notion that other people are responsible for their mess. Househelp is a privilege, not something meant to cripple our children and rob them of the opportunity to be helpful and contribute around the home.

When my boys play with their toys I don’t let them do anything else til they clean up. If they want to go with me somewhere but their room looks like an explosion, they all have to help. No matter who made the mess, they hold each other accountable so I don’t have to nag them. This encourages them to help one another and push each other to do their part. So far, this works.

For example, the other day when the kids wanted to go with me to the grocery, but their room was a mess, I told them they had to put everything back into their drawers. They teamed up to do this and after about fifteen minutes, everything was put away and we were on our way to the grocery. It was a peaceful and pleasant transition from messy room to clean room to the grocery.

When we are in other people’s homes, it is a little more challenging to remind them to pack away, but as much as possible we don’t let them leave a house without putting away the toys they played with. We have had guests over (who will remain unnamed because I love them no matter what), whose children have come in and out of our house like a tornado. And I don’t want my kids to be like that in other people’s houses. So we teach our kids to respect others and their belongings, and practice the principle, “do unto others as you would have them do to you.”




They still need a lot of training and micro managing yet slowly but surely picking up after themselves is becoming a habit. Hopefully, for the sake of their future wives and families, they will internalize the discipline of putting away their belongings.

11 thoughts on “I Am Not Cleaning Your Mess

  1. I do miss the help, but indeed, living without house help or yayas has its advantages and long term benefits. The kids (and even parents) have a better perspective of how much we really need, and of valuing what we already have. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Lori! I hope you and your family are well. You are such a blessing. I praise God for all of you. 🙂

  2. Lovely post as it hits sooo close to home! I still can’t imagine how my two beautiful, innocent looking daughters can be capable of creating such a hazardous and gigantic mess every time they play with their toys. I get dizzy just looking at their mess! Like you I also do NOT want them to grow up thinking that I will always be there to clean up after them. So far, the MOST effective way I have ever discovered of making them clean up is to make up a song or to just say in a sing-song voice, “It’s clean up time with Mommy” and it’s like they magically turn into obedient and joyful elves who immediately put away their things. No shouting, no nagging required. However, when there are days that I am so tired and singing is the last thing I want to do, I just tell them that I am absolutely not entering their room (whether to read them a story or keep them company or whatever) until their room is cleaned up. I’m not sure if you would approve, but it also gets fast results!

  3. I struggle with this so much, not because my daughter is hard-headed but because I struggle with organization myself. It’s hard to teach what I don’t have. Better include this in my prayers tonight

    1. It’s okay, Liv! I understand. Organization is something I’m still learning. 🙂 My husband keeps praying for me!

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