Keeping your child's room clean sounds like an entirely unrealistic goal, but before you surrender to Crayola marks on the walls and Legos underfoot- ouch!- take a deep breath and fret not, because getting that room almost permanently clean does not mean you have to sacrifice the peace of your household, bring a child to tears, or surrender to the temptation of buying a shed to store all your child's things.
Children are as capable of learning new habits as anyone else. When given the chance, a child will point out that he or she actually prefers to live in a clean and nice looking room. Kids love the "new" feel of a freshly cleaned and organized room, so there won't be any resistance there.
The resistance comes in the level of effort involved in cleaning that room. Bending? Stooping? Reaching? Kids don't mind that part. It's in the thinking. Children don't want to endure the painstaking recall and the daunting mental separation of toys, shoes, papers, books, clothes, art items, and so on. If only they could know exactly where each thing goes, they would respond well to a parent training them to keep things where they belong.
Mission number one is for the grown-up to create places where things not only go, but easily fit as well. If dressers are used for clothes that's fine, but ma or pa may have to come down on their standards just a tad; expecting a three-year-old to keep clothes perfectly folded inside drawers is a little trivial to a child. But if you insist on keeping clothes sharp and unwrinkled, keeping them on hangers in the closet may be a better idea, which makes the drawers available for a host of that junk on the floor.
If dressers are not to be used for anything but clothes, then it's a good idea to buy a few department store tubs. Better yet, those stores sell plastic storage drawers that come in all shapes and sizes. Some are clear and others not. These aren't always the most attractive solutions, but a fun and uniting task to share with your child would be adding a few painted forms, like dinosaurs or birds, to the units.
Once the units are in place with each drawer labeled with a tag or a printed picture of the type of item that each drawer should contain, it's time to load every single item from the floor onto a wide surface, like the bed. Now it's puzzle time, and in an hour or so you'll finally be keeping that child's room clean day after day with minimal coaxing- just as long as you stay on top of training her a few minutes each day to maintain the nice new room.
The next task is to give your child one of the drawers from the plastic units, and tell her to play "match-up." She'll struggle a bit at first, so it's not a bad idea to help out. After all, you don't want this room-cleaning thing to leave a bad taste in your child's experience. In fact, that's the last thing you want. Take a drawer out and begin filling it with the item-type that goes in it while your child tackles the larger items, like shoes and books.
Once all of the relevant items are put into their places, there will inevitably be a few odd things that seem like they don't fit into any group. Just reserve one drawer for these little items. McDonald's toys, for instance, seem like a confusing jumble of junk, but these are best placed together as one group.
Other odd items may be unused stickers and those annoying pencil-tip erasers. The groups of school and art items often do intersect, and in that case it's easiest to keep one drawer reserved for both things. You can expect to keep both school papers and art papers in the same drawer for simplicity.
The rest of the junk is trash. Don't be afraid to secretly toss out tiny papers and torn socks. Send your child for a bath while you finish up with a vacuum and fresh linens. Once you finally get your child's room clean you'll find it's pretty easy to train your child to keep it that way.
Don't slack off on daily room checks, and be sure to add your example to the mix, as kids learn much by example. You'll appreciate the peace of mind and peace of home that comes with a well taught little organizer. It's one of the greatest pleasures of parenthood, enabling an easier relationship between parent and child.